Inspiration

Ask Aviva: Against Anger

May 13, 2014

Dear Aviva,

I read your response to Huffy Hubby, the newly-married husband whose wife was causing him to get angry.

I am sorry but I must disagree with your advice:

a. Chazal tell us that ‘Kol Hacoese Killoo oived Avodo zoro’ – ‘Anyone that loses his temper is like he served an idol.’ There is no such thing a ‘good temper.’ Chazal allow us in specific instances to shout at another person (i.e. – where one speaks during kaddish or when the chazan is repeating the Amida). Otherwise, it is not permitted. There are rules and guidelines written in the code of Jewish law and the sifrei mussar when one is allowed to show a face of disapproval. There is no such thing as ‘good anger’.

b. The story that you mention of the ‘Odom Godol’ refers to Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ZT”l. When he said that he has nothing to ask mechila for there was no hidden meaning. It means his Rebbetzin never upset him and he never upset her. Among Reb Shlomo Zalman’s traits were that he never lied.

-Against Anger

AngryWorshipperlg2

Dear Against Anger,

Thanks for your feedback, I appreciate that you feel strongly enough about this issue to write in and I have a feeling that you are not alone in your stance.

I am familiar with the Chazal that you bring up and I would like to explain how it fits into the framework of anger as a feeling vs. anger as an action.

As I wrote in Huffy Hubby, people across the world will feel primary anger when something is unjust, unfair or wrong, just as we feel sad when there is a loss and scared when there is a threat. That is the feeling of primary anger. That is not the same thing as losing one’s temper.

With this understanding of where anger comes from, it makes a lot of sense why losing our temper is akin to idol worship.

I am allowed to feel that something is unfair, and feel angry. To be a Torah Jew means to say at this point, “Yes, it looks unfair right now, and yes, of course I feel angry because of it. But I know that Hashem runs the world and He deems this fair, as the True Judge. So I must not act on this feeling of anger.” If I don’t have that small, but pivotal step, I may act on the feeling of anger, the feeling that something is unfair, and I may lose my temper. When I lose my temper, I’m saying, “This feels unfair, so it must be unfair. I will make it fair.” And then you are nullifying G-d’s judgment of this world, turning your worship away from Him, and instead, worshipping yourself!

When Hashem gets angry at Aharon and Miriam, what does he do after he “feels” anger? He leaves. I take this to mean, when you feel anger, get yourself away from the source of it to help you not lose your temper. (Obviously Hashem wouldn’t “lose His temper,” but He is teaching us what to do when we feel wronged.)

I hope I am clear in making the distinction between anger as a feeling (primary anger) and anger as a behavior (reactionary or secondary anger).

Note that when we do make the mistake of showing our anger, or when we act on it, it is wrong and warrants teshuva. Teshuva bein adam l’makom and teshuva bein adam l’chaveiro, which is why I advised Huffy Hubby to make the repair with his wife when he loses it.

I do not invite him to get angry, but while he is working on it, he may as well deepen his relationship when he gains forgiveness from his wife.

The other point you bring up baffles me. I did not say that R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach was lying. If he said that he didn’t need to ask his wife mechillah, it means either what most people think:

a) he never ever upset her or b) he upset her (unintentionally), and already asked mechillah for it.

I think it is very dangerous not to be open to the second possibility. It is dangerous because it can make us lowly, non-gedolim feel hopelessly flawed when we err (even though we clearly know that “a tzaddik falls seven times,” and our Torah is filled with Avos and other great people making mistakes. There are only a handful of Torah personalities who never committed aveiros, and Chazal point them out to us.

Why then, should we think that the gedolim of our times are impervious to doing something wrong? They are not malachim, they are human like you, like me, and like Moshe Rabbeinu. And if they are more like Moshe than they are like me, hopefully they will simply do Teshuva and ask mechilla after they make a mistake.

While we want to be careful not to worship ourselves by losing our temper, we must equally be careful not to worship our strong, precious gedolim.

-Aviva

 

Aviva Rizel, MA, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Aviva maintains a busy private practice in Cedarhurst, NY where she sees couples, families and individuals. She previously served as the Clinical Director of The Five Towns Marriage Initiative. She is trained in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT), the most effective, research-based model for strengthening couples’ connections. Aviva is also active in educating therapists and laypeople about EFT. Mrs. Rizel and her husband, Meir Rizel, MS, a Mental Health Counselor, enjoy co-lecturing across the tri-state area together almost as much as they enjoy raising their three children together in Far Rockaway, NY. To reach Aviva, email AvivaRizel.mft@gmail.com or call 347-292-8482 To find out more about Emotionally Focused Therapy, go to iceeft.com