La’asot N’Kama (To Exact Revenge)

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In the last few weeks I’ve heard the word נקמה (revenge) mentioned in regards to the horrific massacre in Itamar, the bombing in Jerusalem, and the rocket attacks in the South. We hear it mentioned every time there’s a terrorist attack, and it’s the reason why some people refer to the situation in Israel as a Cycle of Violence. There’s even a song played at some Jewish Weddings (horrifyingly almost at ours) that glorifies the idea of נקמה.

If you can tell from having read anything else on this blog, or my tweets, I am not a big fan of Revenge. While it may feel good in the short run, it’s rarely perpetrated against the original offender, it leads to more bloodshed, and doesn’t heal the original wound. It embroils people in deeper conflicts, and creates an even greater stumbling block for peace.

Which is why I was pleasantly surprised earlier tonight to see a mention of נקמה that I could jive with. It was written by the Rambam in his Mishneh Torah, and I ran across it during my daily study of a Perek from Mishneh Torah (part of a Mt Sinai Education Committee initiative). Here is the text:

.הנקמה שאין נקמה גדולה ממנה שתכרת הנפש ולא תזכה לאותן החיים

“The word revenge that can be exacted is the cutting off of the soul, and the denial of eternal life in the next world.”

(Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Teshuvah, 8:5)

The Rambam had just described the most wonderful perception of the afterworld, and he explains that the worst thing that could happen to you is that you are denied access to this “House of God” after death.

When we read in the news about concerns about “Price Tag” attacks against Palestinians in response to the Itamar murders, it’s disturbing and horrific in its own right. There is no excuse to attack someone because you suspect they live in the same town as a person who attacked you.

We need to work together as best as possible to work towards peace in all situations, and especially with the Palestinian people. While the IDF and PA should continue to hunt down the terrorists who perpetrated the attacks, the rest of Israel and the world can rest assured that Justice will surely be had in the world to come.

The focus of the people of Itamar, Israel, Palestine and the world should be Peace.

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