Parashas Matos

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Becoming More Patient:  Becoming G-dly

Taste of Talmud

Rabba said, “Anyone who gets angry the divine presence leaves him.” Rabbi Yirmiah added, “And he forgets his learning.”  Rabbi Nachman commented, “And we know that his sins are greater than his merits” (Nedarim 22b).  The Rif asks: If anger is so bad, why does the Talmud (Taanis 4a) seem to give an excuse for a scholar who gets angry?  This reference is made to a statement in the Talmud which says that if you see a young scholar getting “heated up” it is because of the law that he is studying.  The Rif answers that this is not an excuse for anger, but rather an explanation of how a wise man takes things seriously within the right context.  While studying there is heated debate in the unrelenting quest for the complete, unadulterated truth. The litmus test which shows whether the fiery argument in learning is being used to reveal the truth is if they love each other at the end. The Talmud (Brachos 64a) says that students of scholars bring peace to this world.  Through their lively debates they come to love each other because it is only through their joint efforts in learning that they were able to come to a proper understanding of the law.  A personal battle where the two sides flare up into a personal feud has no place in the pursuit for truth and is only liable to bring about the worst of results as the Talmud in Nedarim states.

Taste of Parasha

Moshe was angry with the commanders of the army…who returned from battle with Midyan… and Moshe said to them, “you have let all the women live!  They were the cause of sin…which caused a plague to come upon the nation of G-d” (Num. 31:14-16).Why does the Torah repeat Moshe’s name a second time?  From here Rav Zalman Sorotzkin learns an important lesson in how to give rebuke.  The Torah is teaching us that Moshe Rabbeinu did not speak to the officers immediately upon seeing that they did something improper.  He waited until the feeling of anger left him and then spoke to them in a gentle manner.  In keeping with this idea, Rabbi Simcha Zisel of Kelm was careful not to react to a feeling of anger until he would go and put on a different coat.  Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lizensk had a jar on a high shelf in which he would so to speak keep anger from which he would dole it out in minute doses when necessary! Rav Chaim Shmulevitz Zt”l points out that unless we make safeguards for ourselves we can easily fall prey to the terrible consequences of anger.  It is not sufficient to learn about the negative results of anger. One must know himself and take the necessary precautions against losing his temper.

Taste of Halacha

The Rambam has a section in Halacha entitled, “Hilchos Deios” which literally translates as, “The Laws of Knowledge”. In this section he discusses various character traits and modes of behavior which are commonly referred to as Middos (the measures of man).  These include such emotions as haughtiness, humility, and anger.    The Rambam, in Hilchos Deios 1:1-5, explains that there are those who are born with a tendency to anger easily and there are those born with a settled mind.  He also notes that there are certain Middos which we learn from others.  Furthermore he writes that there are two levels of service of G-d in this regard.  Whereas the “straight path” is to be in the middle of any given character trait, pious people make an effort to be extra careful in doling out their reactions judiciously.  They accustom themselves to maintain their emotional equilibrium and avoid impulsive reactions.  Rav Shlomo Wolbe asks: Why does the Rambam deal with emotional reactions in a Halachic work?  He also asks, “Why is this section entitled, “The Laws of Knowledge”, when they seem to be anything but that?  Rav Wolbe answers: The Rambam is teaching us that we do have the power within us to educate ourselves and discipline our emotions and character traits to follow in Hashem’s path. This is learned from the Torah commandment, “V’halachto B’drachav,” and you should follow in His ways (Deut. 28:9).

About tasteofyeshiva

RABBI YAIR FRIEDMAN teaches at The Torah School of Greater Washington, and Yeshiva L' Baalei Batim. He is the owner and director of Camp Gevaldig LLC.
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