The Danger of Anger

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Make no friendship with a person who is given to anger; and with a wrathful individual you shall not go. Proverbs 22:24; Like a city whose walls are broken down is a human being who lacks self-control. (Proverbs 25:28); Mockers stir up a city, but wise people turn away anger. (Proverbs 29:8); A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise person keeps himself under control. (Proverbs 29:11); An angry person stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins. (Proverbs 29:22)

The following questions will be addressed in this article:
1. What causes anger and why is it so destructive?
2. Is it OK to be angry sometimes?
3. How to grow in Avodat HaShem and keep your gain by managing anger?
4. What makes an angry person so frightening to other people?
5. šWhat are the personality types in regards to anger?
6. Is it possible to overcome a tendency toward anger?
7. šHow does one replaces anger with the attributes of Kindness, humility,
     patience and love?

Anger is a tool in the hand of the Yetzer Ha'ra (Satan). What’s the goal of the Yetzer Hara (Evil inclination)? The goal of the Yetzer Hara (Evil) is to destroy a person’s soul, ruin his career, demolish his spiritual life, prevent wealth to reach him - His main tool to achieve that goal is anger.  King Solomon, the wisest of all men, cautions us about the mind, body and emotion connection and he tells us: "Remove anger from your heart (thus) remove pain from your body" (Ecclesiastes), underscoring the fact that the object of anger is not the only victim who suffers. The bearer of anger is ultimately the greatest loser on every score <> spiritually, emotionally and physically.

The Mishnah in Ethics of the Fathers (5:14) enjoins us to "be slow to anger and easy to pacify." The inference of the Mishnah is twofold. Firstly, the Mishnah does not say "never get angry," rather its exhortation is to be slow to anger. It holds out for us a realistic and doable goal: to first work on getting our anger under control, hence "be slow to anger." But keep in mind that the ultimate goal is fleeing from anger altogether. Why? Because it is the worse of all human negative attributes, it is also very deadly and its lethal forces are extremely destructive. It is one of the main tool used by the Yetzer Hara (Satan/Evil).

According to the “Team of Torah-Box” (A team of Rabbis responsible for expreading Judaism in the French speaking world), The Yetzer Hara is not really interested in our sins. What he prefers actually is the sadness that we experience after sinning, which could cause us to fall into a vicious cycle to drive us down to the lowest bottom. And then use anger, guilt, lack of concentration in prayer, etc. to finish the job. The best advice from the sages to short-circuit the wave of negative thoughts and emotions, is to immediately seek for a nice mitzvah (commandment) to do, afterwards rejoicing in its accomplishment. Rabbi Benyamin Benhamou from Torah-Box.

Rav Nachman of Breslev Zt”L teaches that anger is an overbearing obstacle to psycho-spiritual growth and understanding. In Likutey Eitzos, it is written:  Anger and unkindness arise when people’s understanding is limited. The deeper their understanding the more their anger disappears, and kindness, love and peace spread. This is why the study of Torah, which deepens the understanding, brings love and peace into the world and banishes anger.

Anger finds it’s roots in a variety of flaws, beliefs and feelings about G-d, the World, other people, and yourself. Generally in the western world there is a pagan religion teaching that some kind of anger is good, they call it righteous anger, and it is justified under that terminology. That idea has been misleading people for almost two millennia. Although, there might be limited incidents in which anger could be justified; however, it does not make anger less destructive, regardless on how we sugar-coat it. In the teaching of the Torah, we are taught to run away from all forms of angers, righteous anger or not; they are all detrimental to our well-being and the well-being of the whole community.

Anger is a very serious matter which affects those very things that are crucial aspects of life; particularly, to interpersonal relationships, personal self-perfection and marriage.

In the Torah we find the following: "Guard and keep the commandments of the Lord your G-d and his testimonies and his statutes that He commanded you. And you will do what is correct and good in the eyes of G-d in order that it be well for you... (Deuteronomy 6:17-18)." G-d is telling us that His Torah is designed to be beneficial to us in all circumstances of life, and of course that include also anger. Keeping his Torah and all of its laws is for our own benefit. But we may never take liberties to do what we please with it or to interpret it the way we want. What we do must be "correct and good in the eyes of G-d alone, not in the eye of any human including ourselves."

