Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Shmini
To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Adar II 21 5779
What makes the Torah so eminently believable is that it tells the truth! Even when our greatest hero Moshe makes a mistake, the Torah does not cover it up. In fact, by pointing out the failings & foibles of these great people, the Torah "humanizes" them so that they may be realistic, eternal role models for all of us to emulate.

Three times, says Rashi, Moshe lets his temper get the better of him, & each time, the result is that he has a "mental lapse" & errs in judgment:

- At Mei Meriva, Moshe becomes angry at the people for complaining; he then mistakenly hits the rock instead of speaking to it;
- After the battle against Midyan, Moshe angrily berates the generals for their mistake; he then forgets the laws regarding utensils taken from Midyan;
- Finally, in our Sedra, Moshe angrily criticizes the kohanim for failing to eat the meat of a korban & burning it on the altar instead. Aharon explains to Moshe the halachic reasons for his act, & Moshe agrees that Aharon is correct.

Moshe’s anger may have resulted from his (over) zealousness for Am Yisrael to be faithful to Hashem & adhere to the Mitzvot, which is quite understandable for a Jewish leader. But regardless of the merit of his emotion, anger can of itself negatively affect a person – even of Moshe’s stature - & result in a loss of mental acuity.

Many of the great Musar teachers talk about anger, & associate it with 2 basic sources: The first source is an enlarged Ego. When our ego (which is essentially a good thing) becomes over-inflated, we believe everything is coming to us, & we get easily insulted when something does not go exactly our way. We take it personally, as an affront to our honor, & we get mad. ("What, he came 5 minutes late to our meeting, & made ME wait?! What nerve!"). As if we ourselves never come late!

The second source of anger stems from a flaw in our faith system. Not everything in this world functions exactly as we would like it to. Sometimes we do suffer, we do face aggravating situations & disappointments that rile us up. But if we accept that Hashem is running the universe, & He has a plan for the world & for us, then we can hold our anger back & remind ourselves that even if we can’t fathom why certain things are happening, we can have faith that there is a cosmic reason for it. True & abiding anger, say Chazal, is a form of Avoda Zara, for it presumes that there is no G-d ultimately in charge.

Anger has its place, to be sure; when it is in the form of righteous indignation in the face of injustice or inequality, it helps to right society & it motivates us to heal the world. But anger for anger’s sake doesn’t solve anything – it just makes us bitter & brings high blood pressure. So, rather than lose control and go ballistic – be still & chill!
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