Handling Anger and Quarrels
Anger, Termperament and the Torah's Conduct Standards














Anger is a very serious matter which is central to many crucial aspects of life; particularly, to interpersonal relationships, personal self-perfection and marriage.

"Guard and keep the commandments of the L-rd 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)." Hashem tells us that His Torah is designed to be beneficial. Keeping his Torah and all of its laws is for our benefit. But we may never take liberties to do what we please or interpret what we want. What we do must be "correct and good in the eyes of Hashem."

Let's consider this double terminology of "correct and good." Something must withstand the test of being correct AND good in each individual situation (which is one of the reason's it is necessary to contact your orthodox rabbi for each individual question). Something may seem correct in some situation, but there it may not be good. You want to honor shabos with a shower (which is a "correct" thing to do) so you scream like an abusive tyrant at your family member to hurry up and get out of the shower. In the misguided quest to honor shabos, you destroy peace or hurt feelings, which the Torah does not permit. What you did was not good. Something may seem good in some situation, but there it may not be correct. Your friend enjoys a certain food but has developed a digestive problem which is badly irritated by the food. Providing a "nice" gift of the food (a seemingly "good" thing to do) will cause your friend to get sick, which the Torah does not permit. What you did was not correct. All has to be CORRECT AND GOOD in the eyes HASHEM. Then, it will be good for you. Doing "Hashem's correct and good" applies, of course, to all relationships and aspects of life.

To do what is "correct and good" in social and moral questions requires unity, knowledge and strength of conviction and character. When life puts a person to the test, one can be tempted to react on the basis of emotions, personal bias or interests, or any number of subjective or misinformed basis.

You must never succumb to emotions which prompt impermissible behavior [vengeance, slander, violence, theft, cruelty, spite, etc.]. Never forget there is a "baalabus [boss, owner]" of the world [G-d]. Pirkei Avos, in several ways, tells us never to give up hope in Hashem's paying back the good or bad due to each person. No matter what a situation or another person does to you, Hashem has His requirements of you. His rules and standards always apply. If the situation is difficult, keep asking around to find intelligent, competent and dedicated rabbis who have expertise and who know how to help.

The Torah imposes constant high moral and behavioral standards, together with belief that 1. all which Hashem does is for the best, 2. Hashem never gives a person a test which (s)he cannot handle and 3. Hashem provides the tools necessary for handling each test or struggle. For each situation or test, there is a law, ethic or principle which the Torah tells us to act according to. Pirkei Avos says, "Asay lecho rov (provide for yourself a rabbinical authority)." It is your obligation to seek out and find for yourself rabbinical guidance. It is not the job of rabbis to find you. It is your job to assure that all which you think, say, feel and do accords with the instruction of the Torah. You must seek an authoritative rov who has da'as Torah, fear of Hashem and experience in the subject matter at hand. Where appropriate, you will need a bais din [Torah court], also known for authoritative Torah knowledge, fear of Heaven and experience in the subject matter at hand. In seeking rabbinical guidance when a marriage is (Rachmana litzlon) in trouble or breaking up, you will want to know what your obligations are as well as how to protect yourself from being harmed or taken advantage of by the other party in any dispute. Being righteous does not necessarily mean you have to be a "shmata." Have knowledge for each point - what is right and not right, good and not good - IN THE EYES OF HASHEM.



Idolatry is one of three sins for which one is required to give his life and thereby not transgress. The midrash says that "Anyone who is angry is as worshipping idolatry." We see that anger is so evil that one must give his life before transgressing. But, why do Chazal equate anger with idolatry? What is the comparison?

Idolatry means that one accepts the object of worship as a deity, subjugates his will, and he serves the will of that entity. When one is overcome by anger; the anger takes over his mind, personality and behavior. Like a god, the anger dictates what the person does. The will of Hashem Yisborach is negated. The person is guilty of idolatry. He replaces Hashem with the "god" of anger, rachmana litzlon. What is worse, THE PERSON IS HIS OWN IDOL! He worships himself as his own god when angry! This is the height of arrogance and G-d says of the arrogant (Arachin 15b), "I and he cannot live together in the same world." In contrast, of all good things in the world, "Humility is greater than them all (Avoda Zora 20b)."

