Thursday, September 14, 2006


1) * R' Shim'on ben Elazar said in the name of Chilfa ben Agra, who said in the name of R' Yochanan ben Nuri: One who tears his garments in his anger, one who breaks his vessels in anger, and one who scatters his money in his anger should be in your eyes like an idol worshipper. For this is the way of the Evil Drive: Today it says "do this" and tomorrow it says "do that", until finally it says to him "go and worship idols", and he goes and does. (Shabbos 105b)

* Whoever gets angry, it is as if he worshipped idolatry (Zohar Bereishit 27:2, Korach 179:1).

At first glance, these are astounding statements, that cannot possibly be seriously countenanced to be anything but exaggerations. Or can they?

The Ramban writes (Shmos 13:16): No person has a portion in the Torah of Moshe until he believes regarding all of his matters and occurrences that they are nisim, as opposed to the simple way of nature, both in the public sphere and in the individual sphere. If one does mitzvos, his reward will be to succeed, and if he transgresses them, his punishment shall cut him off.

When someone causes us harm or embarrassment or injury, we often get angry. However, how does this square with the concept that everything that happens to a person is ordained by God? If a person injures another person, it is only because God allowed them to. Hence, when one angers, one is ignoring the idea of God's watchfulness over the world - which is a lack of belief that is truly akin to idolatry.

Such an idea was also expressed by David, when Shim'i ben Geira accosted him when he was in flight from his rebellious son, Avshalom (2 Shmuel 16:10):

וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ, מַה-לִּי וְלָכֶם בְּנֵי צְרֻיָה; כֹּה יְקַלֵּל, כִּי ה' אָמַר לוֹ קַלֵּל אֶת-דָּוִד, וּמִי יֹאמַר, מַדּוּעַ עָשִׂיתָה כֵּן.

And the king said: "What have I to do with you, you sons of Tzeruya? So let him curse, for HaShem has said to him: Curse David; who then shall say: Why have you done so?

These thoughts were taken from the first chapter of an anonymously authored kunt'res that I have, entitled "HaKa'as V'sotz'osav".

2) What is the reason why a person who is angry is driven to do such destructive actions like tearing a garment, breaking something, or scattering his money?

I am not a psychologist, but an answer was revealed to me as I with fascination observed my own fury (against myself, specifically). In the general sense, one becomes angry when things go wrong; the target of this anger depends on whom one succeeds (if one may call it that) in blaming this trouble. Anger is thus born out of frustration and powerlessness. The way that one instinctively tries to combat this feeling is to put oneself in a situation in which one feels the opposite sensation, one of power and strength. There are two ways in which one can generate this feelings. One is through the power of creation, which is often a time-consuming and challenging activity that is fraught with its own difficulties and likelihood of failure. The other, the polar opposite of the first, is destruction, to erase that which has been created. If I tear a garment, I have exercised power over it. If I take a glass and shatter it against a wall, I have irreversibly altered its nature. If I injure my fellow, I have demonstrated my strength in a way greater than any other, as God has created a being in His own image, while I have paralleled myself to Him, destroying His handiwork that is man. I have not merely built an idol to encroach on God's territory, but I have idolized myself. I have utilized my human power of emulating God and turned the sword on God Himself, altering the world that He created not for reasons of His choosing, but rather for my own desires, my own will. In this sense, too, one who becomes angry is akin to an idolator.



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