Ramchal speaks of “man's scheming heart” -- the part of it that lies
hidden in the recesses and barks like a mad dog or scratches like a
vicious cat -- and which often fosters the next two ugly traits: hate and
revenge. He defines “revenge” as “not doing a favor for someone who didn’t
do you a favor (in the past) or who did you harm”, and “bearing a grudge”
as “reminding someone of the harm he did you (in the past) when you’re
about to do him a favor”.
As he explains it, we might lapse into these traits since, “we’re all very
sensitive to insult and suffer very much because of it; and revenge, which
is the best solution for it, is as sweet as honey”. As a
consequence, “you’d have to be extraordinarily courageous and strong to
have it within you to rise above what’s innate to you by bypassing this
inclination and not hating someone who aroused hate in you, and by not
rising up against him in revenge or bearing a grudge against (him) and
forgetting it and erasing it from your heart as if it never happened
For, “while that might be easy for the ministering angels who don’t suffer
from such attributes”, still and all, "those who dwell in houses of clay
and are founded in dust" (Job 4:19), like us, ca
n’t manage to do that easily.
Here’s the phenomenon from the inside, as Ramchal depicts it (quite
vividly) when you’re faced with insult of defamation: “the yetzer harah
waxes and infuriates the heart, and it wants to keep the memory or some
trace of the incident that caused you pain” within. And so it might say to
you: "If you’d like to give him what he wasn't willing to give you when
you needed it, then at least don't give it to him cordially"; or, "If you
won't go so far as to harm him, then at least don't do him any great
favors or help him in a big way"; or, "if you do want to help him out a
lot, then at least don't do it to his face"; or, "you shouldn't befriend
him again -- it's enough that you’ve forgiven him and no longer hate him";
or, "if you want to be his friend again, at least don't be as close to him
as you’d been before."
Indeed, who among us could truly claim to be free of this inclination? And
yet, as Ramchal makes the point, “that’s exactly what we must do”, given
that the Torah says quite explicitly, "Do not hate your brother in your
heart" (Leviticus 19:17–18), and "Do not take revenge or bear a grudge
against one of your people" (Leviticus 19:18).
The only solution it seems would be to recall and reaffirm the Torah’s
overarching directive to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus
19:18), and to do your utmost to live by that ideal.
(It’s tempting to try a little analysis here in order to understand why
Ramchal is so dramatic in his treatment of this one trait in particular,
so we’ll add this insight. Ramchal himself had been terribly disparaged
and censured at a certain point for reasons we now know were baseless. Yet
as anyone who has ever read his correspondences with his teachers and
friends at the time knows, he never once revealed any animosity against
his detractors or ever did anything uncomely to them, to his great credit.
As such, he served as a model for us all of rising above adversity and not
drawing upon one’s “scheming heart”.)