Anger in Judaism

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Anger in Judaism is treated as a negative trait to be avoided whenever possible. The subject of anger is treated in a range of Jewish sources, from the Bible and Talmud, to Halacha, Kabbalah, Hasidism and contemporary Jewish sources.

In Tanach[edit]

In the Book of Genesis, Jacob condemned the anger that had arisen in his sons Simon and Levi: "Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel."[1]

Some bible commentators point to God's punishment of Moses, not allowing him to enter the land of Israel, as being due to Moses's anger at the Jewish People.[2]

In Talmud[edit]

Restraining oneself from anger is seen as noble and desirable, as Ethics of the Fathers states:

"Ben Zoma said: Who is strong? He who subdues his evil inclination, as it is stated, 'He who is slow to anger is better than a strong man, and he who masters his passions is better than one who conquers a city' (Proverbs 16:32)."[3]

Elsewhere, "Rabbi Eliezer says... Do not be easy to anger."[4]

The Talmud also emphasizes the negative effect anger has on a person.

Anger will cause a sage to lose his wisdom, a person who is destined for greatness to forfeit it.

— The Talmud.[5]

The Talmud links anger to conceit, stating “One who is angry does not even consider the presence of Hashem important."[6]

In Halacha[edit]

One who becomes angry is as though that person had worshipped idols.

— Moses Maimonides, Mishneh Torah[7][8]

In its section dealing with ethical traits a person should adopt, Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried in his Kitzur Shulchan Aruch states: "Anger is also a very evil trait and it should be avoided at all costs. You should train yourself not to become angry even if you have a good reason to be angry."[9]

In Kabbalah[edit]

Rabbi Chaim Vital taught in the name of his master, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the Arizal, that anger may be dispelled by immersing in a ritual bath (mikvah) twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays. While immersing, one should meditate on the idea that the numerical value (gematria) of the Hebrew word "mikvah" (Hebrew: מקוה‎) (ritual bath) is the same as the Hebrew word for anger ("ka'as, Hebrew: כעס‎).[10][11]

In Hasidism[edit]

The Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov, founder of Hasidism, taught that anger may dispelled by the emphasis on love for God and joy in performing the commandments.[12]:1:326

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi interprets the parallel between anger and idol worship stems from the feelings of the one who has become angry typically coincides with a disregard of Divine Providence – whatever had caused the anger was ultimately ordained from God – through coming to anger one thereby denies the hand of God in one's life.[13]

As with anything else, the way to correct [the traits of anger and pride] is step by step, the first step is to wait. Don’t express your anger or pride verbally; in this way, those emotions will not gain momentum, as can be seen in practice.

— The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.[14]

Contemporary Judaism[edit]

Rabbi Harold Kushner finds no grounds for anger toward God because “our misfortunes are none of His doing.”[15] In contrast to Kushner’s reading of the Bible, David Blumenthal finds an “abusing God” whose “sometimes evil” actions evoke vigorous protest, but without severing the protester’s relationship with God.[16]

In a teaching attributed to Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, when anger is a mode of life or when expressed in an unjustified manner, is prohibited by Judaism, but if a person is wronged, he or she is allowed to express their natural feelings, including anger.[17]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kaufmann Kohler, Anger, Jewish Encyclopedia.
  2. ^ Rubin, Yissachar Ber. Talelei Oros: Devarim: The Parsha Anthology. Fledheim Publishers. Accessed December 23, 2014.
  3. ^ Ethics of the Fathers. 4:1.
  4. ^ Ethics of the Fathers. 2:10.
  5. ^ "Tractate Pesachim." Talmud. 66b.
  6. ^ "Tractate Nedarim." Talmud. 22b.
  7. ^ Rabbi Moses Maimonides. "Hilchot De'ot, 2:3" Mishneh Torah: Yad Hachazakah L'Rambam.
  8. ^ Maimonides, citing “the early sages;” his source seems to be "Tractate Shabbat," Talmud, 105a. See, Kaminker, Mendy. "How to Deal with Anger: The Rebbe’s Advice." Chabad.org. Accessed December 23, 2014.
  9. ^ Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. 29:4.
  10. ^ Rabbi Chaim Vital, "Remedy #15." Shaar Ruach HaKodesh. p. 18b.
  11. ^ Mikvah is the numerical value of 151, ka'as is 150 plus the colel (a common gematria formula to add the value of 1 for the word itself). See, Wisnefsky, Moshe Yaakov. "Anger Remedy Number 2." Chabad.org. Accessed December 23, 2014.
  12. ^ Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov. Sefer Baal Shem Tov. Colel Bais Yosef. Melbourne: Australia. 2008.
  13. ^ Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. Sefer HaTanya. Kehot Publication Society. Brooklyn: New York. p. 535.
  14. ^ Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. "Letter 5239." Igrot Kodesh. Kehot Publication Society. Brooklyn: New York.
  15. ^ Harold S. Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People (Schocken Books, 1981), 44.
  16. ^ Blumenthal, David. "Facing the Abusing God: A Theology of Protest (Westminster/John Knox, 1993)". Religion.emory.edu. p. 223. Archived from the original on 2014-01-15. 
  17. ^ Hoffman, Seymour. Mental Health, Psychotherapy and Judaism Mondial. 2011.