This relative did these things because he was operating from a place of pure spite and vengeance. He was ‘paying back’ the other relatives for things he believed they did to him, and also for things he thought they should have done for him.
For two weeks after my grandma died, without anyone knowing or mourning for her, I felt SO bad in just about every way, physically, mentally and spiritually. Once the news finally came out and I went to her grave, I started to feel better in a lot of ways, but then a new test started up:
I had an overwhelming urge to find this relative and to go and punch him in the face.
Again, this was completely understandable, and not something ‘bad’, per se, as what he did was extremely awful, on a number of levels. I’m not a Tzaddik (and let me break this to you gently, dear reader, the odds are extremely high that you aren’t either) - and when you’re not a bona fide Tzaddik, you have to be honest about your bad feelings, and give them some space to be expressed, if you don’t want them to fester away and start literally killing you.
So I knew it was ok to have a day or two of feeling rage and vengeance, but then it had to stop. And getting it to stop was pretty darned hard!
Because for a couple of days there, I really hated this relative’s guts for what he did to me, my grandma, and the rest of my family.
I had to do a lot of talking to God about it all to figure out:
- The guy is 100%, seriously mentally ill (and it’s a real shame more people don’t know how to spot this, and call it out at an earlier stage, instead of assuming that these people will behave, act and think like ‘normal’ human beings)
- He justified his horrendous behavior by believing he had a ‘right’ to take vengeance against people who he believed (rightly or wrongly) had hurt or upset him
- If I carried on hating him, and wanting to rip his eyeballs out, then I would be acting just like him.
And that realization brought me up short.
Objectively, the guy HAS done something awful, on a number of levels. But if I carried on hating him and wishing bad things on him, then even if I didn’t actually act on these thoughts, I’d still be guilty of the same sin he’s steeped in.
And that’s the last thing I want, because let’s remember, the guy is 100% seriously mentally ill!
So I had to do some serious, serious inner work to try to rip out all that hatred and vengeance stuff, and it was really exhausting.
Again, this person has spent years and years and years hating others for doing something that hurt them, and has taken every opportunity to take vengeance, and to bad-mouth them, and to ‘punish’ them at every turn.
Here’s the thing: hate, when it’s turned outwards, for sure hurts the people it’s directed at, especially when you act in a spiteful, vindictive and cruel way towards the people you hate.
BUT, hate also corrodes our own souls, and over time, that corrosion spills over into our own health, and our own life, and our own circumstances, too. The more a person is cut off from their own feelings, the more that corrosive effect will be relayed to, amplified and picked up by their nearest and dearest, instead.
To put this another way, when we viscerally hate someone else over a long period of time, and we don’t let it go, not only can that severely damage our own health and happiness, it can very easily also stuff-up the health of the people we actually love dearly, but who are being bombarded by our ‘hate’ vibes 24/7.
(I write a lot more about the science backing up these ideas over on www.spiritualselfhelp.org.)
To sum it up, feelings trigger bio-chemical processes in the human body, both for the good and bad. And we pick up other people’s feelings, especially their strong, repressed, feelings ‘bio-electrically’ (or if you prefer to say it this way), spiritually, via our souls.
We’re all connected!
Humanity generally, and Jews specifically, which is why God made it very clear to us on repeated occasions that all Jews are responsible for each other, and part of a big, over-arching Jewish spiritual presence that the kabbalists talk about a lot.
So now, let’s bring all this down to a tachlis, practical level, and sum up the point I’m trying to make here.
1) There are a lot of truly mentally-ill, crazy people out there who are consumed by their bad middot, and continually justify their evil behavior as just ‘paying back’ the wrong that was done to them. (That’s what makes them bona fide crazy people.)
2) All of us have been hurt, and all of us have hurt others - it’s part of the human condition. (Anyone who claims they’ve never hurt anyone else is a bona fide crazy person.)
3) The more we can see God behind these ‘hurts’ that are done to us, the easier we’ll find it to let go of hatred, spite, vengeance - and a million other bad middot, besides.
4) The more we let our hate, jealousy and spite fester, the more poisonous we’ll act towards other people (and the more big sins we’ll rack up).
5) The more physically and mentally ill we ourselves will become, and also the more physically and mentally ill our nearest and dearest will become, as being around a hate-filled, jealous, vindictive, cruel, crazy person is mega-stressful at every level.
Again, cleaning this stuff out of the system is really, really hard!
If we’re not talking to God every single day, it’s virtually impossible to do it. But if we ARE talking to God - it can and does move out really, really fast.
Dear reader, let’s not turned into those hate-filled crazy people we see all over the place who feel 100% justified about all the nasty, evil, awful things they do.
We all hurt others, we have all been hurt ourselves.
It’s how we choose to react to these things that make all the difference to whether we’re going to build the world and get closer to Hashem, or destroy it.