We must work on our own  character traits, in order to enjoy a healthy and harmonious relationships with one’s spouse, family, friends, and professional associates. This is a universal human goal. Anger, however, is a dangerous Midah (character trait/attribute) that if not brought under control will certainly undermine the basic aspiration enumerated above. Anger can destroy years of investment in a relationship in a matter of minutes. So why is it that many people are quite content to live with the tendency to become angry?

The answer is that most people go through life without ever thinking how destructive anger really is, and the saddest part is that so many are willingly misguided and even stimulated by their so called “righteous anger”, that pagan belief coming from the Greco-Roman religion that the western world has inherited. Although you might be right, and feel that your ager is well based, you must seek to deal with life challenges without that destructive element called anger.

On the other hand, it is a wonderful thing to build on the attributes of patience, humility, kindness and love. Those who have built on the constructive and spiritually rich attributes of humility, loving-kindness, love and patience. Those who have tasted the benefits of anger management through the Torah, they have been warning us and teaching us about this dangerous trait of character and how destructive its effects really are.

First of all it is extremely important to grasp the concept of Binah or understanding in English, although not a perfect translation for the word Binah, then learn to master the practical techniques to bring anger under control and maintain the groundbreaking achievements obtained to continue reaping the sweet benefits.

Let's analyze together why anger is so destructive and then we'll go through the insights provided to us by our sages in the Torah. BeEzrat HaShem (With G-d’s help) may these tools be of good help to all those struggling to gain control of such a destructive character trait in their life.

Because it Tears people’s soul to pieces, it robs people from their heavenly sent blessings, it blinds them to seeing spiritual and physical truth, it causes some to lose their freedom, others have died before their time because of it, certain people are prevented from obtaining success also because of anger, and some are even in a cycle of never ending sickness all due to anger.

Cain one of the sons of Adam Ha'Rishon committed murder because of anger, Losing a whole world in an hour. Moshe Rabbenu lost his chance to lead Israel into the promised land over a moment of anger: “.. the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust in Me enough to honour Me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.’” Maimonides explained that the reason why Moses was punished here is because he had lost his temper with the people when he said, “Listen, you rebels.” And that moment of anger caused him to disobey or to act contrary to the instruction for that incident, in that single moment of anger he lost the ability to get into the land.

Everything is from G-d and everything is meant for our good. So as mentioned in the preceding paragraph: “Because you did not trust in Me enough to honour Me as holy ..” We are to see the hand of G-d in everything and trust Him, everything comes from G-d and from no one else. 

2.   Is it alright to be angry sometimes?
As mentioned above, there are no forms of anger that could ever be beneficial to anyone. When a person gives way to anger, he stirs up the great accuser (Satan), Rome/Esav/Edom/. The Torah in proverbs 22:24 tells us not to make such a person our friend, so even friendship with a person that is given to anger is forbidden. Esav is an aspect of Satan, the Great Accuser in the upper world and one of his greatest tools is the teaching of righteous anger as many believe. This is the source of a flock of accusers and enemies who come down and take charge of the angry person to destroy him from inside out. A person’s anger puts his wisdom to flight, and the image of G-d disappears from his face. He or she no longer has the face of a human. This is why he is in the power of his enemies. Because he has the appearance of a beast they are not afraid of him. Rav Nachman.

1.  Yet, it is almost impossible to live a whole lifetime without ever falling into anger. Despite that fact; nevertheless, we are commanded to work at minimizing it, controlling and eliminating anger completely. The ultimate goal is preventing it from manifesting itself altogether, as it is written in the book of Psalms; Refrain yourself from anger and turn away from wrath; do not fret, it leads only to evil. (Psalm 37:8). However, before reaching the state of zero anger, we must first focus on coming out of anger as soon as it shows up. Our first goal that needs to be reached is to be: “hard to get us angry, and easy to appease us.” And after we have mastered that first step then aspire to achieve the zero anger state. We are to meditate on the following verses:

2. Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 7:9 – Anger is the way of the foolish.
Be not hasty in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the laps of fools.

3. Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud), Pesachim 66b – Anger causes a person to lose his ability to reason and think clearly. Any man who becomes enraged, if he is wise he loses his wisdom, and if he is a prophet he loses his prophecy.

4. Rambam (Maimonides), Hilchot De’ot (Laws of Conduct) 2:3 – Anger diminishes a person’s overall quality of life. According to the eternal letter that the Ramban zt''l, wrote to his son, saving oneself from anger is the crucial first step towards a Torah way of life.

5.  Those who frequently become angry have no quality of life; therefore, [the Sages] instructed us to distance ourselves from anger to the farthest degree, until a person acts as though he does not sense even those things that would justifiably anger a person.

Anger acts as the greatest detractor and the trigger of greatest destructive forces against our spiritual growth, it is a colossal impediment to reaching the highest spiritual level, it stops anyone short from receiving higher revelations, and those that have achieved a higher level are bound to lose it in one single instant of anger. Examples are taken also from the episode in which Moses got angry against Elazar and Itamar. When a prophet gets angry, he loses his prophetic inspirations, even if he is a great scholar, it is written that his knowledge which he has worked so hard to obtain fails him on an anger incident (Pessachim 66b). We have learned from the greatest master of the Supernatural (Secrets of the Torah/Kabbalah), the Arizal. Rav Chaim Vital Zt”L who teaches on behalf of his Master tells us that in order to obtain supernatural abilities and to maintain them, we must get rid of all forms of anger irrespectively, righteous anger or not; all forms of anger are detrimental to our spiritual growth to say the least. (Sha'arei Kedushah; Pirkei Machshavah / Secrets du Judaisme).

As we learned from the Arizal the losses suffered due to a moment of anger are a whole lot worse than the brief description above. All the other sins a person commits attack only body organs or any members of a body; however, anger on the other hand, attacks the very soul itself and breaks it into pieces, dispatching essential parts of the soul away from the body, causing the vacated room to be inhabited by a less pious soul (A nefesh takes the place of the holy Neshamah). This is a great tragedy for a person that had toiled hard to reach his current high spiritual level in his Avodat HaShem (Service to the Might G-d). As it is written in “Secrets du Judaïsme” by Rav Ya'akov Addes: Even if that person makes Teshuvah (repents), it is not a guaranty that he will get his lost holy soul back. It doesn't matter how meticulous he was in keeping the Mitzvot (commandments) prior to that lost, it is the lost Neshamah (holy soul) that was helping him in keeping the Mitzvot, the one occupying the vacated space now, following the regrettable angry moment incident, is an unholy nefesh with no intention to obey G-d in the same manner as the previous Neshamah. The sages tell us that the losses could go up to stopping a great success that the person had the merit to receive due to a special Mitzvah that he had performed, some could even lose their heavenly assigned help-meet, which, Chas ve'Shalom could end up marrying someone else, example the new recipient who might be the new host for the lost holy Neshamah.

4. What makes an angry person so frightening to other people?
In the first place would be, because there is a great spiritual danger for those who befriend angry people. Even the Tanach, the Jewish bible tells us not to be friend with someone that is given to anger.  “Make no friendship with a person who is given to anger; and with a wrathful individual you shall not go. Proverbs 22:24

There is no peace with an angry person. All joyful moment could quickly revert to a nightmare. The fact that they could burst at any moment keep us always on our guard. The lack of knowing how to handle the wrathful situations whenever an outburst of anger occurs. The fear of aggravating relationship, all the above make an angry person frightening to others. The spouse of such a person lives on the wake of a disaster, similar to one who lives on a war-zone under a very fragile truce of peace which could be broken at any time by a sudden new outburst of hostility. There is grievance in the souls of the whole family surrounding a person given to anger, his friends seek all the excuses to stay away.

