Is it permitted to take revenge when the other keeps his negative behavior, relying on "immunity"?

Let us take example to understand well things. Mr T and Mr R are neighbors. Mr R is an evil and hypocritical rasha, and will never ever do a good action to Mr T. Especially, when T asked to borrow something, R always refused (let's say this occurred many many times). But, frequently, Mr R brings his honey fake smile and knocks at T's door to borrow things (let's say he brings them back OK). This is causing chagrin to Mr T to be abused by his enemy, who knows he will keep his disgusting behavior towards him, and relying on the fact his kind neighbor is yere shomaim.

But what to do? If he refuses, does he transgresse issur neqima? Or even if he just became angry and shows the rasha he is not duped, does he transgresse issur netira ?

Seems obvious Tora doesn't ask from us to be naive and abused. But is there clear limits in posqim etc?

  • I carefully ensured this question is not a dupe and fills the criteria, but these last times I encountered so much aggressivity on the forum (like wiping out a very long answer I posted, with more than discutable reasons, and without even letting argue or explain; or closing interesting questions). Better sure than sorry. Especially because of, as a beginner, I don't have all tools on the site. Okay -- enough!
    – yO_
    Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 16:06
  • This is a very unclear question: Mr R has not been described as having done anything wrong to T in this question. So revenge for what exactly? Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 17:09
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    I know someone who exchanged implements (eg hammer) with his neighbour. The result was that when anyone asked him to borrow his hammer, he was able to say the hammer I have is not mine; I've borrowed it from someone else! Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 17:18
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    @DavidKenner For always taking and never giving. And hypocritically abusing his kind neighbor. Also edited the question.
    – yO_
    Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 17:37
  • Rather bad is who always borrows milk from his neighbor, but always refusing to give. No?
    – yO_
    Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 17:45

2 Answers 2


That's a great question, showing how little the Halachah deals with עבודת המידות (personal growth). Here's my personal view (backed by my rabbis)

  1. Those Mitzvahs you're talking about (נקימה ונטירה) are not the actual behaviors, but the wrongful thoughts. One is commanded to OVERCOME those, just as one is commanded to overcome physical inclinations like lust, gluttony, greediness etc.

  2. As for all other Mitzvahs there's no upper limit for עבודת המידות, like saying "OK I was nice 8 times in a row, it's time to be mean!". We're instructed to do it every time we have an opportunity. (unless of course, he cheats and does not really needs it, or aks only to make you mad).

  3. Everyone is given different tests in this world: one with a mean wife, other with a mean neighbor, a boss, a mother-in-law etc. We all have our opportunities to improve our personalities in the direction of positive thinking.

  4. But cheer up, there's a work-around allow you to be mean yourself. THe point is that all Mitzvos בין אדם לחבירו are applied [in theory] only to one that's qualifies to be your חבירו, namely "a good Jew". But one who behaves like a wicked one is out of the בין אדם לחבירו arrangement. So if you feel really bad you can always claim your neighbor just crossed the line and you're exempt from נקימה or נטירה (but you also lose your bonus points, you know, לפום צערא אגרא).

Clarification on your "Seems obvious Tora doesn't ask from us to be naive and abused." IT IS NOT. To be naive is a Mitzvah on its own (תמים תהיה עם א"ה), so to say. And the feeling of an abuse is very subjective, one can say it for any בין אדם לחבירו - giving Tzedoko, helping ill or elders etc. So as long as it is an abuse of a Mitzvah it's for your own good - you earn a lot of points in the WTC!

  • Your #4 is contrary to Torah Law IMHO. Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 23:47
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    @DavidKenner Exactly the opposite. According to a well-established opinion, the reason the Torah ALWAYS mentions רעך, חברך, עמיתך is to stress that those בין אדם לחבירו Mitzvos only apply to ones who are עמיתך למצוות (as Rashi puts it.) And if one is wicked (subjectively?) the Mitzvah does not apply to him.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 11:33
  • @DavidKenner However, regarding נקימה ונטירה there are two parts in it - one is the thought and that's the main part - we're commanded not to think so, so this part is not about בא"ל that's for the person himself, but the second part of lending his tools is a pure גמילות חסדים, and #4 (and my aforementioned comment) applies to this part.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 11:37
  • Please cite your source in Halachah that you personally may assume someone else has left the category of "fellow Jew" if you feel personally that they are having a bad attitude. :) Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 17:43
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    @DavidKenner This is well-known. See Chofetz Chaim, and several times in Talmud. בעושה מעשה עמך etc
    – yO_
    Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 21:58

"You shall neither take revenge from nor bear a grudge against the members of your people; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the L-rd." (Vayikra 19:18)

Rashi: "You shall neither take revenge: [For example:] He says to him, “Lend me your sickle,” and he [the latter] replies, “No!” The next day, he [the latter] says to him, “Lend me your ax.” [If] he says to him, “I will not lend it to you, just as you did not lend to me!” this constitutes revenge. And what constitutes “bearing a grudge?” [For example:] he says to him, “Lend me your ax,” and he [the latter] replies, “No!” Then the next day, he [the latter] says to him, “Lend me your sickle.” [Now, if] he says to him, “Here it is for you; I am not like you, who did not lend me!” this constitutes “bearing a grudge,” for he keeps the hatred in his heart, even though he does not take revenge. — [Torath Kohanim 19:44; Yoma 23a]"

It should be noted that the mitzvah is: not to avoid the lending because you want to express a grudge or take such revenge.

If you have other practical reasons not to lend to this fellow, then that's ok.

  • Yes, this is the archetypal nekimah. But as mentioned in comment above, question here is about a continuing bad behavior. I think everyone understand well, that in such a situation, halacha must be different.
    – yO_
    Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 21:55
  • why would you be convinced that with such continued "bad behavior" the Halachah would be different? BTW, if a person continually won't lend his items, that is not always considered bad behavior at all. Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 3:06
  • Because מעשים בכל יום we do that! Who in this forum will claim he is equally kind with sympathetic and antipathetic?! I wanted to find a clear definition in posqim.
    – yO_
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 8:20
  • @yO_ sorry to disappoint you, but it looks like we have a general mitzvah not to take revenge or hold a grudge... no matter how many times this man refuses to lend you his things. The reason Halacha does not mention such exceptions seems to be because there are no such exceptions. :) Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 20:22
  • What with the מעשים בכל יום ? No one will contest that. We all have the tendency to be more kind with kinds, and less with rude.
    – yO_
    Commented Nov 10, 2018 at 21:25

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