Halacha Date: 21 Elul 5783 September 7 2023
Question: Is it correct that one may not transfer another’s judgment into the hands of Heaven, i.e. requesting that Hashem punish an individual who caused me harm if I am correct?
Answer: When our matriarch Sarah saw that she was barren, she gave her maidservant, Hagar, to her husband Avraham as a wife. When Hagar realized that she was about to bear a child for Avraham, she began to disparage her mistress, Sarah. The Torah states (Bereshit 16): “Sarai told Avram, ‘My judgment is upon you! I have placed my maidservant in your bosom and when she saw she was pregnant, I have become belittled in her eyes; may Hashem judge between me and you!’” This means that Sarah had a claim against Avraham and she transferred the judgment between them into the hands of Hashem so that He would determine who the correct party was.
The Words of Rav Chanan
The Gemara (Baba Kama 93a) states: “Rav Chanan said: When one transfers another’s judgment into the hands of Heaven, he is punished first, as the verse states, ‘Sarai told Avram, ‘My judgment is upon you,’ and the Torah later states, ‘And Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to cry over her.’” This means that it is almost as if Sarah caused herself to pass away before Avraham because she transferred his judgment into the hands of Heaven.
When the Law Cannot be Enforced in a Bet Din (Rabbinical Court)
The Gemara further explains that one may indeed summon one’s fellow to a Bet Din before rabbinical judges in this world. However, if the other individual does not feel compelled to follow the verdict of the Bet Din and the verdict cannot be enforced in this world, one may, in fact, transfer the other individual’s judgment into the hands of Heaven. Similarly, if there is no judge who is able to rule on the matter, for instance, because there is no Bet Din in the area or because the defendant has hired false witnesses and the like, one may likewise transfer the other individual’s judgment into Hashem’s hands and the King of the Universe will be the judge in this situation (obviously, this only applies if one knows he is correct; in any event, it is not always advisable to do so).
If One Must Notify the Other Party that One is Transferring His Judgment into the Hands of Heaven
Rabbeinu Nissim (in his commentary on Rosh Hashanah 3b) writes that even if the defendant does not follow Bet Din’s ruling or if there is no Bet Din that can rule on the matter, one may only transfer the defendant’s judgment into the hands of Heaven after one has notified the other party that one is about to do so. The Rama rules likewise in Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat (end of Chapter 422; see also Choshen Mishpat, Chapter 15, Section 3 and Bet Yosef and Birkei Yosef ibid).
One who is Quick to Forgive is Especially Praiseworthy
Several years ago, we have discussed that one should not be cruel and unappeasable; rather, one should always be easily appeased and difficult to anger. If an individual has sinned against someone and then comes to request forgiveness, one should forgive the sinner completely and willingly, for this is indeed the way of the Jewish nation. The Mishnah in Masechet Baba Kama (92a) states: “From where do we know that the wronged party should not be cruel and unforgiving? As the verse states (Bereshit 20), ‘And Avraham prayed to Hashem and Hashem healed Avimelech.’”
The Rambam states (Chapter 5 of Hilchot Chovel U’Mazik): “One who is quick to forgive is especially praiseworthy and the Sages are particularly pleased with his actions.” This means that one who is quick to forgive an individual who has wronged him is truly on a lofty level. If one is unforgiving, one is not following the path of the Jewish nation, for the signs of the Jewish nation are that they are merciful, bashful, and kind (see Sefer Me’irat Einayim, ibid, Subsection 4). Since the Jewish nation possesses these traits, they are always quick to forgive.
One should only look for a spouse who possesses these traits, i.e. mercy, bashfulness, and kindness (Yevamot 79a). However, one should not cleave to an individual who is brazen and cruel.
Once we are on the topic, let us mention the explanation of Maran zt”l (in his Ma’or Yisrael, Derashot, page 298) on the aforementioned Gemara. The Gemara states: “There are primary character traits that define the Jewish nation: They are bashful, merciful, and perform kindness.” Our Sages hinted that there may be paupers who are too shy to ask for charity. On the other hand, there are merciful Jews, i.e. the wealthy, who wish to donate to and assist the needy but they do not know who is needy. Then come those who perform loving-kindness and they take donations from the wealthy donors and transfer the funds to the needy.