Today I will like to share a very practical Dvar Torah. In one of the many moral and social commandments found in our Torah portion we read, “You shall neither take revenge from nor bear a grudge against the members of your people…” (Lev. 19:18). What does it mean in practical terms, not taking revenge or bearing a grudge? The Talmud (Yoma 23a) makes it explicit for us:

You shall neither take revenge: [For example:] He says to him, “Lend me your sickle,” and he [the latter] replies, “No!” The next day, he [the latter] says to him, “Lend me your ax.” [If] he says to him, “I will not lend it to you, just as you did not lend to me!” this constitutes revenge.

And what constitutes “bearing a grudge?” [For example:] he says to him, “Lend me your ax,” and he [the latter] replies, “No!” Then the next day, he [the latter] says to him, “Lend me your sickle.” [Now, if] he says to him, “Here it is for you; I am not like you, who did not lend me!” this constitutes “bearing a grudge,” for he keeps the hatred in his heart, even though he does not take revenge.

Lo Tikom veLo Titor, You shall neither take revenge upon nor bear a grudge, are the commandments in the Torah. They are part of what the biblical scholars call “The Code of Holiness”, a set of moral laws that go beyond the simple and basics laws for the wellbeing of society. The “Ten Commandments” (or at least the second half of them) are a basic group of laws that should be the foundation of our society. This Code of Holiness, or (part of) Parashat Kedoshim, should be what our societies should aspire to be. They are not the baseline, they are the goal. In this Code of Holiness we find maybe the most difficult commandments of the entire Torah like not taking revenge, not bearing grudges, and also the well-known “love your fellow as yourself”. Nobody says these are easy to do, but that is the challenge–to challenge ourselves to live a life of holiness. Holiness is not the starting point but the goal. This is our promised land too. Now you know what you have to do when somebody asks you for an ax!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Uri