As it is written, he who tends to lose his temper, even the Divine Presence is unimportant in his eyes, as it is written, The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek G-d,’ G-d is not in all his thoughts, during his outburst of anger. The sages further expounded: The person who is given to anger forgets his learning and waxes ever more stupid, as it is written, For anger rests in the bosom of fools; and it is written, But the fool lays open his folly. R. Nahman Ben Isaac said: It is certain that his sins out number his merits, as it is written, And a furious man abounds in transgressions. Nedarim 22b

According to the Torah Sheb'alpeh there are four personality types as it relates to anger, which are:

A) Someone who is easily Angry and is easily pacified
B) Someone who is Hard to get angry and hard to pacify
C) Someone who is Hard to get angry and quick to pacify
D) Someone who is Quick to get angry and hard to pacify

People with the C personality type are the most pious. People with the D personality type are Rashah = “wicked.” A and B personality types are in somewhat neutral territory.

Our wise teachers in the Torah make clear value judgments about which of the temperaments are better. For example, B, one who is hard to get angry and also hard to pacify, is not the worst temperament to have because most of the time, the person is not angry. It would take a lot to get this type of person riled up. But when they are angered, it takes them significant time to cool off, so they need to focus on that negative part of theirs before reaching higher to Zero anger.

B type temperaments are better than A types, one who is quick to get angry and easily pacified. “A” personalities may have a skewed view of life because they very easily transition from periods of anger to periods of calm. They come to view anger as normal, whereas people with temperament B would find anger to be quite disturbing, as they are rare occurrences; type B people will do what they can to prevent becoming angry whenever possible.

The sages make some interesting points about human nature and social relations as they discuss the temperaments.

People can change for the better. Temperaments can be changed. The ranking of the four character traits by the sages is in no way an endorsement of fixed temperaments. Nobody should be happy with his temperament ranking, but should work towards eliminating anger all together.

6) Is it possible to overcome a tendency toward anger?
Torah study is the answer to all situation; fear of falling is also a great motivator (in other words fear of losing everything over and over again). We must obtain proper Binah / understanding about our achievements, and develop the trait of watchfulness to prevent anger from demolishing what we have built.

We must understand that someone that is given to anger is incapable of receiving deep spiritual secrets from the Most Holy G-d, blessed be He. Even if the angry individual behave like a righteous person, and does many righteous things, obeying many other commandments; indeed, he would simply and sadly be considered as someone who builds with one hand, but demolishes his accomplishments immediately with the other hand.

As he keeps getting angry, he also keeps losing everything, and is always bound to re-start from zero.

7. šHow does one replace anger with the attributes of Kindness,  
    humility,   patience and love?
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the author of the Tanya, the "bible" of the Chassidic movement, explains in the Tanya the problem of anger is a manifestation of not seeing G-d in everything.

One of the basic tenets of the Jewish Emunah (faith / belief / faithfulness) is that there is nothing that happens in this universe that happens by chance. Everything, from the leaves that fall from the tree and lands on the ground to the movements of the giant planets are all directed by G-d. 

Therefore, it is very easy to replace anger for more positive attributes after grasping this simple concept mentioned in the preceding paragraph and keeping in mind that “Everything is from G-d, and everything is for good”, as Rav Shalom Aruch from Breslev always says it.

In Likutey Eitzos*, Rebbe Nachman discusses the consequences of anger in great details. Here are a few of his lessons regarding anger:

You must break the force of your anger with love. If you feel yourself becoming angry, make sure you do nothing unkind because of your anger. You must make a special effort to be kind to the very person you are angry with. Sweeten your anger with kindness. When you do this, you will be able to draw benefit from the Tzaddik (Righteous’ teachings) and then you will be able to understand the true meaning and endpoint of all things. You will taste the delight of the World to Come, and you will see how everything in the world is part of the movement towards this ultimate goal. Your perception will be according to the root which you have in the soul of the Tzaddik.

Through breaking the force of anger with love and kindness (loving-kindness) and allowing righteousness to lead actions and temper, the true Tzaddikim (righteous people) receive love, honour, glory and greatness, and as a result the world also finds a true leader. Someone who will have pity for the world and lead it in the right way, bringing each individual to his ultimate goal.

