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Dear Rabbi, When I was younger I was bullied/ constantly teased and put down by a group of cool girls. Now, a bunch of these girls are very religious, however they never apologized to me ( one of them did, but the majority did not). I cannot forget the things they did to me and said to me, yet I don’t want to violate any Halacha: am I permitted to still feel hurt? Am I liable for holding a grudge/taking revenge? I feel very conflicted: on the one hand, they really hurt me and it hurts me to just try to grin and bear their insults of the past and pretend like it never happened, on the other hand, I am nervous that I am violating “bearing a grudge.” What should I do?
Shalom, Thank you for your question. Let me say how saddened I was to read of your pain. It sounds terrible that the pain they caused you has accompanied you for so many years. May you be blessed with a complete healing that allows you to move forward with only a happy heart and a clear soul. As to your question. There is much debate as to the parameters of the law commanding us not to bear a grudge. The classic example of this law, as found in the Talmud, is that is someone, for example, refuses to lend you an item, then (at a latter date) asks to borrow something from you. If you were to say to them “You did not lend to me, so I will not lend to you”, that would be in violation of the law not to take revenge. If, on the other hand you were in fact to lend them what they needed, but said to them “See, I’m not like you – I do lend things!”, that would be bearing a grudge. Now, the case quoted is about a monetary wrong that is being revenged or begrudged by a monetary situation in return. Does this apply to wrongs that were not monetary? And to grudges and revenges that do not involve money? This is a debate amongst the Rabbis (See Chafetz Haim, Introduction Lav 8). Rabbi Kook (in Mitzvat Riah, page 98) rules that this only applies to monetary situations. Others are stricter. However, it would seem that even they would agree that the mere inner emotion of pain, if it does not lead to any action, is not forbidden. Although you ask if it is permitted to feel hurt – that hurt you are feeling is probably beyond your ability to simply “let it go”. Because of this it is almost impossible to rule that it is a sin – a sin is something involving free will, which you are lacking here. So, to answer your question – no, you are not sinning by having these feelings. With this said, let me add two points. Firstly – if the feelings bring you to action (like bullying the girls in return), then your question is much more serious, and according to many opinions you would then be sinning. Secondly – all would agree (and I’m sure that you too would desire) that it would be ideal to get rid of your pain and bad feelings, and move on in life. This can be achieved (hopefully, and with much effort) by either gently being in contact with the people involved and explaining to them the pain they caused, and hope that they apologize. However, that is not always an option. The other way is for you (perhaps with some form of therapeutic help) manage to leave the pain behind. Again, many blessings.
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