VENGEANCE (Heb. nekamah, nekimah), inflicting punishment on another in return for an offense or injury, or the withholding of benefits and kindness from another for the same reason. The Bible distinguishes between vengeance that is proper and vengeance that is sinful. Vengeance is proper for man only in the restricted sense of dispensing justice for a legally punishable crime or sin, meted out in the prescribed manner. The one who inflicts the punishment is thus acting as an instrument of the court of law, or in rare cases, of God's revealed will, but never merely to satisfy personal animosity. Examples are "When a man strikes his slave… and he dies there and then, he must be avenged" (Ex. 21:20) and "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Avenge the Israelite people on the Midianites'" (Num. 31:1–2). Similarly, vengeance is appropriate when it is directed in a legally just war against the enemies of the entire people of Israel, who are at the same time considered enemies of God: "To execute vengeance upon the nations and punishments upon the peoples" (Ps. 149:7). Vengeance is a divine prerogative, as the following verses indicate: "For He will avenge the blood of His servants, wreak vengeance on His foes" (Deut. 32:43); "I will bring a sword against you to wreak vengeance for the covenant" (Lev. 26:25); and "O Lord God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth" (Ps. 94:1). While the rabbis considered the imitation of God's ways, such as mercy, forgiveness, and so on, to be the ethical ideal for man (see, e.g., Sot. 14a; Sif. Deut. 49; Shab. 133b), they did not fail to point out that certain activities attributed by the Bible to God, such as vengeance, should not be imitated, the reason being that "with a human being wrath controls him, but the Holy One blessed He controls His wrath, as it is said, 'The Lord avengeth and is full of wrath'" (the Hebrew is ba'al ḥemah, literally 'master of wrath'; Nah. 1:2) (Gen. R. 49:8). Human vengeance as the expression of personal animosity is explicitly prohibited in the Bible in the verse, "You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord" (Lev. 19:18). The rabbis offer a precise definition of this passage: "What is vengeance and what is bearing a grudge? If one said to his fellow: 'Lend me your sickle,' and he replied 'No,' and tomorrow the second comes to the first and says: 'Lend me your ax,' and he replies: 'I will not lend it to you just as you would not lend me your sickle' – that is vengeance. And what is bearing a grudge'? If one says to his fellow: 'Lend me your ax,' he replies 'No,' and on the morrow the second asks: 'Lend me your   garment,' and he answers: 'Here it is, I am not like you who would not lend me what I asked for' – that is bearing a grudge" (Yoma 23a; Maim. Yad, De'ot 7:7, 9; Sefer ha-Ḥinnukh, nos. 247, 248). Various reasons have been offered by Jewish thinkers for the injunction against vengeance, besides the obvious one that it increases hatred and strife among men. One consideration is that a man and his neighbor are really one organic unit, so that one retaliating against the other is analogous to the situation in which one hand slicing meat with a knife slips and cuts the second hand: "would the second hand retaliate by cutting the first?" (TJ, Ned. 9:4, 41c). Or, from another aspect, one ought always to consider the harm that befalls him as ultimately deriving from God as punishment for sin, the human perpetrator of the injury being merely an unwitting instrument of divine providence, so that, actually, repentance, rather than vengeance, is called for (Sefer ha-Ḥinnukh, no. 247). Maimonides states that "one should rather practice forbearance in all mundane matters, for the intelligent realize that these are vain things and not worth taking vengeance for" (Maim. Yad, De'ot 7:7). There is, according to the Talmud, one notable exception to the injunction against vengeance. "Any talmid ḥakham (pious Torah scholar) who does not avenge himself and retains anger like a serpent, is no real talmid ḥakham" (Yoma 22b–23a), the reason being that offense against him entails a slur against the Torah itself. This dispensation granted the talmid ḥakham is, however, highly qualified by the rabbis. It is limited to cases where the scholar has suffered personal, rather than monetary, injury; the scholar may not take overt action, but may merely withhold interference if another takes up his cause; the dispensation is terminated if the offender seeks forgiveness (Yoma, ibid. and Rashi ibid.). Furthermore, according to Maimonides (Yad, Talmud Torah 7:13), the special permission granted the scholar applies only to instances where he was publicly reviled, thus involving a gross desecration of the honor of Torah; and finally, the purpose for allowing vengeance in such a case is that it causes the offender to recant, after which he must be forgiven. In all other instances where one has been wronged, vengeance in all its forms is forbidden. The ideal, according to the Talmud, is to be of those, "who are insulted but do not retaliate with insult, who hear themselves put to shame without replying" (Yoma, ibid.). Concerning such people, the rabbis declare, "he who forbears to retaliate will find forbearance (from God) for all his failings" (Yoma, ibid.; Shab. 88b; RH 17a.) -BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. Cohen, Everyman's Talmud (19492), 210–30; Eisenstein, Yisrael, 7 (1951), 110–1. (Joshua H. Shmidman)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.


