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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Naso

Admirable Anger

Rabbi Stewart WeissSivan 13 5775
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The centerpiece of this week’s very long Sedra – the longest single sedra in the entire Torah! – is the Birkat Kohanim. This beautiful bracha which the Kohanim bring to the nation – they are the conduit through which Hashem’s blessings flow down to us – contains a wish for wealth, security, knowledge, acceptance by others, and Peace.

The final section of the bracha, "May Hashem lift up His face to you" – is not easy to understand. Does G-d have a "face?" And what causes Him to "lift" it up?

The Gemara in Brachot makes the audacious statement that Hashem prays, (we also know that He wears Tefilin, as recited in Anim Z’mirot!), based on the verse, "I will bring them to My holy mountain & make them rejoice in the house of My prayer;" (i.e. MY prayer, & not just their prayer). And what, exactly, is that prayer?

Says Rav Zutra in the name of Rav: "May it be My will that My mercy conquers My anger."

The phrase in Birkat Kohanim now becomes clear. There are times when we are so angry with another person that we cannot even stand to look at them, for fear we will explode in fury and invective. And so we turn away from them. So, too, at times Hashem is so upset with us, His
children, at the way we have been acting, that He is ashamed & angry, and so He turns away from us. This is a phenomenon called Hester Panim, the hiding of the face, and it always presages a misfortune that is so disastrous for us that G-d Himself prays (to Himself, it seems!) to let His anger go, and show mercy to us.

But when G-d IS satisfied with our conduct, we can hold our head up high. We can walk tall, and proud, and can confidently meet His gaze as He looks us straight in the eye. That "meeting of the eyes" affords us true Peace, as we know we are acting in tandem with the Divine will.

The Gemara then discusses G-d’s anger. It is fleeting, lasting just a moment - a "rega" - and it can be devastating. But it is a necessary element in G-d’s world. For how can Hashem – and we – see injustice, cruelty, corruption & hypocrisy, and not become angry? What if Avraham had been indifferent to the worship of idols? What if Moshe had simply shrugged his shoulders in blithe resignation when he saw the Egyptian smiting the Hebrew?

Anger that comes out of an over-inflated ego is indeed destructive & counter-productive, and anything but a G-dly trait. But anger arising from righteous indignation over a wrong that should be righted - as long as WE control that anger, and it not control US - is not only acceptable behavior; it can also save the world.

Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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