Remember that refraining from anger (or any sin) is the will of G-d. There is never an issue of "being yourself" or doing what you want. G-d requires fear and love of Him, that you never do anything that violates His will, no matter how tempting, no matter how big a test. Avrohom told his wife Sora to say that she is his sister, so the Philistines would not kill him to take her because, "There is no fear of G-d in this place" (Genesis 20:11). Only fear of G-d assures that one will choose to behave properly at all times.



The gemora (Kesubos 17a) says, "One's temperament must always be sweet with other people." We know the rule that all Torah sources are required to be as concise as possible. Whenever a wording from Chazal or TaNaCH is longer than the bare minimum with which to convey the message, there is something extra being taught. I would understand what the gemora here is saying without "always." I would understand that without qualification, one must be pleasant with other people. Why add "always?"

Some people are very easy to be sweet with. They are lovely, generous and adorable; have manners and a good heart. One would find it natural, even delightful, to be sweet to such a person. Some people are not so pleasant. Some are even a trial not to be violent against! Nevertheless, the Torah obligates us to always be pleasant - even with the downright rotten, nasty, cheating, offensive, aggravating, trying person. Unless you are at the point, in making yourself sweet, that you are ALWAYS sweet with other people, you have not reached the Torah's standard or obligation for being a sweet person.

It is a full-time and central Torah obligation to love every Jew as you love yourself (Leviticus 19:18). To love one's fellow Jew, a person must be very careful never to grow angry at others; for when a person is angry at others he not only feels no love for them, but he may even hate them and wish them harm (Erech Apayim).

Pirkei Avos (chapter 5) tells us that he who is quick to anger and slow to appeasement is evil and that he who is slow to anger and quick to appeasement is G-dly.

It is imperative that the Jew not be angry. The gemora (Taanis 4a) requires that we each turn anger out of our heart and train ourselves to be gentle. It is difficult, but the gemora makes it clear that working to replace anger with gentleness is an inescapable, constant and lifelong requirement.

The midrash (Vayikra Raba) says that "Derech eretz (polite, civil, thoughtful behavior) comes before Torah. A prerequisite to being a Torah Jew is behaving at all times with derech eretz. Without the prerequisite, what is one's Torah? And, never let "frum principles" ever be used to violate derech eretz. When Hashem told Moshe to leave Yisro and go to Egypt to save the Jewish people, Moshe first went to Yisro to ask permission to leave to go to Egypt (Exodus 4:18). DERECH ERETZ FOR AN OVAID AVODA ZARA CAME BEFORE A COMMAND DIRECTLY FROM HASHEM!

The gemora (Sota 20a - 22b and Bava Basra 174b) discusses several things, each of which is called a "cunning evil which destroys the world;" for example, allowing either unfair advantage-taking or one's religiosity to cause loss or detriment to another, or one giving bad advice or mixing in into someone else's dispute so as to cause loss or detriment to another. By Chazal saying that clever, nasty actions, to another's loss or detriment, can "destroy the world," we see it is possible for behaviors to have far more wide-reaching spiritual and practical impact and ramifications than we realize. We must think in advance so our actions have only good consequences.

There are people who will call themselves "frum" but they cheat when it comes to business or debts. They will be mean to people in shul ("That's my seat, get out of it now!" "If you can't step back from Shmoneh Esray due to me standing here, that's your problem"). They will park in front of your car or driveway, trapping you. They will rudely push in front of you on line at a store like stampeding cattle. They will lie or pervert justice in bais din. They go to the mikva every morning before shul but do not pay the entry fee. They think themselves clever and superior. If a person's midos are not good ACROSS THE BOARD, the person is not a good person. The person who is selectively nice to loved ones and rotten to others who are less convenient or self-serving to be a mentsh with (or nice to strangers while abusive and perverse with family); is still a low, uncultivated, small person; what I call a "holy bum" or, for the really malicious ones, a "holy animal."