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  • vengeance — [ vɑ̃ʒɑ̃s ] n. f. • XVe; venjance 1080; de venger 1 ♦ Action de se venger. ♢ (L accent étant mis sur la réparation) Dédommagement moral de l offensé par punition de l offenseur. La vengeance de l insulté fut le mépris. La vengeance d une insulte …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Vengeance — may refer to:*Revenge *HMS Vengeance , eight vessels of the British Royal Navy *Vultee A 31 Vengeance, an American dive bomber of the Second World WarIn publications: *Vengeance (comics), a character in the Marvel Universe * Vengeance (novel),… …   Wikipedia

  • vengeance — Vengeance. s. f. Action par laquelle on se venge. Vengeance memorable, éclatante, pleine & entiere, cruelle, exemplaire. prendre, tirer vengeance. il en faut avoir vengeance. courir à la vengeance. j en ay fait la vengeance. il brûla tout le pays …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • Vengeance — Personaje de Marvel Comics Información Nombre original Tte. Michael Badinilo / Comisario Kowalski Especialidad Fuerza superhumana. Invulnerabilidad a la mayoría de los ataques no mágicos. Invulner …   Wikipedia Español

  • Vengeance — Venge ance, n. [F. vengeance, fr. venger to avenge, L. vindicare to lay claim to, defend, avenge, fr. vindex a claimant, defender, avenger, the first part of which is of uncertain origin, and the last part akin to dicere to say. See {Diction},… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Vengeance — war eine niederländische Rock Band um Sänger Leon Geowie, die 1982 gegründet wurde. Sie zeichnete sich vor allem durch eine sehr positive Lebenseinstellung aus. 1984 wurde Vengeance von Derk Joling, dem damaligen A R Manager von CBS Records, bei… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • vengeance — Vengeance, Vltio, Vindicatio, Vindicta. Demander vengeance, Expetere poenas, B. Prendre vengeance, Vindicare. Qui fait la vengeance de quelque chose, Vindex. Laisser la vengeance d une injure aux loix et aux magistrats, Incomþmoda sua legibus… …   Thresor de la langue françoyse

  • vengeance — c.1300, from Anglo Fr. vengeaunce, O.Fr. vengeance revenge, from vengier take revenge, from L. vindicare to set free, claim, avenge (see VINDICATE (Cf. vindicate)). Vengeance is mine, ... saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; …   Etymology dictionary

  • vengeance — ► NOUN ▪ punishment inflicted or retribution exacted for an injury or wrong. ● with a vengeance Cf. ↑with a vengeance ORIGIN Old French, from venger avenge …   English terms dictionary

  • vengeance — [ven′jəns] n. [ME < OFr < venger, to avenge < L vindicare: see VINDICATE] 1. the return of an injury for an injury, in punishment or retribution; avenging of an injury or offense; revenge 2. the desire to make such a return with a… …   English World dictionary

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