Some teachings about anger from Jewish literature

Some teachings about anger from Jewish literature

We have all gotten angry at least once in our lifetime. It may be with our family or due to a bad situation or a bad episode that just happened.  It can be as simple as a traffic fine or sometimes we just feel a little bit angry towards things and people.

But is this a negative thing? Does it make the person a sinner or a bad person just because he or she feels anger? The idea of anger is that people cannot control their emotions and they show what they are really feeling. It is not about getting or not getting angry but about knowing and understanding what type of feeling it is and how to can build or destroy relationships, characters or even people in the way.

Everybody will feel angry at one point, but what does that really mean? In Jewish literature, anger that is not dealt with in a healthy way will eventually lead to disaster for the person that feels angry and for those around him or her.

Let’s take a look at some of this literature that gives us amazing insights on how some Jewish literature sees anger.

According to Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson dealing with anger and its causes and consequences is something that takes more time than expected, maybe for the rest of your life, but when a person can control or decrease the level of anger, life starts to change and relationships start to happen.

Mendel says that people can do simple changes in their lives and use meditation or self-awareness to understand the root causes of anger.  The first recommendation about dealing with anger is to wait. The idea is not to express the feeling right away, neither verbally nor physically so those feeling don’t get the momentum they need to hurt others.  The recommendation is also simple because people are advised to take a deep breath and wait a minute before they react, waiting for the moment to just fade away and let the anger dissipate and the heat cool down.

Someone is always watching our actions. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi says that the creator is always watching over us and is watching every movement we make. He explains that god is always over the person that believes, and in consequence knows and “looks upon” the person´s conscience and heart to see if that person is serving him with the right actions and objectives.

When people know that someone else is watching it is easier for them to control themselves.  If we understand that god is always watching, it is easier to deal with the everyday traits and misbehaviors.

Anger can also be compared to idolatry, which is a much more serious thing. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi explains it like this.  Anger is a negative feeling and it comes from the fact that the person has lost his or her faith because getting angry means that the person does not believe that what is happening at the moment is coming directly from god and that it is his ruling and master plan. If the person still had faith he or she would understand and relate in a different way to what is happening at the moment. If he or she understood that everything is god´s doing, he or she would not become angry at all.

God always has many ways to express his love and maybe the person that is hurting you is just the way god is showing you his plan. It doesn’t matter if the person that is hurting you is possessed of free choice and has decided to curse you, hurt you, hit you or insult you and he is is totally guilty of misbehaviour or crime according to the laws of man and the laws of Heaven, this was already written and decreed from Heaven, so it is god´s work. If the person gets angry he denies this master plan and commits idolatry by not having faith and letting negative feelings take over.

Image courtesy of John Mutford at
Image courtesy of John Mutford at

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi also advised that instead of asking, “Why is this person hurting me?” the bigger question that should be asked is “What is god trying to tell me in this moment?” what is god trying to show me?

Anger is sometimes not easy to avoid and not feel. Sometimes it just comes. The idea is to remember these teachings and use them as lessons in life. This can lead to questions like what is really making me angry? What do I feel when I get angry? What can I do when it happens?

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