By Rabbi Yechiel Biberfeld, Rosh Kollel
"Do not hold hatred toward your brother in your heart..." "Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against the children in your nation, and you shall love your fellow Jew like yourself, I am Hashem."
Let us try to visualize what the Torah is demanding from us. A fellow Jew does something wrong to me, something that justifies my being angry at him and hating him, yet the Torah says I may not hold hatred in my heart. Moreover, I may not even take revenge to at least "get even." I may not even bear a grudge in my heart when I am courageous enough to show kindness to him. The Torah goes yet further and demands me to love him like I love myself. This certainly sounds like something beyond human capability. To be sure, this level is quite sublime, as Mesilas Yeshorim (Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato, RaMCHa"L, 1700-1737) writes (chapter 11),
"Hate and revenge are very difficult for man's spiteful heart to escape, for in view of his being extremely sensitive to insult, and suffering great anguish because of It; revenge being the only thing which will put him at rest, is sweeter than honey to him. Therefore, if it is within his power to abandon what his nature dictates and to overlook the offense so as not to hate the one who ignited hatred within him, nor to take revenge on him when the opportunity to do so presents itself, nor to hold a grudge against him, but to forget the whole affair and remove it from his heart as if it had never occurred - if he can do this, he is strong and courageous. Such conduct is easy only for the ministering angels, among whom the aforementioned traits do not exist, not for 'dwellers in houses of clay whose roots are in dust' [i.e. human beings].
But the King has decreed in no uncertain terms, 'Do not take revenge and do not bear a grudge against the children of your nation.'"
My rebbe, Horav Mattisyahu Salamon, shlit"a (see Matnas Chelko, Mesilas Yeshorim) once exquisitely illustrated the exact situation the Torah is referring to. Reuven is moving to a new house just down the street from his old house. His neighbor, Shimon, owns a mid-size truck that he needs for his profession but is just parked outside his house on Sundays. Reuven politely asks Shimon if he would be able to borrow his truck the following Sunday to help move his belongings to his new house. Shimon says, "No, I don't like lending out my truck." Reuven proceeds to shlep all his belongings with a baby carriage that he has handy. Back and forth, one trip after another Reuven continued all day, lugging his belongings in his baby carriage. As he passes Shimon's house, he sees Shimon looking out his window, showing no remorse at all. Halfway through the day it begins to rain and still Reuven sees Shimon's eyes staring at him coldly every time he passes by. Finally the job is done and Reuven goes to sleep that night exhausted. The next morning he hears a knock at his door. It is his neighbor, Shimon. "Good morning, Reuven. My daughter just came over with my new grandson and I noticed you have a baby carriage. I'm wondering if I can borrow it..."
In truth, for someone in Reuven's position not to react with anger and revenge, or at the least bear a grudge, seems humanly impossible, as the Mesilas Yeshorim described above. How then can the Torah command us not to? And even more so, we are required to love such a neighbor as ourselves?!
The answer is revealed in the final two words of the posuk: "Ani Hashem," "I am Hashem." I am Hashem Who commanded this in My Torah and thus made it possible to overcome these "natural" feelings. By believing that everything that happens is only from Hashem, a Jew can attain this angelic level of not hating, of not wanting to take revenge, of not bearing a grudge, and even of getting to love the person.
Mesilas Yeshorim goes on to explain that the yetzer hora inflames the heart of a person to always remember the wrong done to him by another. The yetzer hora convinces him that even if he will overcome the feeling of hatred, he should not go out of his way to do a favor for him. Or at least do not do it graciously. This is how the yetzer hora tries to capture us into his net. The only way to combat his urges and reach the level the Torah expects of us is with the understanding of "I am Hashem." I am Hashem Who causes all the wrong to happen to each and every person. If it was not decreed by Me, Hashem, no person can wrong another. With this belief inculcated into our senses and consciousness, we can overcome the yetzer hora's advances and reach a level even greater than that of the angels. Indeed, one who can possess this level of emunah and thus not hate, not take revenge or not bear a grudge, and even love his fellow Jew who wronged him, is one who has attainedkedusha, holiness. He has fulfilled the positive commandment of "V'heyisem Kedoshim "You shall be holy."