Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Matot
To dedicate this lesson

Mad About You

This week’s Sedra begins with a discussion of nedarim – vows & oaths. While the world holds that an oral contract is "only as good as the paper it’s written on," Judaism & the Torah place great emphasis on the power of speech.

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Rabbi Stewart Weiss

This week’s Sedra begins with a discussion of nedarim – vows & oaths. While the world holds that an oral contract is "only as good as the paper it’s written on," Judaism & the Torah place great emphasis on the power of speech.

Words have a power all their own; in fact, words create reality! So the Torah says: "All that comes out of our mouth, we shall do." And so when we make a promise, we are bound to keep it. That is why the Hebrew word for "word" is "mila" – which connects to brit mila. We "write a covenant" each time we utter a pledge or a promise.

Words can be wonderfully constructive: we can use them to pray, to study, to bless or to complement others, to spread wisdom by teaching that which we have learned. But words can also be destructive, such as when we disparage or slander others, when we curse, or when we let our anger get the best of us & say something harsh.

In our Sedra, Moshe loses his temper when he learns that the army officers leading the war against Midian spared the Midianite women, who had seduced the Jewish men. As a result of this outburst of anger, Moshe momentarily forgot the specifics of the laws of kashering (the captured vessels of the Midianites) & so Elazar HaKohen had to teach these laws to the nation. Says Rashi: "Anger will always lead to mistakes."

I would argue that righteous indignation is a positive side of anger; we should get riled up when we see injustice or inequality, & do something about it. But most anger is unhealthy & unproductive, & can only injure us. I want to suggest that abiding anger comes from 3 primary places:

First, it stems from an inflated ego. When we think that everything is coming to us, we tend to get mad when things don’t go our way. A modest person is much more inclined to "go with the flow" than a conceited individual.

Anger also connects to jealousy. When we see someone accomplishing something that we feel we could be doing, we get frustrated, & this leads to anger. When we sense that we’ve not lived up to our own potential, we tend to lash out, as a way of deflecting our disappointment with ourselves, & this is expressed in angry words or actions.

Finally, anger indicates a basic lack of faith. Once we do our best, then we have to trust that whatever happens to us is from Hashem, & for the best. We all have had things happen to us that seemed bad, yet turned out well.

So lower your pride, lift your faith, & let your anger go!
את המידע הדפסתי באמצעות אתר yeshiva.org.il