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Shabbat Parashat Vayeitzei | 5771

Ein Ayah: The Value of Divine Revenge

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 5: 97, 98)

Gemara: [The previous gemara had said that wisdom and the Beit Hamikdash are special because they appear in Tanach in between two Names of Hashem.] If that is so, then nekama (revenge) is great because it is found in between two Names of Hashem, as the pasuk says: “A G-d of revenges is Hashem, the G-d of revenges appeared” (Tehillim 94:1). He answered: Yes, in its matter, it is indeed great, as Ulla said: What are these two revenges for? One is for good, and one is for bad: for good, as it says: “He appeared from Mount Paran” (Devarim 33:2); for bad, as it says: “A G-d of revenges is Hashem, the G-d of revenges appeared” (ibid.).


Ein Ayah: It is appropriate to call something a great attribute when it is something that has a positive purpose and is intrinsically a matter of shleimut (completeness). However, something which is intrinsically negative, just that it can be used for a proper purpose, should not be identified as great. The gemara asked based on the assumption that revenge is intrinsically bad, just that it is needed to destroy the evil so that the world can be improved by allowing righteous people to be free of the evil of others. Under such circumstances, asked the gemara, why would revenge be found in between two Names of Hashem?

The gemara answers that there actually is an intrinsic value to the revenge meted out against wicked people because this is an application of leading the world in a straightforward manner that is appropriate for G-d. In that way, revenge is great in two ways, as it has the intrinsic element of Divine justice and it also paves the way for the righteous to thrive as the wicked are destroyed.

This double element is what the gemara referred to as revenge for good and revenge for bad. The good one is for the betterment of the righteous, as the pasuk cited, “He appeared from Mount Paran” (Devarim 33:2), is explained by Chazal in reference to the idea of taking the money of the evil and giving it to Israel (Bava Kama 38a). The other pasuk cited deals with revenge from the perspective of Divine justice. Because of these two elements, it is appropriate to have revenge appear between two Names of Hashem.


Undivided Goodness

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 5:99)


Gemara: One who says: “On a bird’s nest does Your mercy reach,” “On good shall Your Name be mentioned,” or “We thank; we thank” is to be silenced.


Ein Ayah: Praise of Hashem should rightfully be attached to unity and the collective and not to something partial because Hashem is everything and there is nothing apart from Him. That which is correct for the totality of the world is truly straight and is a matter of shleimut. In talking about shleimut in the broadest sense, it is wrong to distinguish between good and bad because on that level all is good.

For this reason, we silence one who says that Hashem’s mercy reaches specifically a bird’s nest because that implies that Hashem’s mercy reaches certain elements of creation which elicit pity as we see it from a human perspective. However, that is based on a narrow outlook, which is opposed to unity. So too is it wrong to mention Hashem’s Name only in regard to that which we view as good, because all of His actions are part of one grand plan. We also must not say “We thank” twice, as if there are different elements to thank, because there is but one source of light and goodness, as the pasuk (Tehillim 36:10) says: “For within You is the source of life; in Your light we will see light.”

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