When a person fights his anger and breaks it, the spirit of Mashiach is drawn into the world, in otherwords, he is positively working towards bringing down the light of the Geulah (redemption) sooner. Such a person is accounted as if it was through him that the world and all that is in it was created and brought into being. He will be worthy of rich blessings, and he will attain true breaktrough through prayer (Avodat Hashem / Divine Service), directing himself to G-d alone without any extraneous motives, such as the longing and desire to gain other people’s respect and admiration. He will succeed in carrying out all the mitzvot and other holy acts that he must accomplish as he has accepted the burden of his Creator and all His ordinances.


Rabbi Mani ben Pattish said: Whoever becomes angry, even if greatness has been decreed for him by Heaven, he is cast down.

Where do we know this from? From Eliav, for it is said, and Eliav's anger was kindled against David, and he said: ‘Why have you come down? and with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness?

I know your presumptuousness, and the naughtiness of your heart; for you have come down so that you might see the battle.’

And when Samuel went to anoint him [to be king], of all [David's brothers] it is written, neither has the Lord chosen this, whereas of Eliav it is written, But the Lord says unto Samuel, ‘Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have rejected him’: hence it follows that He had favoured him until then. (Pesachim 66b)

A person's nature can be recognized through three things: his cup, his purse (his saving can), and his anger. (Talmud, Eruvin 65b) The Hebrew for this morsel of wisdom employs alliteration to aid our memory: koso (his cup), kiso (his purse), ka’aso (his anger). A person’s nature can be defined by (His Cup, His Can or purse and His Curse). The first one, is based on how he drinks liquor (koso / His Cup); the second on how much charity he dispenses as it is said (kiso / His poket, purse or donations’ Can); and finally the third one, on how he controls himself when provoked (ka’aso means his anger or his curse in other words). 

The key to all of these things is self-control. In some aspects of our life, we have too little self-control and at times we have too much. Of course, Mussar is all about gaining self-control and partaking with moderation those things that are permitted to us. We are in the process of always controlling and balancing our character traits. Our Sages use these three examples of key measures of our self-control because they can be the hardest to manage.

RAV NACHMAN tells us not to lose out because of anger. It would be proper for all Israel to have wealth, but the trait of anger interferes and causes them to lose it. As well describe above the trait of anger is such a very bad and lowly trait and it is very difficult to escape from it, if obedience to the instructions of the Torah are not obeyed. Some people try to escape anger out of a desire for wealth itself, so as not to lose money, but even so this evil trait attacks them from childhood, causing them to lose the money they should have had.

The reason for this is that at its very root and spiritual source, wealth is in the same category as anger. Thus when the evil one sees a flow of influence descending to bring wealth to a person, he turns it into anger, because, at their root, anger and wealth are in the same category: they both descend from G-d's mighty powers, deriving from the same place. "From the north comes forth gold" (Job 37:22) and "The evil will start from the north " (Jeremiah 1:14 ) .

Wealth is a "wall" ( ch O mah ), while anger ( ch EY mah ) ruins the wall. Thus when the evil one sees that a flow of wealth - chomah, a "wall" - is being sent to a person - he turns this flow into anger, sending something to make the person angry. Thus the "wall", chomah , is ruined because of the anger, cheymah. Since anger and wealth are at root one category, the evil one can easily turn the flow of wealth into anger.

And know that even if the descending influence has already reached a person and turned into actual wealth, a "wall", the evil one can still sometimes tempt the person to become so enraged that he loses even his existing money and wealth. One might have thought that after the blessing has already reached him and turned into wealth, it would be impossible for the evil one to turn it back into anger. The wealth should have been a "wall" protecting him from the evil one and preventing him from succumbing to anger, which is the opposite of a "wall". Yet the evil one has the power to attack a person with such great anger that he loses even the money he already has. May G-d guard and save us from this despicable trait! Amen. Likutey Moharan I, 68

All life matters are godly and are to be conducted within the Halachot received from the Torah. All family matters, all social matters, all business dealings are really Torah and they must be done with the ethics of the Torah which cover all matters of life, from the commonalities of peasant life to leading a nation in all its affairs. For example, the laws relating to a person who exchanges a cow for a donkey; sowing and reaping produce from your land; selling and buying stocks in the market; purchasing military equipments; building infrastructures, they are all Torah, and when a person actually performs such transactions, they are certainly Torah. Accordingly, when engaged in any business transaction, you must bind your thoughts only to the Torah teachings and laws contained within the transaction in question not allowing anger to sabotage your work.

