I had to catch myself this morning as I found myself a bit late getting off to work. One of my daughters is complaining that no one woke her up at six o’clock per her request (which I cannot recall her asking me if she did) anh here it was half an hour later. She’s standing in one spot loathing over how little time she has to get her things done. I said to her that while the situation looked bleak, it behooves her to do as much as possible in the time remaining. She just stood there wallowing in misery. I told her that as long as she stands there doing nothing, nothing will fet done and if she’s wise, she’d better put “the pedal to the metal” and haul a__. She just raised her voice and said there was no chance she could finish her preparations in the amount of time left. She was right. She wasn’t doing anything but whining in place. I wanted to yell at her but then quickly realized, in time, that she became the proverbial horse that when lead to water, can’t be forced to drink if it doesn’t want to. I didn’t know what to do.
I felt a surge of anger. What the heck is going on here? Can you smack sense into the “blind”, ignorant and stubborn? Of course not! Being a parent, it’s become apparent that one finds need for a course in psychology to meet the challenge of it. Not everyone “catches” his or herself in time. There are many terrible stories abound with tales of lost control.
I gain my insight from Torah. It happens to be my choice for principle guidance. I have no intent to impinge on anyone elses sources for moral or spiritual guidance. That said, Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz brings from Gemara that the ways of The Torah become part of a Torah scholar’s personality; the more a person learns the Torah and delves into its great wisdom, the more it becomes part of him. I reckon this holds true for anyone who permeates his life to live with holiness and good teaching from words of “Iight”, wisdom and truth. A true scholar of genuine Divine wisdom should be a person who walks the talk, who lives it, who embodies it – someone in whom the values of “The Way” are personified in their conduct, the way they interact with people, their integrity and their decency. Every part of their being should be an expression of such high values.
This is why when there is anger, the wisdom and “in”-spiration of the Torah leaves. If the person who makes a point of embodiying the teaching is not walking the talk, if they are not an expression of the depth of Torah values, then there is no place for Torah within such a person. Living the values of “The Way” day-to-day is a prerequisite to being a true “enlightened” scholar. Hence many passages in the Talmud discuss how decency is the foundation upon which G-d taught learning can be built – not just because it is the moral imperative, but because the Holiest of Teachings cannot remain in a person who does not actually live its way. It has to become part of who he or she is.
There is a famous letter written by Nachmanides, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, known as the Ramban, who lived some 700 years ago. He wrote a letter, what could be called an ethical will, giving advice for life to his son; but his words are timeless. He began the letter with a verse from Proverbs, and the first sentence in his own words reads as follows: “Accustom yourself always to speak all of your words with gentleness, to all people and at all times.” This is the Ramban’s first instruction to his son and, by extension, to people who value good moral qualities. We must speak gently to all people at all times. He continues, “and through this, you will be saved from anger which is a very evil trait and causes people to sin. This is what Sages say: that “whoever becomes angry all kinds of hell rule over him.”
The fact that the Ramban chose to start his ethical will with these instructions shows us how dangerous anger really is, but at the same time also gives us practical advice on how to control it. He is saying, externally you must act in a way which is the opposite of anger and that will have an internal impact. What we portray to the outside influences who we are on the inside. If we speak gently and kindly, this will prevent anger.
Of course all this is easier said than done. But, if any of us are desiring in any way to emulate The Creator and “Be” in Its Likeness, it is imperative to consider these words and learn ways to do so.
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