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Moshe was angry with the commanders of the army, the officers of the thousands and the officers of the hundreds, who came from the legion of the battle. (Bemidbar 31:14). Elazar the Kohein said to the men of the legion who came to the battle, "This is the decree of the Torah, which Hashem commanded Moshe" (ibid. 21).
Rashi brings the explanation of the Sages that because Moshe got angry with the commanders of the army, he forgot the laws of purifying the utensils of the non-Jews and it was taught, instead, by Elazar the Kohein. From this we are meant to learn the decadence of the evil character trait of anger.

Anyone who has ever gotten angry, (and who hasn't?), knows how difficult it is to remain calm when your blood is boiling and its temperature is rising quickly. Usually, it doesn't help then to think about the lofty ideals of staying calm nor of the indescribable loss to one who succumbs to his or her anger. Actually, the best thing one can do in that situation is to force himself to wait for a little while until he cools down. Then, he may be able to deal with the situation in a rational manner.

I knew a yeshiva student who asked the holy Steipler Rav, ztvk"l, for a practical suggestion to help him overcome his anger. The Steipler asked him if he owned a watch and he replied in the negative. The Rabbi told him to go and buy one and make a strong resolution never to lash out at anyone until he looked at his watch for two complete minutes (I believe). Then, he said, he would be in a much better position to overcome his emotions.

But the best solution to controlling anger is, of course, not to get angry in the first place. This is accomplished when one realizes, and believes without doubt, that everything which happens to him, no matter through whom, was actually brought upon him by Hashem. The individual who delivered the blow was merely a messenger of the Almighty Who decreed that such and such should befall so and so. Certainly it is much easier to accept disappointments bestowed upon us from our Father in Heaven, Whom we know loves us immensely and only punishes us if we really deserve it. Add to that the recognition that not always is what we want for ourselves the best thing for us. Hashem often protects us from ourselves. These sound beliefs will help one accept whatever befalls him and, consequently, he will have no reason to be upset with the deliverer in the first place.

Chassidim tell a story of a great Rebbe who was very poor. His wife had entreated him many times to sell his father's precious tefillin, for which rich Chassidim were willing to pay 30,000 rubles, so that they could use the money for their household needs. But the Rebbe would not even hear of it. He had inherited his father's tefillin and it was his most cherished possession.

One year, before Sukkos, esrogim (citrus fruits used to perform a mitzvah on the holiday of Tabernacles) were very rare. It seemed that the Rebbe and his congregation would not be able to perform that special mitzvah on the upcoming holiday. One day, someone passed through town and with him was a beautiful esrog. The Rebbe sent his assistant to the man to beg him to sell him the treasure he owned. The man replied that he would agree to sell it for no less than 30,000 rubles. The Rebbe wasted no time. He immediately sold his father's tefillin and bought the esrog in which he planned to delight throughout the "Festival of Joy."

The afternoon before the holiday, the Rebbetzin (Rabbi's wife) came into the Rebbe's room to tidy it up and was amazed to see an esrog sitting on his desk. When she examined it closer and saw how beautiful it was, she was totally shocked, It didn't take her long to realize that the only way her husband could have possibly purchased such a rare item was by selling the tefillin he had always refused to sell when she had begged him to do so. She was so outraged that she immediately bit off its pitum (the tip of the fruit), rendering the esrog disqualified to be used for the mitzvah.

We can all well imagine how the Rabbi felt; and we can easily envision how he would have reacted in such a situation - woe to our spouses, indeed. But the holy rabbi did not even relate to what had happened as something which she had performed. Instead, he lifted his eyes towards Heaven and exclaimed, "Master of the Universe. If it is Your will that I should not have an esrog to recite the blessing upon during the upcoming holiday, then I accept it with love!"

That evening, the Rebbe's father appeared to him in a dream - beaming with pride. He told his son that when he sold his tefillin to purchase the esrog, that sacrificial act made an enormous impression in Heaven. But, he continued, when, after all that, he didn't lose his temper at his wife for spoiling the esrog, the impression in Heaven was much, much greater, and it was decided to reward him profusely.

May we learn from these great servants of Hashem how to conduct ourselves, and then we will be truly happy in this world and in the World-to-Come.


Then Aharon the Kohein went up to Mount Hor at the word of Hashem and died there, in the fortieth year after the Children of Israel went forth from the land of Egypt, in the fifth month on the first of the month. Aharon was one hundred and twenty-three years old at his death on Mount Hor. The Cana'anite king of Arad heard -- he was dwelling in the south of the land of Cana'an -- of the approach of the Children of Israel (Bemidbar 33:38-40).
Rashi brings the explanation of the Sages (Rosh Hashanah 3a) that the King heard that Aharon had died and that the clouds of glory had disappeared and he believed that now he was at liberty to wage war against Israel.

When Gedolim (great Torah scholars) are alive, they protect the generation in the merit of their Torah and mitzvahs.

An interesting concept is that the Rabbi's "scoreboards" will be racking up lots of "points," without them even knowing or realizing it. Usually, a person has to work hard to perform mitzvahs, but if one merits it, he will even carry them out without awareness.

There used to be a great tzaddik in Jerusalem; Reb Aryeh Levine, ztvk"l. He loved every single Jew and went out of his way to help them as much as he possibly could (see the fantastic book, A Tzaddik in Our Time by Feldheim Publishers). Reb Yom Tov Zilberman once told me that there was a pitiable fellow in the neighborhood of Sha'arei Chessed, who was poor and generally miserable. To add to his problems, he was not blessed with tranquility at home. His wife would often quarrel with him and complain that he didn't provide her with the basic obligations required of a husband.

Reb Yom Tov told me that this fellow would often comment, "I'm not afraid that my wife may lock me out of the house one day. If she does, I'll simply go and sleep by Reb Aryeh's. His home is always open to guests and people in need. He'll surely take me in."

Reb Yom Tov commented: "When Reb Aryeh's pure soul finally came before the Heavenly Court, he must have been surprised to find on his long list of mitzvahs many acts of kindness to this poor Jew. Reb Aryeh may have wondered when he actually performed them and why he was being rewarded for them. The Ministering Angels probably explained to him that these were the reinforcements the fellow received just from knowing that a wonderful person like Reb Aryeh existed; who would be ready to strengthen his hand whenever needed.

I was recently told an interesting story by a Russian fellow, Eli Chevtchenko. He was going through the metal detector before boarding a plane in the US and, although he had emptied his pockets, the alarm began to ring. He realized that the metal pin holding his kipah (a religious cap covering a male's head) had been the cause. When the inspector looked at the boy with suspicion, Eli pointed to his head. The inspector didn't notice the pin Eli was showing him and thought he was simply pointing to his head covering.

"Oh yes," the man said. I see now that you are wearing a religious head covering. You are right. There is no reason to suspect you. Go right through."

I don't recommend this policy as a rule, lest a bright terrorist realize, G-d forbid, that a good way to pass through unsuspected is to dress up like a religious Jew. Nevertheless, Eli was privileged to make a kiddush Hashem (sanctification of Hashem's Holy Name) unintentionally, just by acting as a Jew is supposed to.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel