Revenge Is NOT Sweet
Kedoshim (Leviticus 19-20 )
Just because someone isn't nice to us, it doesn't permit us not to be nice to him. In this week's Torah portion (Lev. 19:18), we learn the important Jewish value of not taking revenge.
In our story, a kid contends with whether or not to take revenge.
TEACHING A LESSON
Dana tried to remember the good old days before everyone called her 'Dana Dumbbell.' True, she was never the best student and sometimes she did have to go to special after-school tutors to make up for courses she flunked. But she never thought too much about it, until a month ago when Lisa, a kid in her class, happened to see one of her tutor appointment slips and went on to blab about it to the entire class. That's when she invented that mean, stinging nickname that stuck ever since: Dana Dumbbell.
Dana sighed as she walked the two blocks to the tutor's office. She wasn't supposed to have an appointment today, but since she missed her last one because she'd had a bad cold, she had to make it up now.
She reached the office door and was about to knock, when it swung open fast and almost hit her. Normally that would be a little shocking, but this time Dana didn't even flinch, because she was about a zillion times more shocked by who it was walking out...
"I...um...well...you..." The normally cool, confident Lisa stammered as her clear, ivory complexion suddenly went strawberry red. She threw her shoulders back, then dropped them back down. "So, it seems you caught me," she groaned. "I always made sure I came here only on days you didn't - but I guess I messed up. So, tell me, what's it going to be?" Lisa asked.
"What do you mean?" Dana, still in shock, said.
"Oh, come on. The nickname you're going to make sure everyone calls me tomorrow. Will it be 'Lisa Loser'? Or maybe 'Lunkhead'? I'm sure you'll pick a really good one - now that you have the chance to take perfect revenge."
Revenge? She hadn't thought of it, but Dana smiled inwardly at the idea. She'd been suffering from Lisa's teasing for over a month. She'd made her life miserable, torpedoed some of her friendships and generally made her feel like dirt. And now she had the chance to get back at Lisa and make her experience some of the same!
Dana was about to give Lisa a silent smirk and walk past her, when she suddenly thought, if getting teased and nicknamed hurt her so much, was that something she wanted to do to someone else?
"Lisa," Dana said, suddenly pitying the cringing girl before her. "I'm not going to let a small mistake become a big one."
"I don't understand." Lisa said.
"It was a mistake that I came today," Dana said. "It wasn't my usual appointment day. But," she swallowed and cleared her throat, "I'm not going to make the even bigger mistake of hurting another person just to take revenge. As far as I'm concerned, I never saw you here today. Besides, just because you have a tutor does not mean you're dumb."
As Dana walked into the tutor's office, she smiled to herself, realizing as clear as day, that while she may not always get high grades - when it came to things that mattered most, she most certainly was not a dumbbell.
Q. How did Dana feel at first when she saw Lisa come out of the tutor's office?
A. After feeling shocked, she wanted to take revenge and tease her like she'd been teased by her.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She felt that she didn't want to hurt somebody else - even to take revenge.
Q. What life-lesson do you think someone could learn from this story?
A. It's a natural feeling when hurt, to want to hurt back. But we have the choice to become 'super'-natural and refrain from taking revenge even when we can.
Q. If Dana had chosen to take revenge, would she have been justified?
A. While we can understand her motive, it still wouldn't be justified. Hurting others is wrong and the fact that they may have hurt us doesn't make it right.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Does not taking revenge mean we should just become 'doormats' and let people walk all over us?
A. No way. We should be strong, and do all we can to protect our legitimate interests. However, hurting others for no other reason than because they hurt us is not part of that.
Q. Can there be a time that revenge is justified?
A. Perhaps if it is the only way to deter someone from harming us again. But there are almost always better alternatives.