Today’s learning is dedicated to the refuah sheleima of Simcha Nosson ben Zissel.
Attribute # 5 – He Does Not Maintain His Anger Forever – לא החזיק לעד אפו
This is another Attribute of mercy. Although a person continues to sin, HaKodesh Baruch Hu does not maintain His anger. Even when He does maintain it, He does not do so forever. He lets His anger subside, even when man does not repent…
He allows His anger to soften. Although the sin remains, He does not punish, but waits and has mercy – perhaps they will repent. Thus, “He does not contend forever, or keep His anger for all time.” (Tehillim 103:9); rather, HaKodesh Baruch Hu acts either softly or sternly, whichever most benefits Bnei Yisrael.
This is the proper way a person should act towards his fellow. Even when he has the right to rebuke with punishment his friend or his children, and they submit, he should not in consequence increase his rebuke. Although he was angry, he should not maintain his anger – rather, he should dissipate it. He should not maintain his anger forever, even if the anger is permitted…
Rather it is a mitzvah to draw this person close with love, perhaps this will help [him do teshuva] – which is exactly the Attribute of “He does not maintain His anger forever.” — Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Tomer Devorah
While strict justice would demand immediate punishment, Hashem allows His anger to subside before seeking retribution. Hashem provides the sinner an opportunity to repent, while allowing His anger to dissipate.
Rabbi Riachi writes, “When a person has been offended and has every right to unleash his anger, but controls himself and acts mercifully, he awakens Hashem’s merciful Attribute of ‘He does not maintain His anger forever,’ to deal kindly with Bnei Yisrael, even if we are deserving of His anger.”
Similarly, Rebbe Nachman teaches, “The Holy One loves a person who keeps from getting angry, and also one who does not insist on retribution.”
Throughout his teachings, Rebbe Nachman urges us to stay far away from anger. He warns, “When a person gets angry, he incites harsh judgements against himself.”
Anger is damaging and impairs our quality of life. As Rebbe Nachman teaches, “The life of a hot-blooded person is no life at all.” Rebbe Nachman also writes, “Anger shortens one’s life.”
However, as Rabbi Cordovero writes, there will be times when our anger is justified. From this Attribute, we learn how to properly channel this emotion.
Anger clouds our mind; we can no longer think clearly. As Rebbe Nachman teaches, “Anyone who gets angry loses his wisdom and foresight. Even if he is destined for greatness, he loses that as well.”
When we act in the heat of the moment, we are destined to make mistakes. As Rebbe Nachman writes, “A person who loses his temper humiliates himself.” Similarly, he teaches, “A person’s anger brings him disgrace.”
But when we learn how to temper our anger, we regain control. As Rebbe Nachman said, “When a person guards himself from anger, his enemies will have no control over him.”
This Attribute teaches us not to act while in a state of fury. When we are met with harsh words, treated poorly, or suffer some other offense, we must take a step back and allow ourselves time to calm down. With a settled mind, we can respond rather than react.
In the previous week’s Torah portion, we learn that when the Jewish soldiers returned from battle, they brought the women of Midian back with them. The verse tells us that Moshe was angry with them, as these were the same women who lured them to sin (which led to the plague, killing 24,000). Moshe proceeded to reprimand the soldiers.
Rabbi Efrem Goldberger quotes Rav Zalman Sorotzkin who finds it noteworthy that Moshe’s name was mentioned twice; the verse says that Moshe was angry, and then it says that Moshe spoke to the soldiers. “Rav Sorotzkin discerns from this syntax that Moshe paused before speaking. He was overcome by understandable rage over the officers’ mistake – but rather than immediately acting upon his anger, and furiously berating them, he took a moment to collect himself. The Torah therefore first tells us that Moshe felt angry, and then makes a separate statement to tell us that Moshe spoke – because he did not speak right away. He first paused.”
“This is why, Rav Sorotzkin writes, the Torah here uses the word “va’yomar,” which connotes a soft, gentle tone, as opposed to “va’yidaber,” which refers to a firm, harsh manner of speech. Moshe paused for a moment before reacting, and this enabled him to speak to the officers in a calm, gentle manner.”
Rabbi Efrem writes, “This is such a valuable lesson, and important example for us to follow. We need to accustom ourselves to pausing, to remaining silent, to taking a moment – or several moments – to carefully think before responding.”
Rav Eliezer Papo, in Pele Yoetz, writes, “Silence is to anger, what water is to fire.” While a small fire can quickly run rampant leading to great devastation, pouring water on it as soon as the fire begins can prevent the destruction. “Likewise, anger can destroy relationships; a period of silence before responding can prevent this from happening.”
The Talmud states, “A word is worth one sela (coin), silence is worth two selaim.” Rabbi Efrem therefore concludes, “Sometimes silence is even more powerful than words. Remaining silent rather than immediately reacting is a sign of true strength and self-discipline. And many times, this is the key to retaining self-control and choosing the wisest and most effective response to an adverse situation.”
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