שלום בשערך - Peace in Your Gates

Friday, February 20, 2004

Success! I recently received a compliment from my wife about the extraordinary way I was dealing with a particularly stressful and delicate situation. Specifically, she complimented me on how patient and understanding I remained to someone who was seemingly going out of their way to cause me pain.

The credit goes to the Ba'al haTanya, who explains the concept of hashgacah pratis (see quote from his Igeret HaKodesh, below), and to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zy"a, for recommending the study of hashgacha pratis (Divine providence) for dealing with ka'as (anger), quoted in the Feb 5, 2004 post. Thanks also to Mr. R.L. Kremnizer, yblch"t, for recommending the study of the Rebbe's, zy"a, Igeros Hakodesh for dealing with ka'as, and to the author of the Chassidic Approach to Joy for the reference to Igeret HaKodesh Epistle 25.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I'm here to tell you IT WORKS! And as they say, the Abershter she helfen veiter!

Tanya: Igeret HaKodesh - Epistle 25:
"The Alter Rebbe explains ... in the present letter, beginning with the teaching of the Sages that "Whoever is in a rage resembles an idolater."

A Jew, he explains, must know that everything comes from G-d.

When someone strikes him or angers him with words, he should remind himself that at that very moment, a glimmer of the Divine Presence - which provides life to all creatures and to this individual as well - has vested itself within that person.

The Alter Rebbe goes on to prove this from King David's response when Shimi ben Geira cursed him. King David said: "For G-d told him, `Curse!'" Although we do not find it explicitly stated that G-d told Shimi to curse David, still, since G-d's spirit animated Shimi at the moment that he cursed David, thus providing him with the strength to do so, David considered this as if "G-d told him to curse."

And this [will be understood] by first considering the teaching of our Sages, of blessed memory: (7) "Whoever is in a rage resembles an idolater." The reason [for this] is clear to those who (8) "know understanding," because at the time of his anger, faith [in G-d and in His individual Divine Providence] has left him. For were he to believe that what happened to him was G-d's doing, he would not be angry at all.

True, it is a person possessed of free choice that is cursing him, or striking him, or causing damage to his property, and [therefore] guilty according to the laws of man and the laws of heaven for his evil choice. [The perpetrator for his part cannot plead innocence on the grounds that he is merely an instrument in the hands of Divine Providence]. Nevertheless, as regards the person harmed, this [incident] was already decreed in heaven, and (9) "G-d has many agents" [through whom He can act. Hence, even if the offending party had chosen otherwise, the incident would have befallen the victim in any case.

This discussion recalls the teaching of the Mechilta cited by Rashi on the verse, (10) - "and G-d caused it to happen to him." For to such a case the Mechilta applies the verse, (11) "From evildoers there emerges evil." This means that though it was decreed from above that someone should sustain an injury, G-d brings it about that a particular person should inflict it. That context, however, speaks of an unwitting injury.

In the case of a potentially willful offender, if instead of choosing freely to act in an evil manner he chose to do otherwise, the event would still have occurred, for "G-d has many agents," as quoted above. At any rate, it is thus clear that the victim has no cause to be angry with the offender, for the true cause of the offense was not him, but a heavenly decree.

The Alter Rebbe now takes this one step further: Not only does the heavenly decree give the offender an undefined potential to do harm, but moreover, the particular thought to do it and the power to do it, all come about from G-d. (At the same time, since man has freedom of choice, he can of course choose to reject such a thought and refrain from doing such a deed.)

Anger thus remains unjustifiable.

For the offended party is not angry that the other party made an evil choice; what angers him is the damage done to him. His anger thus results from his lack of belief that the true cause for his mishap is not a particular individual's evil choice, but a heavenly decree].

And not only this, [that a heavenly decree gave permission in principle and made it possible that he suffer injury], but even at that very moment at which [the offender] strikes or curses him, there is vested in him [in the offender] a force from G-d and the breath of His mouth, which animates and sustains him; as it is written: (12) "For G-d told him, `Curse!'"

Now where did He say so to Shimi? [Where do we find it written that G-d told him to curse David?] But this thought that occurred in Shimi's heart and mind [to curse David], descended from G-d, [Who was thus responsible for such a thought entering Shimi's mind]; and (13) "the breath of His mouth, [which animates] all the hosts [of heaven]," animated the spirit of Shimi at the time he spoke those words to David.

For if the breath of G-d's mouth had departed from the spirit of Shimi for a single moment, he could not have spoken at all."

(7) Zohar I, 27b; III, 179a; Rambam, Hilchot De'ot 2:3 in the name of the "earliest sages" (Chachamim Rishonim); et al.
(8) For an exposition of why the Alter Rebbe specifically uses the phrase "those who `know understanding,'" see Likkutei
Levi Yitzchak on this passage.
(9) Zohar III, 36b; cf. Taanit 18b.
(10) Shmot 21:13.
(11) I Shmuel 24:14.
(12) II Shmuel 16:10.
(13) Tehillim 33:6.



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