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Never Hold a GrudgeThe following is adapted from the sefer “Beloved Companions” by Rav Yisroel Pesach Feinhandler, z”l.
You shall not take revenge, nor shall you retain animosity against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Vayikra 19:18)
Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Grodna took care of the needs of all the poor and unfortunate people in his city. He used to personally visit all the city's hotels to solicit funds for the poor from the guests, and he also collected money from the permanent dwellers of the city.
Once, he knocked on the door of a hotel room in which a lawyer from Grodna was conversing with a high government official from St. Petersburg, who happened to be Jewish. When the lawyer opened the door and saw Rabbi Nachum standing there, he understood that he had come to collect money, and said to him angrily, "I do not have time for you. Please go away." But Rabbi Nachum was persistent and would not leave. He told the man, "All 1 want is a donation for the poor people in this town." But the lawyer angrily slammed the door in the rabbi's face.
Because someone had witnessed this incident, word quickly spread throughout the city that the tzaddik Rabbi Nachum had been insulted by an arrogant lawyer, and people were furious with him for daring to insult someone whom everyone honored and respected. Rabbi Nachum did not ask for an apology and did not discuss the incident with anyone, and after a while the matter seemed to have been forgotten.
Sometime later, the lawyer was taken to court and accused of a serious crime, which would have severe consequences for him. The case against him was so strong, that there seemed to be no hope for an acquittal. However, he thought that his last chance might be to appeal to an influential official from St. Petersburg to try to arrange some way out for him by using his connections. And so he traveled to St. Petersburg and went immediately to the official's villa, hoping to meet with him before he left for his ministry.
The lawyer gave a message to the guard stationed outside the official's residence, saying that an old friend had arrived and requests an audience with the official. The guard returned a few minutes later with the message that the official was busy and had no time to see him.
"Did you tell him it was me?" asked the lawyer.
"I surely did," answered the guard.
The astonished lawyer could not understand this. He thought, "How could this person whom I have known for many years not agree to see me?" He then gave a coin to the guard and asked him to find out what the problem was. But the guard returned with the same answer, that the official had no time for him.
"Try again this evening when His Excellency comes home from the ministry, and I will remind him that you are here to see him," suggested the guard.
The lawyer agreed and returned that evening, but to no avail. He received the same reply, that the official did not have time for him. The lawyer then returned to his hotel room in despair. He knew that without the official's help, he did not stand a chance of being acquitted in his forthcoming trial. Finally he decided that the only option left to him was to come again the next morning and try to catch the official as he was leaving his house on his way to the ministry. Perhaps if I beg him to help me, he will have mercy, he thought, now quite desperate.
Early the next morning, he intercepted the official as he was leaving his house. The desperate man removed his hat, bowed very low, and in a pleading voice called out to the official, "Greetings, my old friend!" But the official still did not take any notice of him; he simply got into his waiting coach and departed.
Now the lawyer saw clearly that the official was deliberately turning his back on him. But what could he do? He simply could not leave St. Petersburg without seeking this man’s help, since his trial was soon, and he knew that without his help he would be doomed. He had no other choice but to find an opportunity to fall at the official's feet and plead with tears for mercy.
And so that evening he went back to the official's villa and did just that. Finally the official revealed to the distraught lawyer why he had refused to see him.
"Just as you once dared to close the door on our revered Rabbi Nachum, so do you deserve that the door should be closed on you too," said the official. The lawyer tried to justify himself, but the official interrupted him saying, "I will not listen to any excuses. The only thing that you can do if you want any help from me is to go back to Grodna and beg Rabbi Nachum to forgive you for having been so disrespectful to him. I will not consider seeing you again until you bring me a note from him saying he has forgiven you for your sin. Without that note, you have no chance of seeing me, and the door will be closed to you. The reason is the same one you gave Rabbi Nachum to get rid of him, 'I do not have time for you.' Now you can see how it feels to have that used against you... "
Despondent, the lawyer left St. Petersburg and traveled the long distance to Grodna in Lithuania, hoping to obtain the note that he needed. Rabbi Nachum, a pillar of kindness and mercy, received him warmly, and when he heard his request, he forgave him with all his heart, and immediately sat down to write the note. In the note he wrote, "I was never insulted or hurt by what the lawyer did, and after it was over, I never gave the matter a moment's thought."
With the note, the lawyer quickly returned to Petersburg, and this time he was received by the official promptly and with courtesy, as in the old days. The official used his considerable influence and pulled the strings needed, so that the lawyer was acquitted. (K'tzes Ha-Shemesh Bi-Gvuraso, p 164)
Forgiveness is a Crucial Ingredient in a Good Marriage
Forgiving is extremely important in marriage too. Since we are all only human, we all make mistakes. One must never hold a grudge against one's spouse but should always forgive, just as Rabbi Nachum was quick to forgive and held no grudge against the arrogant lawyer. Always try to put yourself in your spouse's place. Would you like someone to always remind you of your old mistakes, or would you prefer being forgiven for what you have done? Treat your spouse as you would want to be treated yourself.
It is a selfish and arrogant character trait not to be forgiving towards others. Our Sages say that there are three character traits that distinguish the Jews from others: they are bashful, they are full of pity for others, and they do kindness (Yevamos 79a). When you forgive your spouse, you are exercising all three of these positive Jewish character traits. You are bashful, since you know that you also make mistakes and are ashamed to hold a grudge when you yourself are not perfect. You have pity, since you realize that it hurts your spouse when you do not forgive. And you are kind to your spouse when you overlook his/her shortcomings.
Besides that, imagine the tremendous reward you will receive for forgiving: all of your own sins will be forgiven. A person who is married may find that his spouse is constantly making mistakes. He therefore has numerous opportunities to forgive and gain that tremendous reward of having all his sins forgiven. Every time we perceive a fault in our spouses we should really rejoice, for this means that we have been given another opportunity to forgive and have all our sins forgiven. Being married provides us with a constant test of character. Your patience, humility, and capacity for kindness are constantly being tested. The more successful we are in passing the test, the greater will be our reward in the World to Come and the greater will be our chances of having a wonderful marriage.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network