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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Thursday, February 05, 2004

The Rebbe on controlling ka'as (anger) (אגרות קודש - כרך י"ח עמוד קסט מניעתה – ע"י התבוננות בהשגח"פ)

ב) אודות מדת ההתרגזות והכעס שלה.

תבקש את המורים שלה, שיסבירו לה בביאור רחב ענין השגחה פרטית, שהוא מיסודי אמונתנו, ותוכנו, אשר בורא העולם ומנהיגו משגיח בהשגחה פרטית על כל פרטי דברי ימי חיי', ז.א. אשר בכל רגע נמצאת היא תחת השגחת הבורא, המביט על כל פעולותי', ולכשתתבונן בהענין כמה פעמים עד שיוחקק בזכרונה, בודאי שיפעול עלי' להחליש ההתרגזות והכעס וכו'.

כן תקיים המצווה ע"פ השולחן ערוך, שמי שפוגמים בכבודו, אפילו מתוך כעס, צריך לבקש ממנו מחילה גמורה, וכיון שבקשת מחילה קשה הוא על האדם, ובכל זה תתגבר על זה ותבקש מחילה, הנה בכל פעם שתעמוד להתרגז בטח יעלה בזכרונה, שאחרי כן תהי' צריכה לפעול בעצמה ביטול לבקש מחילה וגם זה יעזור לה להחליש מדת ההתרגזות וכו'.

ולהוספת ברכת השי"ת בזה, הרי עלי' להשפיע על החברות שלה בעניני אהבת ישראל וקירוב הלבבות בין אחת לחברתה, שאז במדתו של הקב"ה שהיא מדה כנגד מדה אלא שכמה פעמים ככה, מוסיפין מלמעלה בזה להמשתדל בזה.

בברכה לבשו"ט בכל האמור,


Free translation:

Further on your traits of your hard-heartedness and anger, you should request of your teachers to explain to you in detail the concept of Divine Providence, which is one of the foundations of our belief, and its contents, (specifically) that the Creator of the world who is also its Supervisor over every detail of our lives, at every moment, and to meditate upon this concept many times, until you have firmly implanted this idea in your mind, and then for certain it will have an impact and weaken the source of your anger and hard-heartedness.

So, too, should you try to fulfill the mitzvah mentioned in the Code of Jewish Law which stipulates that one who denigrates his friend even while angry, is required to request forgiveness of him. And since requesting forgiveness is difficult for a person, and nonetheless if he does gird himself and request forgiveness, then each time he is tempted to vent his anger he will remind himself that afterwards he will be required to ask forgiveness, and this thought will help him to restrain his anger.

And to add the blessings of God, the source of all blessing, upon you to increase your feelings of love for your fellows and to work on this.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Mekoros for Shalom Bayis, thanks to Rabbi "M:"
"C:" This ought to keep us busy for a while... ;-)

Man's responsibility:
A man may not diminish provision of all the food, clothes and affection that his wife needs (Exodus 21:10). He must provide financial support (standard kesuba), even if this requires hard or foul-smelling work (Pesachim 113a) or going to the field to farm (Yevamos 63a). He should share the benefits of his life and not cause her pain (Kesubos 61a). He must never be angry or frightening; he must promote her feeling joyous; If he hits her it can be grounds for immediate divorce and kesubah payment (Evven HaEzzer 154:3, Ramoh). As his financial or social station rises, he must give her more money and status accordingly (Rambam, Hilchos Ishus). He should love her as much as himself and honor her more than himself (Yevamos 62b), give tangible expressions of honor such as jewels and ornaments (Sanhedrin 76b).

Relative to what he can afford, he should eat and drink less that he can afford, dress himself according to what he can afford, and honor his wife and children with more than he can afford (Chulin 84b). He lets her be in charge of household matters; he must be careful with her honor; and is to never cause her to cry, to hurt or to curse him (Bava Metzia 59a). He must fully acknowledge and appreciate her for all which he accomplishes as a consequence of her support, encouragement or assistance (Kesubos 62b). He must give his wife compassion and protection (Hakdoma, Tur Evven Ho'Ezzer). He must take care of her needs before his own (Beraishis Raba 39:15). He must nurture a relationship of love and closeness with his wife (Iggeress HaKodesh, attributed to Ramban). During the first year of marriage, he may not leave his wife overnight, so she may grow secure with his love for her (Chinuch #582). He must take time to speak with her, and obtain and respect her opinions (Letter by Rabbi Akiva Aiger).

Woman's responsibility:
The wife must cook food and provide clothing (Yevamos 63a). She is obligated to serve him, revere him like a king and honor him exceedingly much (Rambam, Hilchos Ishus), tend to matters of the home and practical daily life (Bava Metzia 59a), obey him and do his will (Nedarim 66b). Where her honor and his are in conflict, she is to defer to him (Kidushin 31a). If she hits or refuses to go to mikva, she can be subject to divorce without kesuba payment (Shulchan Oruch, Evven Ho'Ezzer). When he is angry, she should calm him; when he is hurt, she should soothe him; when he has been done bad to, she should comfort him; when he is worried, she should restore him; when he is pressured, she should minimize requests; and cancel her will for her husband (Shlaw HaKodesh). She should diminish his sadness, his worry or anything which is hard on his heart (Shaivet Mussar). She should raise her man up and she is responsible for her duties (Kesubos 61a). She must not cause him pain [Evven HaEzzer 119].

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Why Getting Angry is Compared to Worshipping Idols
"Our Sages state[9] that a person who loses his temper is considered as if he worshipped idols. What is the connection between losing one's temper and idol worship?

Losing one's temper is obviously undesirable. It reflects a lack of self-control; it is socially unacceptable; but how is it connected to idol worship? The answer is that when a person loses his temper, he, in essence, is denying that what has occurred is coming from G-d. If he believed that everything that happens comes from G-d, that G-d is good and whatever G-d does is good, there is no room for losing one's temper, just as there is no room for depression and sadness."

[9] Zohar, Vol. I, p. 27b, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos De'os 2:3; cf. Nedarim 22b. See also Tanya, Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 25. (Source: "Chassidic Approach to Joy")

I guess the idea here is if a person really felt the Ribbono shel Olam was running the show and things are not to my liking who am I to 'schray' about them and lose my temper, b/c doing so is k'elu as if I'm denying the concept of Hashem's hashgacha...

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Monday, February 02, 2004

Watching Sports on the 'heilige' tv
First off, I'm 'obligated' to offer my congrats to you, "C", on the Pats SB victory last night--I hope you didn't get too 'wasted' in celebration, ;-). Now that I've gotten the preliminaries out of the way, I want to mention a 'kabalah' I accepted on myself after last night's game.

I looked at myself in the mirror and said to myself 'what a colossal waste of time!' Not just the SB, but spending time watching/following all sports! Since the SB was such a close game, I was anxious all night, and my family, unfortunately, was the real loser--not just my not being there for them, but in addition, all/most of my interactions with them were hurried (i.e., so as not to miss a moment of the action, chas v'Shalom!), and I'm afraid I owe a few 'shekels' to the Shalom Bayis fund!

So, my kabalah, is as follows: bli neder, no more watching sports on tv. In addition, I edited my 'my yahoo' to remove from there all sports-related stuff (another colossal waste of time!). My goal is that when I walk into shul in the morning, I don't even know what they're talking about as far as who played whom, etc., ;-).

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