Wherein Shall be Explained [Regarding] The Prohibition[s against] Taking Revenge and Bearing a Grudge, [as well as] The Great Merit of The Person Who Guards Himself from [these sins]
In addition [to the obligation to love one’s fellow as the person loves himself], if an [incident] occurred to him, [involving] his fellow treating him improperly in a given matter, nevertheless, [the victim of such wrongful action] must be careful to not take revenge and to not bear hatred [against this individual]. Rather, he must wipe out this incident from his heart, and he must practice [that which is] good [when dealing] with [the person who wronged him], in all matters [of their interaction], as [he would act] with all of the rest of Jewish men, [to the extent] that there never [existed] hatred between [him and the offender. This follows that which] is written [in Parshas Kidoshim], “You shall not take revenge and shall not bear a grudge against the people of your nation, and you shall love your fellow as [you love] yourself…” (Vayikra: 19; 18) [Also], please go and see in the Holy Zohar, Parshas Mikeitz (Volume 1: 201b), [where we learn of the] greatness of the elevated level of the person who recompenses good in the place of [the] evil [inflicted upon him by others. The Zohar states as follows]: “Come and see, [for] Yosef it was not sufficient [for him] that he did not recompense evil to his brothers [for the actions that they took against him], rather, he performed [acts of] goodness and truth with them. Such [behavior as Yosef exhibited towards his brothers], is the way that the righteous [behave] constantly. Because of this [positive response that Yosef dealt with his brothers], The Holy One, Blessed is He, constantly spared him [from troubles, both] in this world and in The World to Come.” [That section of the Zohar also writes] at length of an incident involving one person who was spared from death in a miraculous manner, because [he possessed] this holy attribute, [which Yosef displayed toward his brothers].
The incident recorded in the Zohar is as follows:
“Rabbi Abba was sitting upon the door of the gateway of Lod [and] saw one person who was approaching, and he sat on a [resting place of] one of the mounds of the ground, and [this person, being] weary from the journey, sat and he slept over there. After a while, [Rabbi Abba] saw one snake that was approaching [this man, whereupon], a Kostifa D’Gurdina came out and killed that snake. (For a discussion of the meaning of “Kostifa D’Gurdina”, please see the last four paragraphs of this note). Once that person, [who was miraculously saved from the snake], awoke, he saw that snake [which had died, lying] opposite him. [Thereupon], that person got up [from the mound he had been sleeping upon], and that object [upon which he had been resting], fell into the lower depths [of the earth], and he was saved [from death].
Rabbi Abba [then] came to [this man, and] said to him, ‘Tell me, what is [the] deed [that you perform, in the merit of which] The Holy One, Blessed is He, performed these two miracles for you, [as these miracles] were not [performed] for nothing?’ That person said to [Rabbi Abba, as follows], “Every day there is never a person [who performs] any evil [action] against me, regarding whom I am not appeased by him and [do not] forgive him. Furthermore, if I am unable to be appeased with regard to him, I do not go down to my bed, until I forgive him. [Also], regarding all of those who cause me pain, the entire day I am not troubled regarding that evil [deed] that was done to me. [Solely taking the above-mentioned actions] are insufficient for me. Rather, from that day [that I am wronged] and onward, I strive to make peace with [those individuals who have wronged me].
[Thereupon], Rabbi Abba cried and said, “The actions of this [person] are greater than those [actions that] Yosef [performed], for Yosef’s [situation involved those whom he knew were] definitely his brothers, and it was [fitting for him] to have mercy upon them. However, [those actions] which this [Jew] performs are superior [to the actions that] Yosef [performed vis-à-vis his brothers]. It is fitting that The Holy One, Blessed is He, performed a miracle upon a miracle for [this individual].
[Rabbi Abba] opened [the following teaching by] stating [the following pasuk from Mishlei]: “One who walks with honesty of heart will walk securely, and one who perverts his ways will be broken.” (Mishlei: 10; 9) [The phrase] “One who walks with honestly of the heart will walk securely”, [refers to the above-mentioned] individual [who was miraculously spared from death] because he went on the path of the Torah. “He will walk securely”, for those in the world that inflict damage are not capable of harming him. “And those who pervert their ways will be broken”. Who will be broken? This [refers to] one who strays from the path of truth and desires to go with his friends. “יודע” – “yeevadea” (translated here as “he will be broken”, based on the commentary Mitzudas Tzion) – What is “yeevadea”? [This person] will be recognized (another translation of “yeevadea”) in the eyes of all of those “masters of judgment”, for the appearance of that person will not be lost from them, in order that they will be able to bring him to the place [where] they will exact revenge from him, and because of [these perverted ways of his], he will be recognized [by the “masters of judgment”].
Come and see, [in reference to] the person who walks in the path of truth, The Holy One, Blessed is He, covers over him, in order that he will not be made known and will not be recognized by the “masters of judgment”. However, “the one who perverts his ways will be made known”, and will be recognized by [the “masters of judgment”]. Worthy are those people [who] walk in the path of truth, and they walk securely upon [the] world, for they do not fear in this world, nor [do they fear] in The World to Come.
