Dec 22, 2009

Anger Elimination, not Management

On the one hand, the Gemara equates anger to worshipping idols. On the other hand, the "world out there" says you have to express your anger, in "healthy" ways of course.

So what's a Jew to do?

I find that this is yet another example of how secular values infiltrate our world and influence us to the point that many people don't even know what's what anymore.

I've read and heard frum people talk about expressing anger, or actually teaching your children to express their anger in healthy ways like punching a pillow. I once read a list of ten or so suggestions as to how to express anger positively (run around the block, scream into your pillow etc.).

What people don't understand is that expressing anger makes you angrier! When the Torah expects us not to be angry, it's not that the Torah wants us to repress our angry feelings, but not to have them altogether!

The issue is not how to express the anger, but how to get rid of it! The concept of "managing" your anger does not exist in Torah sources, not in halacha, not in mussar. For good reason too. Since anger is equated with idol worship, we obviously cannot be "managing" our worship of idols! Anger is not supposed to be expressed or suppressed. It's supposed to be eliminated. Sad that frum publications, speakers, and therapists have adopted the secular, anti-Torah approach to anger.

The term “manage” does not convey the need to stay exceedingly far away from anger because it's an evil midda, as Rambam says to do. When you manage something, you're not getting rid of it.

Rather than manage our anger, we need articles, speakers and therapists to help us prevent angry feelings from arising by telling us about hashgacha pratis, and that whatever or whoever "made us" angry, is a shaliach of Hashem, and so any anger is actually anger towards Hashem ch'v. This thought puts things in perspective and calms us down. We need to hear inspirational stories and thoughts about people who responded calmly and did not feel anger in volatile situation.

The Ramban in his famous letter advises us, “Accustom yourself to speak gently to all people at all times and this will save you from anger, a most serious character flaw which causes one to sin.”


  1. I am not a holocaust survivor or even a child or grandchild of one but I have always been angry at the Nazis yemach shmo. I always wished that I could take revenge on them. I can't undo the holocaust but I recently did a get a small drop of revenge.
    My youngest son is a surviving twin who spent his early childhood trying to survive his very premature birth. We did not know what to think, when at the age of 20 he went to spend this yeshiva year as a shaliach in Berlin, Germany, however,he has done all sorts of Jewish stuff at places where Hitler y'mach shmo once preached anti-semitism. He has bentched lulav with people, put tefillin on people, and arranged a parade with Menorrahs all in places where, during the holocaust, Jews could not walk safely.
    While I am still angry at the Nazis and other terrorists who target our people, (may their names and memory be erased) revenge is so sweet! (Another son and his wife are raising their family in the West Bank; yay for our side.)
    I would say though, that people find themselves in situations where they are not just insulted but actually damaged by someone else. While they may not get anywhere by simply getting angry, they may need to take some kind of action, such as taking the person to a din Torah to rectify the situation. Sometimes we have to demonstrate our values to the government who is treating us unfairly but anger by itself accomplishes nothing. We should all be like the Bielski brothers who were partisans during WWII. They assembled Jews and fought back and saved over 1000 people. They put anger into action.

  2. What nachas you have! Thanks for writing this inspiring comment.

  3. Beautiful, rosie! You should continue to have nachas.

    I worked for a really long time, strenuously, on transforming anger. It was, and sometimes still is, very difficult for me.

    I davened a lot, was mekushar to the Rebbe and tried to fulfill all his directives. I also read the Ramban's Iggeres daily for a long time--it really helped. I got this recommendation from Rebbitzin Chaya Sara Kramer in the book "Holy Woman."

    I also B"H was successfully helped with homeopathy. My husband and friends say I'm like a different person now, and I feel it too. :)