About a year ago, I started to keep halacha.

It was weird at first not driving or using my computer on Saturdays, and my diet changed a lot too, but ultimately I didn't mind, and now I'm pretty much used to it.

I only started keeping halacha for one reason: to torment my father.

My father HATES religious Jews. He blames them for all of the problems in Israel. He thinks they are parasites, who take and take but never give.

After my father crushed my dreams, and refused to pay for my university in England, I wanted to take revenge on him.

When he heard I was wearing tefilin and going to the bet keneset every morning, he was screaming angry. My mother tells me that he cries at night, wondering what he did wrong as a parent, to make me turn out so bad.

My problem is, last Saturday at bet keneset I heard about the isur of nekama.

Do I have to stop keeping halacha now? The only reason I did it was for nekama. Every time that I keep shabat or wear tefilin, I am also doing the isur of nekama!

What is the halacha of balancing keeping halacha against nekama?

  • ...so that university had no financial aid or WORK/study programs whatsoever, and nobody else on the planet was taking applications for grants/scholarships/etc? I can understand your chagrin...
    – Gary
    Mar 5, 2014 at 5:01
  • Sorry, doesn't this question severely contradicts the site's policy about asking personal questions? Can someone rewrite it to generalize it?
    – Al Berko
    Oct 12, 2019 at 18:08
  • @Isaac Isn’t there a statute of limitations on psak-seeking questions? Sure, questions shouldn’t be written in the first person, but if this question hasn’t been edited since 2014...?
    – DonielF
    Oct 23, 2019 at 5:49

5 Answers 5


After my father crushed my dreams, and refused to pay for my university in England, I wanted to take revenge on him.

Serious problem right here. Basically at eighteen, you're on your own. It's normally a nice thing for parents to help out beyond that, but they are not obligated to do so. (See Maharik responsum #166.) If you were expecting a favor and didn't receive it, it's natural to feel disappointed, but "I demand revenge because you hurt me" is inaccurate.

As far as the prohibition of revenge per se -- it applies if someone harmed you (or refused you a favor), and now you harm them (or refuse a favor) back. (See Yoma 23a.) But if I decide to succeed in life, and one motivation in the back of my mind is "my dad said I'd never amount to anything, I'll show him" -- well that's not healthy, but that's not revenge per se.

So you should continue to keep kashrus, wear tefilin, and the like. HOWEVER, something is wrong here -- your father feels that religiously-observant people can exhibit parasitic behavior, and you respond by saying -- "well I'm religiously observant and I demand you pay for my college, or else I want revenge!" Can you see how that's reinforcing your father's belief?

Religious growth is a process, and I hope you have a competent rabbi to help you with it. If you continue to keep shabbos, kashrus, and the like, but make it clear to everyone that you are a pleasant, hardworking person who strives for financial self-sufficiency (a value strongly stressed by the Talmud, e.g. Kiddushin 30b), then you've done your best. You can make it clear to your father that you understand his dismay, and yes sadly, some people use religion as an excuse for selfish means, but you are doing your best to keep the 613 while maintaining respect for him and keeping the lines of communication open.

As for doing things with the wrong motivation -- on the one hand, we're told "it's okay to do mitzvahs for ulterior motives, it will eventually bring to you to loftier motives." On the other hand, we're told that if someone studies Torah for ulterior motives, e.g. he wants recognition as a big-name rabbi, that's okay. But if it's done just to spite someone, then that's toxic. (See the first Tosfos on Taanis 7a.) I can't tell you to stop wearing tefilin, but at some point you should be thinking "I am wearing these because God commanded me to do so to remember the Exodus", not "I am wearing these to get back at my dad." If you're doing your mitzvos in a spiteful manner, that's going to burn bridges with your father. If you do them sincerely, then at least you stand a chance.

  • A good, serious answer, especially since the question is so . . .
    – Mike
    Mar 5, 2014 at 2:09

Your question shows that you care about the biblical commandment not to take revenge. Evidently, you are not simply putting on a show of religiosity to provoke your father, which would have only required displaying some of the more visible trappings of religion.

Regardless of your original intent, you seem to have developed a positive motivation for mitzva observance. By conducting yourself as an exemplar of Torah observance both in areas between man and G-d as well as between man and his fellow, you will sanctify G-d's Name and hopefully exercise a positive influence on your father, too.


In order to properly answer this question, first we have to clarify what is Nekama. Minchas Chinuch 241:1 says one only transgresses Nekama with money not with causing Tzaar to another. Based on this you are not taking Nekama by keeping Mitzvos.

