Can one realistically never be angry?

QUESTION from a Noahide friend: I have been trying to follow the moral conducts as outlined in chapter 8 of Part I : “The Fundamentals of the Faith” in the book THE DIVINE CODE, by Rabbi Moshe Weiner. Most of the points regarding the conduct were already being followed by me. But I find it is becoming difficult to follow the first point: never to be angry.

I am by heart very peaceful, but I do think however that anger does serve useful purposes at times. I find it difficult to “not take revenge” or “not hold a grudge.” Are these points good for books yet unpractical in real life? Please explain the dichotomy in these points and the real world which is so different. I love to follow anything wholeheartedly, and I find it problematic to follow some of these conducts in my business. (For example, controlling my employees, dealing with cunning people, etc.) I would request you to throw some light on this fundamental question: is anger or holding a grudge always wrong?

Sorry if all these questions sounds too stretched, but I am just trying to please G-d with all my heart!

P.S.: “The Divine Code” is an amazing book indeed.

ANSWER

You’re correct that it is possible for anger to serve a useful purpose in some specific situation. G-d created everything for a purpose – including anger. I will explain that last.

The problem arises when a person allows his capacity for anger to flare up and take hold when it shouldn’t. This is any time that a person’s anger overrides and pushes away his faith in G-d. A person needs to understand that there is a true inner essence of a situation. That essence is in G-d’s hands, and this fact can be accepted intellectually. Moreover, the human mind has a natural, G’d-given power of control over the emotions. Therefore, the emotions will automatically follow the way that the person is thinking about the situation.

There are two aspects of the proper understanding, and these are like two sides of the same coin:

(1) Divine Providence

Everything happens by Divine Providence – as G-d wills it to be at that moment. Once something has happened, then it is established that it was G-d’s will. Therefore, the book of Zohar teaches that “Whoever is in a rage is as if he worships idols.” If the person truly believed that what already happened was brought about by G-d, he wouldn’t become angry. This does not change the fact that the person who made him angry was acting with freedom of choice. Therefore he is responsible for the damage or insult and/or sin that he committed. This means that he is liable by G-d’s and the society’s laws for the wrong that was done.

Nevertheless, in regard to any harm or inconvenience or insult that was inflicted, it was decreed by G-d that this would befall that person in one way or another, for the sake of an ultimately good purpose. (In the words of the Sages, “This too is for the best.”) Of course, G-d obligates others to help the victim in a way of goodness and kindness. The victim also needs to help himself as much as possible.

(2) Continuous Creation

Everything that exists is constantly being created out of nothing by G-d’s creative divine speech. This is not meant in a general way, but rather in every detail, at every instant. It is happening now, just as it was during the first six days of creation. Recall that after Adam and Hava ate from the Tree of Knowledge, G-d declared that the creation was “very good.” (Genesis 1:31).

The same applies at every instant in time. The true existence of every being and event is the divine speech by which G-d is speaking it into existence. So if a person is being harmed, and someone is harming him, both are united at every moment. They are details of the creation that G-d is bringing into existence in a way that is “very good”. In some situations this goodness is revealed, and in some situations it is very deeply concealed.

When the Messiah comes and ushers in the Messianic Era, the occupation of the world will be to know G-d. Then the goodness of everything that happened will be revealed and understood. It will be revealed how everything was part of leading the world to the Messianic Era. Our job is to improve the world in general or in any detail at every opportunity that G-d gives us. In this way, we will be partners with Him in this process.

Therefore, if a person becomes angered by something, he is denying that goodness. He is also thinking that he knows better than G-d about what should have happened. Conceptually, this is like the idea of rejecting G-d and worshiping false gods of one’s own choosing, which is idolatry.

When is anger good and proper? We learn this from Moses

It may happen that you will see someone sinning or about to sin. who is your colleague, who respects you and who – like you – is habitually involved with the observance of his commandments. This even includes a time when you observe yourself sinning, or being tempted to sin. At that time you may rationally determine that if you will decide to display a controlled amount of anger about that situation, it’s likely that you will¬† be able to accomplish the good and meritorious deed of warning off the person (even yourself) from committing the wrongdoing.

The prime example of this is when Moses become angered about the sin of the golden calf that he observed in progress when he came down from Mount Sinai. By displaying his anger to the people and breaking the precious first tablets of the Ten Commandments before their eyes, he was able to stop them from continuing in their sin. This act of Moses was greatly pleasing to G-d, because it saved the Jews from being destroyed, and it taught them the power of repentance.

When is it better to hold your peace?

On the other hand, just prior to that, Aaron witnessed the people sinning, but he knew that if he displayed anger, the people would not listen to him, and in fact they would they would turn against him. So he held his peace and trusted in G-d that Moses would soon return, as he had promised, and save the situation.

Likewise, when we encounter a negative situation that is not in our power to rectify through an action on our part, we should trust that it is G-d’s will, and that He is giving us the opportunity to learn from it and to improve ourselves. And we should also do what is in our power to improve the situation if we can, in constructive way. That should be done in accordance with G-d’s commandments and a person’s obligation to act in the morally upright ways that are taught in the Torah-based Noahide Code.

How to overcome one’s temperament of “quick to anger” or “hard to pacify”

All of the above are very sound intellectual arguments that a person should contemplate deeply and take to heart. But in the “heat of the moment,” when a person’s anger flares up, the negative emotion has already “kicked in.” At that point, his intellect has already been pushed aside. The best he can do may be to just bite his tongue and count to ten (or 100?). When he regains composure, the wrathful temperament has still not been uprooted from his personality. What’s needed is to train one’s self beforehand, not to get angry in the first place.

The way to accomplish this is well known, and can be applied to healing one’s self from other unhealthy traits. In our book Seven Gates of Righteous Knowledge, the Fifth Gate, see Chapter 2: “Healing the Soul from Unhealthy Traits.”

 

– By Dr. Michael Schulman, Director of Ask Noah International and Asknoah.org

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