When a Jew uproots his business dealings from the Torah, relating only to the secularity of the business transaction itself without binding his thoughts to the Torah within it, he is later punished by having to go to a Torah court of law. He must then review all his thoughts and deeds from the start of the transaction to the end and bring them back to the Torah. He must tell everything to the judges, who then determine the Torah ruling in the case.

This way everything relating to the business transaction is turned back into Torah. This is the Torah's vengeance against the person for having separated the transaction from the Torah laws contained within it and falling to the level of the business deal itself as if no Torah were present within it.

1. Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 7:9 – Anger is the way of the foolish.
Be not hasty in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the laps of fools.

2. Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud), Pesachim 66b – Anger causes a person to lose his ability to reason and think clearly. Any man who becomes enraged, if he is wise he loses his wisdom, and if he is a prophet he loses his prophecy.

3. Rambam (Maimonides), Hilchot De’ot (Laws of Conduct) 2:3 – Anger diminishes a person’s overall quality of life. According to the eternal letter the Ramban zt''l wrote to his son, saving oneself from anger is the crucial first step towards a Torah way of life.

Those who frequently become angry have no quality of life; therefore, [the Sages] instructed us to distance ourselves from anger to the farthest degree, until a person acts as though he does not sense even those things that would justifiably anger a person.

4. Orchot Tzaddikim (The Ways of the Righteous), Gate 12 – Anger causes a person to be stubborn and deny the truth; because of his anger a person will not make concessions, and he will not admit the truth.

As the next source shows, many people seem polite and kind when calm; the way to find out what they are really like is to observe their behaviour when they become angry. The way a person responds to anger inducing situations is a barometer of his overall nature.

5. Talmud Bavli, Eiruvin 65b with Rashi– The true nature of a person is revealed by how easily he is angered. You can recognize a person’s true nature by three things: his drink [how controlled his mind is when he drinks – Rashi], his pocket [his integrity in business – Rashi], and his anger [that he is not extremely demanding, and is not upset by things that anger most other people – Rashi.]

Conversely, if a person is sensitive to even the slightest trace of anger within himself and keeps it under control, it indicates his high level of self-refinement, as in the following story: 

Rav Yisrael Salanter, the founder of the Mussar Movement, was especially aware of anger as an undermining trait. Once, while he was living in Berlin, a visitor found Rav Yisrael uncharacteristically upset. The visitor inquired as to the source of his troubles. Rav Yisrael answered that two Jews from Kovno had just come to visit, and had reported to him on potentially troublesome changes that were about to be made in the local Beit Medrash (study hall), where Rav Yisrael used to study.

“Are the changes that bad?” asked the visitor. “No,” answered Rav Yisrael, “but nevertheless, I felt some anger when I was told of them.” “Did you speak to them in a way that could have contained an element of insult?”

“No, not at all,” answered Rav Yisrael. “No one but myself knew of it. But you know just as I do, that when a person gets angry it is as if he were worshipping idols. About this I am upset.”  Rabbi Avraham Feuer, A Letter for the Ages, p. 37.

By Orinides - Copyright:  © 2016 ABA - EYBO

Talmud Bavli, Nedarim 22a, Pessachim 66b  
Zohar, 3:179a; Section II. The Benefits of Patience

Torah-box, Rabbi Benyamin Benhamou
Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) 5:10
Rabbi Yehudah HaChassid, Sefer Chasidim, # 145

Rabbi Avraham Yellin, Sefer Erech Apayim (Jerusalem 1963)
Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Anger – The Inner Teacher (ArtScroll, 2003)

Breslev (Chaya Rivka)
Riverton Mussar; Rabbi Forsythe
CHABAD – How to deal with anger
RAMBAM – Letter to his son
Bein Adam L’Chavero
Rav Shneur Zalman of Liadi, Baal HaTanya


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