MIDDAH OF THE MONTH
ANGER/CA'AS: Increase the distance between the match and the fuse.
When Rabbi Perr was asked why we should focus on anger his response was, “Because everyone has it and everyone regrets it.”
I began my study of anger with an investigation of some of the teachings from our Jewish tradition. I started with a teaching in the Talmud that says, Rabbi Hai said, ‘ A person is know by their cup, their purse and their anger.” Knowing how a person handles his/her cup (how they drink), purse (how they spend money) and anger gives you enough insight to be able to know the person. We learn from this that, of all the emotions, how we handle anger is the most defining. We will be delving into the middah of handling our anger this month.
Anger is not inherently a bad thing. We all experience it from time to time. What is important is how we handle it. Learning about where anger comes from is helpful. Last month we focused on Humility where we learned about the role that our ego plays in humility. Ego also plays an important part in anger. If we take a serious look at when we get angry it often comes from feeling that we have been hurt or belittled by another. Our ego gets bruised and so we strike out to hurt another the way we feel hurt. Finding the words to express this anger can be difficult but necessary.
One of the primary examples of anger in the Torah is Moses. There is a midrash that identifies exactly what Moses did wrong when he struck the rock in anger. In responding to the people’s request for water, he said “Listen you rebels.” This remark is clearly uttered in anger and that is taken to reflect a lack of faith because someone with absolute faith in God approaches whatever confronts him or her with equanimity, knowing that it all comes from God for a purpose. Someone who gets angry as Moses did is therefore lacking this degree of faith and that is why God told Moses, “you did not have enough faith in me.”
There are times when anger is a good response. If you get angry because you see another person being mistreated that can spur you to do something positive about it. It was anger at how African Americans in our society were being treated in the 60’s that spurred me to march in Selma.
— Lesley Levin
HUMILITY/ANAVAH: No more than my space, no less than my place.