שלום בשערך - Peace in Your Gates

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

ספר ארחות צדיקים - השער השנים עשר - שער הכעס

Michael: I am pasting in here the first couple of lines of שער הכעס. I thought it might be easier to discuss with the text in front of us.

ספר ארחות צדיקים - השער השנים עשר - שער הכעס
הכעס היא מידה רעה, וכאשר הגרב מחולי הגוף - כן הכעס מחולי הנפש. ואמרו רבותינו (נדרים כב א): כל הכועס - כל מיני גיהנם שולטים בו, שנאמר (קהלת יא י): "והסר כעס מלבך והעבר רעה מבשרך", ואין רעה אלא גיהנם, שנאמר (משלי טז ד): "כל פעל ה' למענהו וגם רשע ליום רעה."

Let's go line by line. Rough translation: "Anger is a bad middah. And just as 'the itch' damages the body, so does anger damage the soul. And our sages say (נדרים כב א): "All who get angry--all types of Gihenom rule over him.' As it states (קהלת יא י): 'And remove anger from your heart, and remove evil from your flesh.' And there is no evil (as bad as) Gihenom, as it states (משלי טז ד): 'All the works of Hashem (he made) for His sake, even the wicked for the day of retribution.'"

Let us now take a look at the Gemara in Nedarim (22a) referenced above
"R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Jonathan: He who loses his temper is exposed to all the torments of Gehenna,13 for it is written, Therefore remove anger from thy heart,’ thus wilt thou put away evil from thy flesh.14 Now ‘evil’ can only mean Gehenna, as it is written, The Lord hath made all things for himself yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.15 Moreover, he is made to suffer from abdominal troubles, as it is written, But the Lord shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind.16 Now what causes failing eyes and a sorrowful mind? Abdominal troubles."
(13) V. p. 19, n. 6.
(14) Ecc. XI, 10.
(15) Prov. XVI, 4. This is understood to mean Gehenna.
(16) Deut. XXVIII, 65.

According to R' Shmuel bar Nahmani, quoted in the above Gemara, the angry person suffers both spiritually (i.e., "inheriting Gihenom") and physically. The physical suffering of the acutely angry person is well documented (i.e., higher incidence of heart attack, high blood pressure, ulcers, etc.). The spirtual suffering he will endure are the fires of Gihenom in the next world as a result of the evil he does while in a state of anger (as the OT will explain later on), and perhaps also for just getting angry in the first place, which (as we shall also see) is a denial of Hashem's Divine Providence.

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Sunday, January 23, 2005

Talking about Divine Providence

SM שלום from Jerusalem!

Firstly I want to thank you for the invitation to become a co-poster on this blog. Since this is my first time here I guess this makes this one historic...! [sound of crickets chirping]

Secondly I think it is a great idea for us to approach together this subject of כעס, throw some ideas back and forth, see what we've learned from the sources. Then maybe to share some anecdotes of particular situations that we may be facing, take them apart, and see if we can find the best way to approach them in real life. Sound good?

So I followed through with your advice of getting a copy of ארחות צדיקים (I assume this translates as "Ways of the Righteous" -- correct me if I am wrong), which you suggested we use as our basic text. I can see already that it has chapters on many different kinds of middot, including that of anger. Shall we start there, or at the beginning?

I must admit to you that I have not done much study in mussar -- in yeshivah because of a scheduling conflict, and outside of yeshivah because of some misapprehensions I had about the subject. Call it prejudice (i.e. making a judgement without the evidence), or just having seen bad examples, but I used to think that mussar was basically a rabbi shaking his finger and saying "nu nu nu"! Tales abound, unfortunately... But gratefully, thanks to HaShem's patient work on me, I have begun to change my outlook on the subject, and am looking forward to discovering it using the classic texts.

I also followed through on your advice of reading previous postings to this blog which deal with the subject of anger and what a corrupting force it is:
Why Getting Angry is Compared to Worshipping Idols from the holy Zohar and Whoever is in a rage resembles an idolater from the Tanya: Igeret HaKodesh. This last piece of Ḥassidic writing goes deeply into the moment that a person becomes angry and describes his choice to do so vis-à-vis of hashgaḥah pratit. Well, I must admit that that one needs some further study, but I wanted to share with you my own small occurence of Divine Providence this very evening!

Believe it or not I found a connexion between anger and parnassah (livelihood), I think.

Between my home and that of my in-laws we have a few books that prescribe various סגולות, segulot, for particular situations. One of these books, תפילה למשה (based on the work of Rav Mordekhai Shar`abi ע''ה) has the following segulot for parnassah:

.א. סגולה לפרנסה לקיים בכל מוצאי שבת סעודת מלוה מלכה

ב. סגולה נוספת לומר בכל יום י''ג עיקרים, וגם לקרוא את אגרת הרמב''ן.

(vol. 2, p.202). The natural question is, what does eating the fourth meal of Shabbat (on Motsaie Shabbat), and reading the Thirteen Principles of the Rambam, and the Letter of the Ramban, every day, have to do with livelihood? I decided to check the אגרת הרמב''ן this evening and was pleasantly surprised to find the opening paragraph:

Hear, my son, the instruction (mussar) of your father and don't forsake the teaching (Torah) of your mother [Mishlei 1:8]. Get into the habit of always speaking calmly to everyone. This will prevent you from anger, a serious character flaw which causes people to sin. As our Rabbanim said [Nedarim 22a]: Whoever flares up in anger is subject to the discipline of Gehinnom as it is says in [Koheleth 12:10], "Cast out anger from your heart, and remove evil from your flesh." "Evil" here means Gehinnom, as we read [Mishlei 16:4]: "...and the wicked are destined for the day of evil." Once you have distanced yourself from anger, the quality of humility will enter your heart. This radiant quality is the finest of all admirable traits, [Mishlei 22:4], "Following humility comes the fear of HaShem."


Hmmm, anger is as the opposite of humility. And perhaps we can deduce that humility is helpful to parnassah, whereas anger is destructive? This is certainly worth examining!

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