- Is it Correct to Take Revenge?
- Moshe Ben-Chaim
- Revenge must first be defined.
- I believe it to be the attitude of a person, (either realistically
or imaginarily wronged by another), who feels he must
"correct" a wrong done to him. One wronged has had a blow to
his ego, and if one functions primarily by the ego, he cannot tolerate
another human being stealing his "spotlight" of self
importance by the oppressor's subjugating him. In order to tip the
scales of personal pride back in his favor, he must retaliate by
equally subjugating the oppressor. Doing so, in his mind, the insulted
party will now feel he has corrected reality back to favoring him as
the more important human.
- There are two mistakes one makes in this equation: 1) The primary
mistake is that he feels that he must placate his ego to the expense
of all else, and 2) He feels revenge will set "reality"
- Judaism's view is not to take revenge, and goes so far as to command
us not to harbor ill feelings about someone. They are 2 of the 613
commandments. But every command must make sense, as it is part of the
design of the Creator, the same Creator who fashioned the solar system
with rational and systematic laws. This is so of anything fashioned by
this Creator - all creation must follow a rational design.
- The command not to take revenge then is rational because it is based
on a few sound principles: 1) One insulted cannot change history by
being vengeful. 2) One should not place his ego as the barometer for
his actions. It is false to fabricate self importance, or to make it a
goal whatsoever. As one did not create himself, why should one take
pride in himself?
- The question of revenge actually brings us to the very core idea of
human existence - what man's purpose is during his short stay on
- As all philosophers discovered - but against the popular opinion
followed by our egomaniacal culture - knowledge is the pursuit which
is most enjoyable to man. There are many reasons for this. Firstly,
man is frustrated when not satisfying a component of his nature. Just
as one who is thirsty is frustrated physically, ie. without drink, and
just as one is frustrated psychologically, ie. without human
companionship, so also one is even more frustrated when a more central
part of his nature is not satisfied. I refer to the intellect.
Intellectual involvement is essential to human happiness.
- One recognizes that the intellect is the center of man, as one finds
the most violent insult to be when one is accused of stupidity, as
opposed to being accused of being dressed poorly, or being too short,
or being a poor singer. As one is most insulted when he is called an
ignoramus, we see that the intellect is what most people define as
"themselves". The "I" or "me".
- Additionally from a practical standpoint, a wise person lives most
at ease. He uses his knowledge to secure his needs with well thought
out plans, and his desires are far lessened, as he see through the
fantasies which most people project onto the physical world. King
Solomon examined and experimented with the physical desires to learn
which is the most enjoyable life. As he was the wealthiest and most
powerful person of his time, he admitted that he held nothing back
from all that he desired, (Koheles, 2:10) " And all that my eyes
desired, I held nothing back, and I did not prevent my heart from any
gladdening." But King Solomon concluded that the physical
pleasures in it of themselves were vain pursuits.
- How then, does one reach the proper attitude? The most pleasant
state of existence?
- Only through knowledge. Intellectual pursuits afford man the best
life from it's involvement.
- Knowledge has always been the answer, and has always been what the
prophets and philosophers taught, and what G-d admonished man for
ignoring. If one realizes he is one of billions of humans, and he
learns about sciences, he will undoubtedly realize how small he is by
comparison. His newly found knowledge which help to shift his focus
from an inner self engrandizement, to an external search for ideas and
truth. The more one learns, the more he will come to the real
enjoyment of knowledge and the pursuit of wisdom. He will naturally
find that discovery and wisdom are enjoyable pursuits. It is a trick
of the mind which prevents most people from accepting this truth. Most
people would find it emotionally difficult to extricate themselves
from rehearsed forms of imagined enjoyment. But it is only that it is
rehearsed and familiar which keeps one to following these desires.
Once one extricates himself from his repeated, comfortable patterns of
behaviour and from his emotional familiarity, he will find there is
enjoyment in learning. It may take a little time, but in the long run
one will find satisfaction, as he is satisfying a central part of his
nature. His mind.
- I believe it is the frustrated state of the intellect which causes
most people to find imagined activities to fall short of expectation.
As one travels, pursues physical desires, eats delicious meals, he
often says to himself when done, "now what?". Meaning, he's
still in need of satisfaction. Man never seems to be satisfied. Give
him a million dollars, and he'll find someone with more, and again
revert to dissatisfaction. Knowledge however has no limits. One's
involvement can continue without saturation, unlike any physical
desire. This open ended activity allows for continued satisfaction.
But it is the involvement itself which offers the real enjoyment, as
the mind naturally appreciates wisdom, and craves answers. Look at any
child who has not entered the school system. He is naturally asking
questions, and finds answers a delight. It is only after the school
system has ruined the mind by praising memorization and regurgitation,
that a person associates pain with knowledge. If schools taught
creative thinking, philosophy and the like, most people would still
have the healthy and natural childhood disposition of excited inquiry.
- To surmise, combined, one's self awareness of his minute status in
the universe, and his appreciation for objective knowledge, will
diminish his drive to bolster his ego. One will not care when he is
insulted, as his ego will no longer be his center of attention. His
knowledge will also teach him that even if he still has some remnant
of his previous egoistic drives, he will realize that revenge does not
change the insult. On both counts, he will not take revenge, as it is
false, and also, he will not interest himself in preserving a
comparatively greater image of himself over his oppressor. The self
will no longer be the focus, as he will have replaced his previous
internal, egotistical drives, with new found excitement experienced
via his search for external, intellectual pursuits.
- He will have arrived at the proper state where revenge will no
longer be a sweet thing, but rather, a deterrent from his pursuit for