Torah Tidbits

28 August 2014 / 2 Elul 5774
Issue 1056
Shabbat Parshat Shoftim
August 08, 2013

Guest Article

The Antidote for Anger

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Many people lose their temper and then regret it. Is there a magic formula to prevent or at least control our anger?
The Talmud in Shabbat 105b and Nedarim 22b say, “When one becomes angry, it is as if he is serving idols”. This seems to be a very extreme and exaggerated statement. How can the Talmud compare anger to the severe sin of idolatry?
Upon deep reflection, we can perceive a connection. What really causes anger? When things don’t go my way; when my plans don’t work out, I get angry. The world is not conforming to my vision of perfection. However, since G-d ultimately is running and controlling everything, getting angry is like saying that I consider that my version of the world is better than His! A person in the heat of anger thinks, “If I were running the world, I wouldn’t have all these problems and troubles”. He probably also thinks, “If I was in charge, I wouldn’t be messing things up the way He is.” This angry reaction is a subtle form of idol worship. I am enthroning my intellect and ego and paying homage to them. 
Now, of course, not everyone who gets angry consciously realizes this. However, the point is that constant awareness of the Unity of G-d is the surest antidote for anger, as well as a host of other undesirable psychological maladies.
Therefore, Judaism is summed up and best expressed in the Sh’ma. “Hear, Israel, Hashem [which means the All Merciful] Elokeinu [our Strict Judge] [yet] Hashem is One [whatever happens, it is all an aspect of His Mercy]”. When G-d acts as Elokeinu (our Strict Judge), it is really “tough love” which is love all the same.
Tehillim 16:8 states, “I have placed G-d in front of me at all times.” The Baal Shem Tov explains that the Hebrew word SHIVITI (I have placed) comes from the root SHAVEH (SHIN-VAV-HEI) which means equal. Thus the Baal Shem Tov translated this verse, “All things are equal to me when I am aware and conscious of G-d.” When one remembers that all events, pleasant and unpleasant, come from G-d, then one accepts all things with equanimity. As the Baal Shem Tov said about himself, “Whether others praise me or humiliate and embarrass me, it is all equal and the same.”

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