  • 2
    This is a machlokes rishonim, although I suspect that the OP's case is mutar l'chol hadei'os.
    – Fred
    Mar 4, 2014 at 22:03
  • 2
    ... Just to clarify my previous comment: A person's attitude obviously does not exempt him from his obligation to fulfill the mitzvos.
    – Fred
    Mar 4, 2014 at 22:42

The situation that you describe is a very difficult one, and should be approached with utmost care. Really, you should talk to a qualified rabbi who knows you for personal guidance. I will simply try to address some of the issues that your scenario brings up. To begin in answering your question, I am assuming that you are Jewish. If you are not Jewish, the answer to this question would be quite different.

First of all, let's temporarily take the issue of revenge off the table. As you know, halacha is binding on all Jews. No matter one's feelings about it, a person must follow the halacha.

Now, what about the fact that your father does not want you to follow halacha? As Menachem correctly points out in his answer to a different question, the Gemara in Bava Metzia learns that the requirement to honor one's parents does not apply if they want you to violate halacha. Your situation is a bit different since you specifically want to go against your father's wishes, but I believe the idea still applies. Since honor for the parents does not override halacha, your obligations remain and you are still required to follow the Torah.

A related question is whether mitzvot require kavanah (intention). This debate appears throughout the Talmud, including in Masechet Rosh HaShanah and other places as well. Since your kavanah when doing mitzvot is to bother your father, you are not having real intention to fulfill your halachic obligations. According to the opinion that mitzvot require specific intention in order for them to be considered fulfilled, there would not really be any meaningful difference between not doing the mitzvahs at all and doing them with the wrong intention. We do not hold this way, though. Although everyone agrees that l'chatchila one must have intention to fulfill his halachic duties, if someone does not have kavanah, we still say that it is better than not doing the mitzvah at all. So even though you do not have kavanah to fulfill the mitzvot, it is still good that at least you do them.

Now let's discuss the issue of taking revenge. As you have correctly noted, taking revenge is forbidden in Judaism. But, as we said above, following halacha is obligatory. So what do we do when these things meet? I am not a rabbi, and as I mentioned above, you really should turn to a rabbi who knows you well to discuss this; however, I will give my two cents. It is possible that every time you do a mitzvah with the intention of getting back at your father, you are violating the isur of taking revenge. Since skipping out on mitzvot is not a real option, I would say that you need to work on yourself so that you can get to the point where you are doing halacha for yourself and not to take revenge on your father. In addition to taking revenge, honoring one's parents is an important halacha. We do not extend that to the point of violating halacha for the sake of honoring one's parents; however, it is important to always show respect and understanding for our parents' wishes.

  • I don't mind keeping halacha, but sometimes I don't enjoy it. If I "work on yourself" so that I don't want to make revenge anymore, I don't think I will keep halacha as strong anymore. Maybe I will go sometimes to bet keneset, or stay home on shabat, but if I don't have the good feeling of punishing my father, I will probably become more relax about halacha.
    – Yakov
    Mar 4, 2014 at 8:41
  • 1
    @Yakov That is exactly what I mean by working on yourself. You should try to get yourself to want to follow halacha. Following Jewish law is often difficult and results in us not being able to do what we want to do. Strictly speaking, it really doesn't matter what we want. Even if we don't get a special "good feeling" out of it, we still have to do it. This is a very hard step to take all at once, and that is why I strongly recommend that you talk to a rabbi that you trust who can help guide you. My basic point is that you should try to get to the point where you are not taking (cont)
    – Daniel
    Mar 4, 2014 at 8:59
  • (cont) revenge, and you are not being relaxed in your observance of halacha.
    – Daniel
    Mar 4, 2014 at 9:00

If your father were to pass away (ר"ל) right now, would you still follow halacha? If the answer is yes then your following of the mitzvas is no longer solely due to spite.

Perhaps the merits of your initial acts of religious observance, which were done out of spite, may experience some devaluation in heaven but subsequent acts of religious observance, which are not done out of spite, should be fine.

When your father has a problem with the religious Jews in Israel, does he have a problem with religious observance per se, or is his problem with how they use religion as an excuse to be unemployable, have more children than they can afford and the rest of the litany? My guess is that his problem is more economic and political.

You can remain an orthodox Jew and honor your father as much as possible by following the religious path of orthodox Jewry without following in the political or economic paths.

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