“An eye for and eye.” The commandment is, unbeleivably, found in this week’s Torah portion. The practical application of the verse has been explained by the Rabbis as being beyond its literal interpretation and refers to monetary compensation.
Nevertheless, it is clear that in certain cases revenge is one of the highest forms of serving Hashem, as King David teaches in his Psalms:
“Praise the L-rd. Sing unto the L-rd a new song and his praise in the congregation of Hasidim… Let the high praises of G-d be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand; to execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people; To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron. To execute upon them the written judgment: This is the glory of his Hasidim. Praise the L-rd” (Tehillim 149).
Out of their fear of the Gentiles, liberal Jews have negated the concept of revenge as being uncivilized and erased it from the Jewish vocabulary. Nevertheless, revenge against those who harm our people is a foundation of Torah.
“If only you, G-d, would slay the wicked! Keep away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your Name. Do I not hate those who hate you, L-rd, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies” (Tehillim 139).
In the Psalm of the day, on the fourth day of the week, we say: “G-d of revenge, L-rd G-d of revenge, appear! Arise, You judge of the earth, render to the arrogant what they deserve. How long shall the wicked, O L-rd, how long shall the wicked exalt?” (Tehillim 94).
“The righteous man shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance. He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. Men shall say, ‘Truly there is reward for the righteous. Truly there is a G-d who judges on earth’” (Tehillim 58).
When revenge is enacted, the Name of Hashem is sanctified. When Israel carries out revenge against its enemies, it is carrying out the judgment of G-d and making the world a better place to live. One of our greatest heroes, Samson, carried out Hashem’s wrath against the Philistines. His acts of revenge weren’t personal guerrilla attacks against the foe, but as Judge of Israel, he was the government of his time.
Clearly, in our day and age, the mitzvah of revenge falls on the government of Israel and its leaders as the representatives of the people. It is not the task of the individual to set out on a Rambo-like spree, slaughtering Arabs at random. The obligation and mitzvah is the duty of the government and the security forces under its command.
Clearly, granting concessions every week to an enemy bent on our destruction is an invitation to carry out more and more terror. In our past, leaders with proud Jewish hearts knew how to take vengeance and instill fear into those who live by the sword, not only in Biblical days but in our time as well in the struggle leading up to the establishment of the State.
These words are only a tiny bit of the de-liberalization of our hearts and brains needed to turn us back into proud and healthy Jews who aren’t afraid to teach the enemy a crushing lesson. The book, “The Jewish Idea” by Rabbi Kahane is recommended reading for all.
One thing is certain – we have to know who our enemy is and not delude ourselves further into believing that he can be a partner for peace. The Torah testifies about Ishmael: "He will be a wild ass of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers” (Genesis 16:11–12). HaRav Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook would emphasize that in Hebrew, "a wild ass of a man" is written "pere adam" which means "beast man." In Hebrew, the descriptive adjective follows the noun. For example, we say "bayit gadol," which is literally "house big" but means "big house." The noun, "bayit", comes first, and then the adjective (not like in English where the adjective precedes the noun.)
In the Torah expression describing the descendants of Ishmael, "pere adam," the noun "pere" meaning beast is the main essence. Thus the meaning is: a beast who resembles a man. In describing the descendants of Ishmael, the Chofetz Chaim taught: "If he is a professor, he will be a 'pere adam' of a professor. If he is a doctor, he will be a 'pere adam' of a doctor. When the Torah assigns him this appellation it is forever. His nature can never change."
Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Jewish Culture and Creativity. Before making Aliyah to Israel in 1984, he was a successful Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbis A. Y. Kook and T. Y. Kook. His other books include: "The Kuzari For Young Readers" and "Tuvia in the Promised Land". His books are available on Amazon. Recently, he directed the movie, "Stories of Rebbe Nachman."