Thursday, January 27, 2011

anger management II

The Rambam in Hilchos deos emphasizes the importance of moderation in all but two character traits. And those two, one needs to distance oneself from as much as possible. One of the two is anger, which is ALWAYS harmful, and, according to Kabala damages one's spiritual bris mila. According to Jewish mysticism, the attribute of Yesod or Foundation is associated with one's behavior relative to modesty, and when one gets angry, this spiritual connection or covenant (bris) is damaged. A little over a year ago, I wrote about anger management. These following 2 stories, courtesy of Rabbi Baruch Lederman, illustrate the Torah way to deal with hostility:

A woman was walking with her friend. They witnessed a mother berating her young daughter in a brutal manner. The little girl was cringing and you could see the terror on her face.
The woman approached the mother. She said with sincere concern and respect, "I can see that you care about your child, and it's obvious that she has done things to get you
angry. I also have children and sometimes lose my temper. I have some ideas that have helped me. You know your child better than I do, but perhaps my experiences can be
helpful for you also."

Amazingly, the mother, who seemed just moments ago to be a terrible evil person, calmed down right before their eyes. "I thank you for your offer. I feel at a total loss. I hate losing
my temper. But I do it over and over again. I would love it if you could give me some tips." Indeed, the frustrated mother, with a little help from her friends, went on to make great
strides, becoming a more fair and effective parent.

The friend, who had observed this whole scene, later asked privately, "All I wanted to do was tell off that horrible mother. I was fuming. No child should ever be treated like that. But
if I did tell her off, it probably would have accomplished nothing - maybe even made things worse. You on the other hand treated her with kindness and compassion, and brought
about such an incredible turn-around. How did you know to do what you did?"

"I never would have had a clue what to do or to think," replied the woman, "But some time ago, I heard a story about the Chofetz Chaim ztz"l that changed my entire perspective.
This amazing story has guided and inspired me ever since:"

Once, a burly, gruff looking, man who had served in the Russian army, entered a Jewish Inn and ordered a meal. When Jewish boys were drafted, it was usually the end of
yiddishkeit for them. The army brainwashed them to worship Mother Russia rather than G-d. He plopped himself down and ate in a most disgusting manner - stuffing an entire
chicken down his mouth. It was revolting that this man, a Jew, could conduct himself in so repulsive a manner, not to mention the fact that he did not recite a bracha (blessing) or
wear a yarmulke (ritual skullcap) while he ate.

The innkeeper and the others present were sickened and embarrassed by this display; though none dared say anything. The Chofetz Chaim (Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan)
happened to be a guest at that Inn. He saw the young man and slowly approached him. Everyone wondered, what would the Chofetz Chaim possibly say to this man. What could
he say? Surely this oaf would not listen to any rebuke, even from such a holy man.

The Chofetz Chaim asked the man, "Is it true that you served in the Russian army?" "Yes," snorted the man, bracing his defenses for the oncoming tongue-lashing he was fully

"Tell me," began the Chofetz Chaim, "How did you manage to keep your Jewish identity in those circumstances? So many Jewish boys entered the army, only to eventually give
up their Judaism. They are forced to serve for 25 years without any kosher food, Jewish holidays, or any other vestige of Judaism. Yet, when you could have easily gone to any
Inn, you chose a Jewish one. You still identify as a Jew. I don't know if I could have done what you did. You are an inspiration. Where did you find the strength?"

The soldier, caught off guard and clearly moved, looked straight at the Chofetz Chaim, "It was so hard, they did everything to pound it out of us - to make us denounce and forget
that we were Jews."

"It is a miracle that you made it through. Now you can begin to learn the Torah and mitzvos that you were deprived of all these years."

"But Rebbi, how can I possibly do that," the soldier, now sobbing bitterly, responded. He continued through his tears, "I want to return to my heritage, but I am so far removed.
Surely it isn't possible for someone like me to learn."

"No," said the Chofetz Chaim, "It is still possible. It is always possible. I can show you how." As the soldier spoke to the Chofetz Chaim, the stones on his heart began to melt. Had
the Chofetz Chaim not understood and appreciated this man's perspective, this amazing episode never would have occurred. What did happen was: from that day on, the former
soldier began a path to repentance and as the years went by, developed into an observant, well learned Jew.

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