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Wednesday, 29 February 2012 00:29

calmness in the midst of chaos

art-birdsnestWhen I was a young rabbi,  my time was consumed by people who were constantly in a state of anger, frustration, and offense.  I was not usually the cause of it, but they contacted me to express their emotions over whatever it was that upset them.

Published in daily living
Sunday, 18 December 2011 04:58

standing strong

art-angerStanding up for what you believe in is a good thing. In fact, this is a value one can find in a number of religions and philosophies of life.

Published in besorah
Sunday, 12 December 2010 06:08

a calm word

art-screamIn a conversation among R. Israel Salanter's disciples, the discussion turned to saintly individuals whose influence extends on high. One of the disciples told about a certain tzaddik who had been offended by the remarks some individuals had directed at him. The tzaddik retorted sharply and cursed them. The curse was fulfilled to the letter. R. Israel was not surprised by the incident itself, but observed in his own telling style: "Someone who had reached so elevated a stature that his words can take effect, should exercise the utmost caution to guard his tongue and lips, so as not to utter anything evil, since he can easily become a damaging agent, for what difference does it make whether one damages with his hands or with the whiplash of his tongue, smiting his neighbor in secret with the force of a Heavenly decree?"   —From The Mussar Movement, Volume 1, part 2, page 212

Published in stories
Monday, 02 January 2012 19:56

proper restraints

art-penniesA person's nature can be recognized through three things: his cup, his purse, and his anger. --Talmud, Eruvin 65b

Published in mesorah
Tuesday, 02 November 2010 20:10

when honor is called for

art-angerIn Jerusalem long ago, an incredible incident took place in the office of a gemach (Jewish free loan fund, acronym of gemilut chasadim, acts of kindness). Customarily, the various gemachs in Jerusalem were all open on Thursdays, to be available to people who needed to borrow money for food for Shabbat. By Thursday night, all the gemach offices would be closed, mainly because money that had been available for the week was already gone.

One gemach, however, remained open on Friday mornings. The compassionate and sympathetic Reuven kept his gemach open, just in case someone needed him at the last minute. True, there was not so much money left by Friday, but he felt that one never knew who might be in desperate need. One Friday, when all the gemachs were closed except for Reuven’s, a young married man came in and asked for money for his family’s Shabbat food.

Reuven recognized the man for he had just been at the gemach the day before, and said, “If I remember correctly, you were here just yesterday.”

The young man’s face became flushed with anger. “Are you trying to tell me that I don’t need the money?” he fumed. “No, we are not saying that at all …” explained Reuven.

“Well, then lend me the money that I need! I already have cosigners for surety.”

Reuven looked at the young man compassionately and explained that it was the policy of the gemach not to lend twice within such a short period. The young man was enraged. Yelling, he stormed toward Reuven and slapped him across the face! The gentle Reuven stood there in shock and disbelief. No one had ever had the audacity to scream at him, let alone slap him.

Reuven’s assistant stepped forward to retaliate, but Reuven held him back. “Wait a moment,” Reuven said to the young man, “I’ll be back with the money right away.” He gave the bills to the young man and wished him well. The young man thanked him and left.

Because of the noise and commotion a few neighbors had gathered in the office to see what had happened. “If I were in your shoes,” one man shouted, “after such humiliation I would have demanded that he give back the money you had lent him yesterday, and pushed him out the door!”

Reuven, whose face still stung from the slap, explained. “I know this fellow. Under normal circumstances he would never have acted this way. He must be having such terrible problems that he lost himself completely. It’s because he did behave in such an unnatural way that I realized how desperate his position is. Now, more than ever, is the time to help him, and not be angry at him. So I went out of my way for him.” --Rabbi Paysach Krohn, The Maggid Speaks, pp. 86-87

Published in stories
Friday, 08 October 2010 20:51

do not kindle flame

art-candlesAs I write this my beloved wife is on the other side of the country for a weekend women’s retreat.   It is a Friday afternoon and my awareness of the coming Shabbat seems to be elevated in her absence.  The many things that I take for granted come to the forefront of my mind as those responsibilities shift to me this weekend.  The Shabbat is a wonderful thing for a family in this modern age of busyness and distractions.   The Shabbat comes whether we are prepared or not and can often be a great challenge to glide into smoothly. 

Published in torah
Monday, 13 September 2010 05:34

the pH of anger

Talmud - Mas. Nedarim 22a

R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Jonathan: He who loses his temper is exposed to all the torments of Gehenna, for it is written, Therefore remove anger from thy heart,’ thus wilt thou put away evil from thy flesh. Now ‘evil’ can only mean Gehenna, as it is written, The L-rd hath made all things for himself yea, even the wicked for the day of evil. Moreover, he is made to suffer from abdominal troubles, as it is written, But the L-rd shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind. Now what causes failing eyes and a sorrowful mind? Abdominal troubles.

What is remarkable to me as I read this is the physiological response that is being spoken of if we become worked up: stomach troubles.

Published in mesorah
Tuesday, 17 August 2010 18:46

idol worshipper or not?

Lessons in Tanya, Iggeret HaKodesh, Epistle 25

And this [will be understood] by first considering the teaching of our Sages, of blessed memory: “Whoever is in a rage resembles an idolater.”

The reason [for this] is clear to those who “know understanding,” because at the time of his anger, faith in G‑d and in His individual Divine Providence has left him. For were he to believe that what happened to him was G‑d’s doing, he would not be angry at all.

It would seem, at first, the statement that someone who is in a fit of rage is an idolater is a very heavy judgement.  But upon further examination, it makes complete sense if we remember we are not our own gods.  If we accept that we have limited effect on our destinies, then unplanned and unexpected events don't unseat us from our own self-made thrones. We are simply part of the Divine drama:what is required of us is to handle this life with noble equanimity and not seek our own understanding. This story below from the Talmud illustrates this idea of gam zu l'tovah (also this is for the good).

Published in mesorah

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