[Translator’s note: Perhaps this individual was saved middah k’neged middah – measure for measure, as follows. His life was threatened by a snake in the full view of Rabbi Abba. Rabbi Abba witnessed a situation, where, if not for HaShem bringing about a miracle, the individual would almost have certainly died from the snake bite. However, since this person made sure to forgive all of the people who had wronged him and didn’t even allow himself to ever possess a negative attitude against those who had wronged him, he did not risk coming to a situation where he would involve himself in forbidden speech against these individuals. Therefore, by saving himself from the sin of Lashon HaRa, this person saved himself from the danger of the snake. In Parshas Bireishis, the snake is the first one to commit the sin of slander, and against The Holy One, Blessed is He, at that (see Bireishis Rabba: 19; 4, or Cheshvan 8 (note 2), as well as Tishrei 15 (note 2) for a further explanation of the sin of the snake). According to Reish Lakish, quoted in maseches Bava Basra (16a), the Heavenly Prosecuting angel – the Satan, the Angel of Death, and the Yetzer HaRa (evil inclination) are one and the same. Before people possessed the Yetzer HaRa, the snake acted as the instigator, encouraging Chavah, and indirectly, Adam, to eat from the Eitz HaDa’as (Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil). Elsewhere, the Yetzer HaRa is described as having some relationship with the original snake. Therefore, this individual, described in the Zohar as having been miraculously saved from the snake/s, was probably saved, measure for measure, for not allowing himself to fall into the trap of the Yetzer HaRa (evil inclination), by coming to hate a Jew and speaking Lashon HaRa against him. He saved himself from coming to sin against his fellow, and he was later sinned from the venom of the snake/s.
We learn in the Zohar that this individual did not allow himself to go to bed until he forgives all of those who had wronged him. In this situation, this same person was miraculously spared from death, measure-for-measure, being protected while asleep from the snake, and once he awoke, he left the place he was sleeping, immediately before it descended into the depths of the earth. This individual did not fall into the depths of the earth, which can also be gehinnom - hell (it being below the surface of the earth), for he made sure to forgive all of those who wronged him. Therefore, this individual deserved to be saved by a “miracle upon a miracle”, where, under “normal circumstances”, he could have died at either of the two occasions – being bitten by a snake or falling into the depths of the earth.]
“Kostifa D’Gurdina” – Two views:
Derech HaEmes: According to the commentary “Derech HaEmes”, “Kostifa D’Gurdina” is a piece of wood from the root of a tree. According to the explanation of “Derech HaEmes”, the individual discussed in the Zohar was tired from his journey and went to sit down in a fissure of a mound by the Gate of Lod. This person fell asleep, only to be approached by a snake. The piece of wood then fell on the snake and killed it. This individual who was miraculously saved awoke to find the dead snake. He then arose from the fissure in the mound. The fissure then fell into the depths of the earth. This was the second miracle HaShem performed for this person, thus saving his life.
“Derech HaEmes” understands that the individual sat down in a “kulta d’tala d’ara”, which he explains to be a fissure in a mound in the ground. His explanation is based on his understanding of “kulta” to be “saduk”, as in an animal with split hooves, such as kosher animals.
Nitzotzei Oros: According to the commentary of “Nitzotzei Oros”, “Kostifa D’Gurdina” is a viper (or an adder). According to the explanation of “Nitzotzei Oros”, the individual discussed in the Zohar went to sit on a seat (or recliner) after a tiring journey, only to fall asleep. While he was sleeping, Rabbi Abba noticed a snake dangerously approaching the sleeping man. Before the snake had an opportunity to succeed in threatening this man’s life, a viper came out and killed the snake. In the presence of the viper, this man’s life was still in danger. The Zohar notes that the man awoke opposite the snake. According to this explanation, the Zohar seems to be referring to the live viper. The viper and the dead snake were on the recliner. After the man awoke, he arose from the recliner and the recliner fell into the depths of the earth, taking the viper and the dead snake along with it. Thus, the man was saved from the first snake, the viper, and falling into the depths of the earth.
“Nitzotzei Oros” disagrees with the opinion cited in “Derech HaEmes”, and understands that this person sat on some sort of a recliner or seat situated at a mound of earth. He understands “kulta” to refer to such a thing as the hooves of the donkey which are not split. This explanation can find its source in Bava Basra (16a), where it states in the discussion of the punishment of Iyov (inflicted upon him by the Satan), that an oxen has hooves that are “saduk” – split, and that, on the contrary, a donkey has hooves that are “kalut” - closed. In that discussion, we learn that the individual discussed, sat down to rest upon some sort of seat that one can recline upon. Therefore, “Nitzotzei Oros” explains “kulta d’tala d’ara” to refer to a seat (or object to recline upon) at the location of the mound.