The Torah constantly tells us who is speaking (generally God) and who is being addressed (often Moses, often the people of Israel).

We expect something similar at the beginning of this week’s reading, but lo and behold, the Torah identifies the audience not as Israel but as “all the congregation of the Children of Israel” (Lev. 19:2).

What does the text have in mind when it is so specific that it mentions the whole congregation?

It must have a connection with the message, which is “You shall be holy people”. The extra phrase is there to tell us that every Israelite has two distinguishing marks at the same time – ethnic (everyone is part of the people of Israel) and spiritual (everyone – however secular they seem – is spiritually significant).

Rav Soloveitchik said that there were two covenants in Jewishness, the covenant of fate (ethnic) and the covenant of faith (spiritual). Sometimes a Jew emphasises one aspect, sometimes the other, but the best way to be is a synthesis.


What is the difference between being vengeful and bearing a grudge?

The Torah mentions them together: “You shall not take vengeance nor bear a grudge” (Lev. 19:18).


David Hoffmann says vengeance is immediate revenge and bearing a grudge is maintaining the rage.

The Sifra gives examples:
1. A. says to B, “Lend me your sickle,” and B. refuses. The next day, B. says, “Lend me your adze,” and A. replies, “I shall not lend it to you just as you did not lend me your sickle.” This is vengeance.

2. B. says to A., “Lend me your adze,” and A. refuses. The next day, A. says, “Lend me your sickle,” and B. replies, “Here you are; I am not like you who did not lend your adze.” This is what ls meant by bearing a grudge.

But the examples are not exactly parallel, i.e. why is the one who takes vengeance concerned with a sickle and the one who bears a grudge, an adze?

Wolf Heidenheim notes that a sickle is more delicate than an adze; A. is motivated by vengeance when he will not lend his adze, since the wear and tear on an adze is less than that on the sickle. Maybe B. refused to lend his sickle precisely because of the heavy wear and tear on it. Vengeance, says Heidenheim, implies returning evil in greater measure.

In the case of a grudge the situation is reversed. Lending a delicate sickle is a generous thing to do, but spoilt by the words, “I am not like you”. There should be no sense of grievance.


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