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Matoth: The Powerful Detriment of Anger

In this week’s parsh.jpg (2373 bytes) (Bamidbar 31:21), it says the following: "And Elazar the priest said to the men of the army who came to the war: This is the statute of the wpe9.gif (923 bytes), which the L-rd commanded Moses"

On this verse, Elazar said that Resh Lakish said: All who get angry—if he is wise, his wisdom departs from him, as it is written (14): ‘And Moses was wroth, ‘ and : ‘And Elazar the priest said… This is the statute of the Torah, which the L-rd commanded Moses,’ from which it is to be inferred that the Halakhah escaped him (Pesachim 66b) 1

The commentary above indicates that the trait of anger can actually cause a person's wisdom to escape him (at least momentarily). If this kind of thing could happen to someone as great as Moshe Rabbenu, it can surely happen to anyone else --at any time.

Further... the loss of wisdom (due to a preoccupation with anger) at critical times in our lives can directly contribute to sin (in one form or another). The Satin preys on people who temporarily let their animalistic instincts get the better of them. Anyone who has lost their temper can attest to the intoxicating effects of anger on an individual's judgement.

According to the Prophetic Tradition, anger causes its victims to lose more than just wisdom.  The Talmud describes the loss of Prophecy that resulted from Elisha's anger. 'Thus, after Elisha became angry at the King of Israel (2 Kings 3:13-14), his power of prophecy left him. But when he overcame anger, he found joy ' in the playing of his instrument. It was only then that the hand of the L-rd (the power of Prophecy) came back to him ' " (2 Kings 3:15) 2

According to the RMb"M, "Anger too, is an exceedingly bad passion, and one should avoid it to the last extreme. One should train oneself not to be angry even for something that would justify anger... The ancient Sages said, 'He who is angry is the same as if he worshipped idols.' Hence, our sages exhorted us that a person should always evaluate his dispositions and so adjust them that they shall be at the mean between the extremes, and this will secure his physical health.  Thus a man should not be choleric, easily moved to anger, nor be like the dead without feeling; but should aim at the happy medium; be angry only for a grave cause that rightly calls for indignation, so that the like shall not be done again." 3

May we merit to live our lives without the narcotic effects that anger creates. And through the self control of the body through the mind (soul)... we will merit to see the rebuilding of the third Beth HaMikdash in this generation.

1 HaRav Boruch Halevi Epstein, The Essential Torah Temimah, Bemidbar, p.245, Feldheim Publishers
2 B. Pes 63, b. Pes 117a, B. Shab 30b. Sefer HaAggadah, p.473:55
3 Deot 1, Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon --born in 1135 in Cordova, Spain (a Davidic descendent of Rabbi Judah the Prince, who compiled the Oral Law known as The Mishnah in the early part of third century of the common era).

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