Parshas Kedoshim is a portion of the Torah which G-d told Moshe to say in front of the entire Jewish population. It focuses on the Jewish people being holy. For other portions, Moshe told it to Aaron, then Aaron's son's, then the elders and then the population. The Chasam Sofer writes that Kedoshim has the largest cluster of interpersonal mitzvos in the entire Torah and was spoken by Moshe in front of the community. We see, therefore, that to be holy, one cannot be a hermit who lives alone with holy stringencies and customs. To be holy, one must live and interact with the rest of the community EVERY MOMENT; IN A LOVING, HONEST, G-DLY WAY. If one is holy with G-d and not with people, the person is not holy. (S)he is at best a phoney, an empty vessel, just a bunch of noise. At worst, (s)he is a mean, selfish, destructive villain. ONLY IF ONE'S INTERPERSONAL CONDUCT IS CONSISTENTLY HOLY, IS THE PERSON HOLY!



When angry, one is overwhelmed, out of control and self-absorbed. Anger is ONLY destructive and brings to sin and misfortune (Nedarim 22b). Anger leaves the angry person only with loss. The gemora says, "There is nothing left for the angry person except his anger" (Kidushin 40b-41a, i.e. he loses his relationships, health and wisdom). King Solomon tells us anger increases imbecility, troubles and self-defeat, saying, "Don't let your spirit be quick to be angry for anger rests in the lap of fools" (Ecclesiastes 7:9). From this we see that the angry person is a fool. Further, "A fool does not understand (Psalms 92:7)," "A fool spreads out his stupidity (Proverbs 13:16)," "An angry man causes strife and the furious man has abundant sin (Proverbs 29:22)" and "The one of great anger carries corresponding punishment (Proverbs 19:19)."

In contrast, "The words of the wise are heard with gentleness (Ecclesiastes 9:17)." From the verse, "Remove anger from your heart and thereby put evil out of your flesh (Eccl. 11:10)," the Talmud teaches that it is a FULL-TIME LIFELONG OBLIGATION TO WORK ON TRAINING ONESELF TO BE GENTLE (Taanis 4a). Proverbs teaches, "A soft reply will turn away anger (15:1)." Rabbi Chaim MiVelozhin, in "Kesser Rosh," beautifully blends the ethical and the practical in writing, "Harsh words are never heard." Throughout Jewish tradition, anger is shown to be altogether destructive, sinful, reprehensible, sacrilege, evil, futile and self-preoccupied. When angry, one's intellect, reason, character, principle, stability and self-control all disappear. The midrash tells us "All who are angry are as serving idolatry." The angry person is governed by angry emotion, he is worshipping himself and not G-d! Remember that we are obligated to always serve G-d. It is A CONTRADICTION TO BE FRUM AND TO BE ANGRY! When in a holy context (e.g. marriage, shul, yeshiva) it is extra profanation to be angry! Always retain high standards of spirituality; with manners, calm, self-control, consideration, midos, patience and peace. If an angry person provokes you, should Soton have two victories!? "A man's intellect makes him slow to anger (Proverbs 19:11)." "If you do not get angry, you will not sin (Brachos 29b)." "The person who is rapid to anger and slow to appeasement is evil, the person who is slow to anger and rapid to appeasement is pious (Pirkei Avos, chap. five)." King Solomon prescribes the remedy (Eccl. 7:19), "Torah strengthens the wise more than ten rulers who control a city."

The gemora (Pesachim 113b) says that G-d hates three things: anger, drunkenness and requiring that things be strictly your way. The Maharal explains that the common element is that all three are characterized by having a boundary that limits each within the physical world. G-d wants our lives spiritual, free from restraint by physical factors. In fact, the gemora (Rosh Hashana 17a) says that always NOT requiring things to be just your way and (Taanis 20b) that always NOT being angry in your own home COULD LENGTHEN YOUR LIFE! That gemora (Taanis 20b) also says to be soft and bendable as a reed.

