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Rosh Hashanah

Transform Your Anger Into Forgiveness

Today is the birthday of the world; today all mankind is judged.(PRAYER AFTER BLOWING SHOFAR)

Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz, the rosh yeshivah of the Mir yeshivah, used to tell the following story in his drashos. During the Six Day War in 1967, he was sitting in the air raid shelter of the Mir Yeshivah in Jerusalem, at the time of the frightening, ear-shattering bombings by the Jordanians, and everyone was saying Tehillim. Suddenly his ear caught the words of a lonely and broken woman who had been deserted by her husband more than ten years before.

She was praying aloud, and the Rabbi could hear her saying: "Master of the Universe, I completely forgive my husband for all the sorrow, disgrace, and pain that he has caused me all these years. May You please also forgive all the sins of those who are sitting in this air raid shelter, just as I forgive my husband with all my heart!"

Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz concluded, "If the people in that air raid shelter were spared from death and saved from those bombs that were falling everywhere, I am sure that it was in the merit of that woman, who was willing to forgive her husband for his terrible crime against her. Her righteous action tilted the scales in our favor! (K'TZES HA-SHEMESH BI-GVURASO, p. 221)

That poor woman in the air-raid shelter was brave enough to forgive her cruel husband in spite of his despicable actions. This should be an example for us to have the courage to forgive our spouses for their mistakes, and should inspire us to strive never to lose our tempers.

The Talmud tells the following story. There was a righteous man who had given a coin to a poor person on the eve of Rosh Hashanah during a year of drought. This made his wife angry and she scolded him. In reaction, he went and slept in a cemetery. (BRACHOS 18b)

Why would a person want to sleep in a cemetery? What does his giving a coin to the poor person and his wife becoming angry have to do with his going to a cemetery? Why do our Sages tell us that this all happened on the eve of Rosh Hashanah?

Rabbi Yisrael Salanter explains, in his book, that the righteous man in the story felt deeply insulted by his wife's abusive remarks. Yet he wondered at how he could be so easily insulted when he knew that a person should welcome insults as a form of atonement for his many sins. And so he concluded that he had felt insulted due to the sin of haughtiness. He realized that he could only have taken offense at these unkind remarks because he had excessive pride in his self-worth.

The fact that this incident occurred on the eve of Rosh Hashanah frightened him, since he knew very well that this was the time of year when a person should be completely without sin, so as to receive a favorable judgement on the High Holy Days. Thus he concluded that only drastic action on his part could insure that he be judged favorably and inscribed in the Book of Life.

Hence, he decided to sleep in the cemetery, for he felt that being in such a humbling place would certainly help him to be able to subdue his arrogant feelings. He figured that when a person sees signs of death and feels the silence of the cemetery, he views things from a different perspective reminded of his place in the world. He understands that he has no right to be arrogant, since he sees very clearly what will eventually become of him. A person in a cemetery comes to understand that he will return to the substance from which he originated - the dust of the earth.

We can learn several lessons from this interpretation of the words of our sages. First, we can see how Judgement was completely real and alive in the mind of this righteous man. It was not an abstract idea, but rather something very concrete and awesome which required immediate attention. This feeling is certainly lacking in our times, where we walk around peacefully in the days before Rosh Hashanah, and do not experience the fear and anticipation which we should be feeling before such a tremendous day.

Gratitude Overcomes Resentment

This interpretation also suggests the proper response we should have to a spouse's anger. In such a case youshould strive not to feel hurt at all because feeling hurt testifies to our own arrogance. Taking offence at the lack of respect given us indicates that we consider ourselves to beoverly important. Generally speaking, a person can only consider another person's harsh words a personal affront, if he himself feels that this undermines his importance and self-worth.

Clearly feeling that we are due the unswaying respect of others is not the way the Torah wants us to think about ourselves. Who is greater than David, the King of Israel? And yet he said about himself, "And I am a worm, not a man." If a person thinks about his many sins, he will acknowledge that he really deserves much worse treatment than he receives. When he begins to sincerely think of all his shortcomings, th s will cause any hurt or arrogant feelings he may have to vanish.

The famous Rabbi Yitzchak Blazer was greatly admired by his students. On Simchas Torah they used to lift him on their shoulders and dance with him. One of his students once noticed him murmuring something to himself on such an occasion and moved closer to listen. "Carry the dead animal!" he overheard. The student understood that Rabbi Blazer was afraid that some arrogant feelings might be creeping into his mind, and so he reminded himself of his shortcomings to circumvent such pernicious thoughts.

Additionally, being angry with your wife shows a lack of gratitude. When a husband honestly considers his wife's immense efforts to help him in life, he will not be able to feel anger. This is comparable to a situation where a person gave you a massive amount of money and then scolded you. The deep gratitude that you would feel in your heart would outweigh any ill feelings that you might otherwise have had towards that person. "Let him scold me," you would think. After what he gave me, he can say whatever he wants!"

That is how we should feel about our wives. When we think of all they do for us we should come to feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude which will cancel out any feelings of anger We should also be aware of the fact that someone who lacks gratitude is, by choosing to do so, falling short in the observance of one of the most basic principles of Judaism.

The deeper purpose of the blessings we say and many of our mitzvos is to show our gratitude towards G-d. The Talmud shows us how far our gratitude must go, "Do not throw a stone into a well that you once drank from." If we are obligated to feel gratitude even to inanimate objects like a well, how much more so must we be grateful to human beings, and how much more so to our wives, who are closer and dearer to us than anyone else in the world.If you make a list of all the things your spouse does for you each day, you will soon see how numerous and important these little acts of lovingkindness really are. Every action done for you deserves gratitude. You must strive to make this feeling of gratitude a part of you, and then you will be able to transform any anger you might feel towards your wife into feelings of humility and forgiveness instead.

Your anger damages both your relationship with your wife and your standing in Heaven. Make sure that it never takes control over you, because if it does it can easily ruin your life.

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