Shabbat Parashat Emor 5772
Emor | 13 Iyar 5772 | 5/5/2012
There are occurrences where a mandate of the Torah seems to be contradicted by the apparent moral lesson of a story within the Torah. One such example is the matter of our reaction to those who have harmed us. The Torah writes explicitly: “Do not take revenge or harbor ill feeling” (Vayikra 19:18). This certainly seems to preclude our ability to punish the wicked in response to the harm they cause us. On the other hand, a basic moral principle is to emulate Hashem, and the Torah calls Him a “G-d who is jealous and takes revenge” (Shemot 20:4). So, if revenge is apparently a positive trait, why are we forbidden to use it? Furthermore, when the Torah talks about payment for damages that one causes another person, it says: “As he did, so shall it be done to him” (Vayikra 24:19). Although we interpret this rule to be referring to financial payment, that appears to only be the manner in which the reaction is taken, but conceptually there is an element of retribution.
Rabbi Yochanan said: Hashem gives wisdom only to those who have wisdom, as the pasuk says: “He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have insight” (Daniel 2:21)… Rabbi Avahu said: We learn it from here. “… and in the heart of the wise-hearted I gave wisdom” (Shemot 31:6).
The defendants (=def) rented an apartment from the plaintiff (=pl) as they were preparing for aliya, signing a two-year contract (via fax) and paying two months rent weeks before they were to come. The contract required them to give a security deposit “upon their arrival in Israel.” Upon arrival, the relationship began tensely when def complained by phone about an element of the apartment’s condition, prompting pl to react with verbal aggressiveness. Upon their first face-to-face meeting, pl demanded the security deposit in cash or with an Israeli check. Def, who were without an Israeli bank account and were experiencing difficulties with cash transfer, were prepared to give only a foreign currency check, but pl viewed this as a ploy. Pl called daily, with the two sides barely understanding each other, speaking in a manner that pl referred to as resolute and def referred to as threatening. After meeting a rabbi and a lawyer, def took their advice to unilaterally back out of the rental. Pl sued for breach of contract that had caused him the loss of four months’ rent (for non-occupancy) and the difference between def’s rental agreement and the lower rent of the new tenants. Def respond that it was not possible to continue living under the threat of eviction and possible violence. Their legal advisors also claim that the agreement was invalid because pl displayed a situation known as ayil v’nafik azuzei (anxiously seeking payment) and because pl did not sign the contract.
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This edition of
Rabbi Shlomo Merzel o.b.m,
A weekly divrei Torah leaflet: A Glimpse at the Parasha, Ask the Rabbi, From the writings of Harav Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook, zt”l, Pninat Mishpat (Jewish Monetary Law).