A major part to having an "anger-proof, fight-proof relationship" with anybody is to first truly achieve "human acknowledgement" of the person you are relating to. There is little more infuriating and painful than failure in this. Only after this has been achieved can you proceed to use words to deal with any issue that comes up.



Never lose your temper. Never feel entitled to have or release angry emotions. DEAL WITH THEM IN PRIVATE, NEVER AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS. Go for a walk. Tear a phone book. Scream privately into your pillow. Eat some ice cream. Run for hours in the forest till your energy is gone. Write a letter that gets anger out (do not send it!). Get counseling. But NEVER GIVE ANGER OR HARM TO ANOTHER PERSON. CONQUER ANGER, DON'T LET IT CONQUER YOU! One must always be humble and prevent himself from having anger.

There are numerous techniques for working on anger. For example, the midrash tells us that when his employer's wife tried to convince him to sin, Yosef saw his father Yaakov's image in his mind and thus saved himself from sin. Imagine your anger will seen by a "yenta" or a neighbor or a tzadik - do you want them to see you acting crazily, or see you as a villain or jerk? If others watched a video of you behaving angrily (e.g. bullying, throwing things or screaming), they would see you as a lunatic and be alienated from you. Tell yourself you will sin BUT FIRST you have to do a mitzva (doven, buy a lulav, etc.) and how can you stain your mitzva with a sin!? I WILL sin BUT today is a special, holy day (it is Monday or Thursday, a day of extra Heavenly mercy; it is Tuesday, the day the Torah describes as double good; it is the holy day of Chol HaMoed, Rosh Chodesh, Shabos, Yom Tov, Chanuka). If you tell yourself you will do the sin, you satisfy the PSYCHOLOGICAL NEED TO FEEL you are doing it, BUT there is always some reason why it MUST NOT BE NOW and not stain a meritorious thing that you must do meanwhile. Of course you NEVER DO THE SIN. There must always be a reason to keep putting it off, even if the reason is not profound (I must first eat chocolate, today is Cousin Shmerel's birthday). NOT VIOLATING G-D'S WILL IS VERY PROFOUND! Always have a qualified rov to whom you can take questions and requests for instruction and encouragement.

The Torah has categories of protective laws (e.g. harchaka, syag) to keep people an extra step away from sins. For example, a nazir (who may not consume grape products) cannot approach or enter a vineyard; you may not put milk and meat on the same surface; a couple does not hand articles directly to one another before mikva; one does not touch "muktza" (things that may not be used or which can lead to a violation if handled on shabos); we do not say innocent things in ways that could be misunderstood as lying, deception, slander or bad news. Analyze your relationship and design your own "protective laws" to stay away from nisyonos (trials) or subjectivity, and to keep distant from weak or trouble spots. But, some people get stuck or perverse, go overboard or lose perspective, and the idea of "extra laws" backfires. We know the joke about the "frum" lady who blow-torched everyone's fingers at her door so no one would bring chametz in on Pesach. Chances are, if one's being "frum" hurts anybody else ever, in any way, it is probably not truly frum. Remember that at Sinai, G-d gave two luchos (stone tablets with mitzvos) - including one for bain odom lechavairo (interpersonal obligations). If one's "frumkeit" hurts someone else, it is his/her own defect, and G-d has no part in it.

Keep your hands in your pockets whenever you argue! Any form of physical violence (such as biting, scratching, temper tantrum, angrily raising a hand or screaming, throwing an object or slapping) - must be viewed as evil, unacceptable and an enemy of any relationship. Such events generally indicate that a marriage is * soon to be over, or * very dysfunctional and destructive, causing more misery than words could effectively convey. In either event, anger in a parent causes enormous life-damaging psychological harm to the children! Anger, violence and loss of control or of reason are simply not an option. King Solomon said (Proverbs 17:9), "One who overlooks transgression, chases love."

"Torah will go forth from Zion [Jerusalem, Isaiah 2:3]." Did the Torah not go out from Sinai? We see that the teachings from the great rabbis at the Sanhedrin (Torah's Primary Court next to the Holy Temple) are considered fully incorporated into our Torah. Each MUST STUDY wisdom of Torah and our sages.