Off the Pulpit: Against anger

By RABBI DAVID WOLPE

In an angry age, may we say a word against anger?

“Every person who becomes angry, even if a sage, his wisdom departs from him. If he is a prophet, his prophecy departs from him. (Pes. 66b).”

There are many reasons to be angry in this world, and to feel anger at injustice is a natural and salutary thing. But to act in anger or to express yourself when angry is far more likely to be destructive than productive. Expressing anger rarely quenches it – it generally increases it. As the old saying has it, the only people who hear both sides of a family argument are the people in the next house.

Anger, our Sages teach us, is like a boiling pot – it spills over into other things. The least controllable of emotions, it convinces us of its own justification. We may doubt why we are sad, or even happy; few people can feel doubts when in the grip of anger.

If sages lose their wisdom and prophets their prophecy, what do ordinary people lose from anger? Their judgment and capacity to listen. Be angry; but wait until it subsides to act. Rage feels good but right feels better.

(Editor’s note: Rabbi Wolpe’s Saturday D’var Torah last week contained some sage advise. Click here to see the work on YouTube.)

(Rabbi David Wolpe is the senior rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.)

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