1. G-d takes revenge [1]
  2. We are supposed to emulate G-d in our behavior and middos
  3. We are prohibited from taking revenge [2]

Taken together, the above three statements are inconsistent. Which one of them is not correct?

[1]: "O God of vengeance, O Lord; O God show vengeance." (Tehillim 94:1 )

[2]: "You shall neither take revenge from nor bear a grudge against the members of your people" (Vayikra 19:18)

  • I'd go a step further and ask for a source on #3. And a proper contextual definition of 'revenge' (or rather justice)
    – user16556
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 22:47
  • 3
    How about והלכת בדרכיו for #2
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 23:24
  • Your problem stems from relying on a simple reading of the Torah. The simplest response would be that Rambam does not list "revenge" under the quality of the Mitzvah of emulating G-d.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 17:31

1 Answer 1


In Berachot 33a (translations modified from Sefaria), Rav Ami and Rabbi El'azar say that words sandwiched between two instances of the name of God are great. Rav Acha Karchina'a challenges this, based on the fact that revenge is also mentioned between two of God's names.

מתקיף לה רב אחא קרחינאה אלא מעתה גדולה נקמה שנתנה בין שתי אותיות שנאמר אל נקמות ה׳

Rav Aḥa Karḥina’a strongly objects to this: However, if so, Great is revenge that was placed between two letters, as it is stated: “God of vengeance, Lord, God of vengeance shine forth” (Psalms 94:1).

His interlocutor (I assume Rav Ami) responds to the problem by saying that even though it can be bad, revenge is indeed a great thing in certain cases.

אמר ליה אין במילתה מיהא גדולה היא והיינו דאמר עולא שתי נקמות הללו למה אחת לטובה ואחת לרעה לטובה דכתיב הופיע מהר פארן לרעה דכתיב אל נקמות ה׳ אל נקמות הופיע

He said to him: Yes. At least in its place, it is great. That is that which Ulla said: Why are these two vengeances mentioned in a single verse? One for good and one for evil. Vengeance for good, as it is written: “He shined forth from Mount Paran” (Deuteronomy 33:2); vengeance for evil, as it is written: “God of vengeance, Lord, God of vengeance shine forth.”

To cite two examples where we are obligated to take revenge:

Numbers 31:2:

נְקֹ֗ם נִקְמַת֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל מֵאֵ֖ת הַמִּדְיָנִ֑ים אַחַ֖ר תֵּאָסֵ֥ף אֶל־עַמֶּֽיךָ׃

“Avenge the Israelite people on the Midianites; then you shall be gathered to your kin.”

Yoma 22b:

ואמר רבי יוחנן משום ר' שמעון בן יהוצדק כל תלמיד חכם שאינו נוקם ונוטר כנחש אינו תלמיד חכם

And Rabbi Yoḥanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yehotzadak: Any Torah scholar who does not avenge himself and bear a grudge like a snake is not a Torah scholar.

So it's the third statement which is incorrect (or rather, only partially correct). We are usually prohibited from taking revenge, but also sometimes required to take revenge.

  • Wouldn't the question still stand? If 2 and your version of 3, then 1 is also inaccurate and should be God is sometimes vengeful sometimes not (which may be true, just you haven't claimed that)
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 3:27
  • Apparently so. God is sometimes not vengeful. For example מי כמוך חסין וקשה שאתה שומע ניאוצו וגידופו של אותו רשע ושותק (Gitin 56b). To line up exactly when a person is allowed or forbidden to take revenge with God's choices to take revenge or not is beyond me
    – b a
    Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 11:07
  • I appreciate your effort, however, it is clearly biased, as Rambam does rule Revenge as prohibited overwhelmingly, unlike the Gemmorah. As Shu"A didn't make his point on this topic, theoretically, we all should follow Rambam and your answer would be invalidated. sefaria.org.il/… and he.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – Al Berko
    Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 17:33
  • @AlBerko The Gemara asks and answers והכתיב לא תקום ולא תטור ההוא בממון הוא דכתיב דתניא איזו היא נקימה etc. Rambam quotes exactly the conclusion of the Gemara in defining revenge
    – b a
    Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 17:39
  • I disagree, while he quotes the example his conclusion is total: "Forsooth, it becomes man to be indulgent in his ethical conduct in all temporal matters, for, to those who can reason all worldly matters are vanity and absurdity, unworthy to call forth vengeance on their account."
    – Al Berko
    Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 17:42

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