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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review August 27, 2007 / 13 Elul, 5767

Artificially sweet vengeance

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir


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We must pursue strict justice, but we don't rejoice in it


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: Some time ago a person wronged me. Recently I heard a misfortune befell him, and I was distressed to see that I had a sense of satisfaction at his suffering. What does Judaism say about this feeling?


A: A. Virtually all of us know the feeling of morbid satisfaction at the suffering of someone who has wronged us. This sentiment, akin to a feeling of vindication, is different from, and more understandable, than a general feeling of glee at the misfortune of others. Being happy at others' misfortune, sometimes described as schadenfruede, is simple misanthropy — antipathy for mankind. Certainly this does not need to be explained or justified.


We can however muster some understanding for someone who sees some kind of poetic justice in the suffering of wrongdoers. Even so, the Torah educates us to eliminate all such feelings. The verse begins, "Don't act vengefully" — punishing someone who has wronged us, but then continues "and don't bear a grudge"(Leviticus 19:18).


The book of Proverbs deals directly with this sentiment, stating: "One who rejoices in [another's] calamity will not be absolved" (Proverbs 17:5). This too does not refer only to gratuitous schadenfruede; our tradition always understands this as referring to a person who was wronged by the victim. Even so, we are forbidden to rejoice in his suffering. The commentators often connect it with the parallel verse "Do not rejoice in the suffering of your enemy" (Proverbs 24:17). (This does not necessarily apply to someone who repeatedly and gratuitously harms others, and who has not repented.)


The reason that this sentiment comes to us so naturally is due to our sense of fairness and justice — we feel it is only fair and right that a wrongdoer should be punished. Indeed, this justification is so logical that we may ask, why does Scripture condemn this sentiment?


In order to understand this, we need to understand two concepts that are central to the Jewish understanding of the G-d's providence in the natural world: justice and mercy. The element of "justice" does not just refer to reward and punishment, but also to the laws of nature or any blind system of cause and effect. Justice is often depicted as blindfolded because we uphold an ideal of "blind justice"; we want the punishment for a crime to be a natural and non-judgmental consequence just as getting cut is a natural consequence of stepping on glass.


The attribute of loving-kindness, by contrast, is completely personal: it means seeking to benefit and delight each individual, according to their own nature and inclinations.


What are the roles of these attributes? Rashi's commentary to the very first verse of the Torah explains as follows: "Originally it occurred to Him to create the world with the attribute of justice, but He saw that the world couldn't survive this way. So He gave precedence to the attribute of loving-kindness, and made it a partner with the attribute of justice."


As science learns more and more about the astonishing scope of the lawfulness of nature, it occurs to many that the world is sustained solely through the working of cause and effect — the attribute of justice. But Rashi explains that such a world is not sustainable. Loving-kindness is a vital ingredient. Not only that, Rashi writes that G-d gave precedence to this attribute. The essential purpose of the world as G-d created it is to benefit each creature. However, it was still necessary to make justice a partner. Without justice too the world cannot survive; this was obvious from the very beginning. In G-d's plan, the laws of cause and effect, as well as the laws of reward and punishment, are a means to an end; they are necessary to keep the world functioning so that it can attain its primary aim of beneficence.


We are commanded to pursue justice, even blind justice. The Torah warns us, "Don't do any distortion in judgment; don't show partiality to the lowly, nor elevate the great. Judge your fellow with righteousness". (Leviticus 19:15.) But we do not rejoice in justice. The Talmud tells us that members of court that sentences someone to death must fast that entire day. (1) Certainly they do not regret their action; it is the solemn responsibility of the court to try people for their offences and dispense impartial justice. But it is still a sad event when a fellow human being is killed.


A person who is wronged is sometimes inclined to see something fitting in a misfortune that befalls his wrongdoer; it seems like justice is done. But our tradition condemns this sentiment. Even when we are commanded to punish wrongdoers, we do not view it as a privilege but rather as a regrettable, necessary evil. Certainly when misfortune comes by chance our primary sentiment should be dismay at the suffering of a fellow human being.

SOURCES: (1) Sanhedrin 63a

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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.

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