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Why Do People Become Angry?


Our sages castigate one who becomes angry in a most severe way. In the words of the mystics, “Whoever gets angry is as if he worshiped idols”. In this week’s Torah portion we read about the famous episode where Moses hit the rock instead of just speaking to it as they were instructed by G-d. Indeed it was because of this incident that G-d prohibits them to enter the land of Israel. Maimonides explains the severity of the punishment was because Moses become angry. Psychologists explain that at the heart of anger lies a profound sense of a perceived or real injustice that is perpetrated against us. It is not the pain inflicted upon us that makes us upset. It is the fact that what has happened to us is perceived to be unfair. The feeling of resentment is also comprised of anger and here too it is triggered by a perception of injustice. We all know that anger and all it’s related emotions are most destructive. Our sages taught: “There are three types of people whose lives are not worth living: The hot tempered....” Or as once was very eloquently put “Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die”. As very often it is the mystics who provide the most insightful and effective remedy to anger. The first Lubavitcher Rebbe in his magnum opus, Tanya, explains a teaching he received from the Baal Shem Tov in the most analytical manor. The summary is as follows: It all begins with the principle that G-d created the world from nothing and most importantly continues to sustain its existence on both a macro and micro level every moment. Consequently everything that happens in this world is divinely ordained. When an individual does something harmful to another and the other becomes angry it is tantamount to denying G-ds oversight and judgment as it relates to the individual. In other words, by accepting and internalising this perspective we accept everything that happens to us as divinely ordained. To be sure we can and sometimes we must respond to an injustice. However that can only be done in the constructive framework as prescribed to us in the Torah. We all have our own individual ideas as to how life should evolve in both the long and short term. However, notwithstanding our best efforts and good intentions, our understanding of any situation is limited. This is certainly true when a situation relates to other parties which makes it a more complex dynamic. Therefore a more healthy approach would be, on the one hand to adopt a vision for the future and a plan for its implementation, whilst at the same time to allow for an ongoing flexibility in adopting modifications to the original plans. We do this by keeping our eyes and hearts open to new opportunities and ideas. We must always remember that everything that comes our way or every person that crosses our path is in fact by Divine providence. G-d is trying to teach us something, and it’s in our best interest to listen very carefully. This will help us crystallise our vision giving us a greater clarity and focus in achieving our goals.

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