Handling Anger and Quarrels
How to Successfully Work on Anger & Quarrels




















When I present it to audiences, the topic of "anger" can get people very stirred up. When anger is practiced by couples, and when it is evidenced when I do marriage counseling, getting "stirred up" is only the beginning! Anger is entirely destructive.

I report to the audience that Jewish law deems anger to be entirely destructive and prohibited. There is never any merit to anger. There is nothing gained by anger. There is nothing left afterwards for the angry person (Kidushin 40b-41a). When a person gets angry, if he is wise he loses his wisdom (Pesachim 66b). An angry person's life isn't life (Pesachim 113b). He tears himself and he tears his relationships down.

There is just about no practical case (consult your local orthodox rabbi for specific questions) in which anger is permitted or constructive. To train a child, you may ONLY PRETEND to be angry - never to really be angry (Rambam Hilchos Dayos 2:3). A Jew may never exhibit true anger in his home nor in front of a spouse or child. Not only may you never express anger in any way (e.g. yelling, frightening, etc.), if ever you do make a mistake, you must IMMEDIATELY fix it (apologize, soothe over, smile pleasantly, reassure a terrified child, bring a nice present, etc.) so as to allow no lasting harmful effects.

The Talmud tells us that G-d loves the person who doesn't get angry (Pesachim 113b). Ecclesiastes 11:10 says, "Remove anger from your heart," which the Talmud (Taanis 4a) takes a step even further by saying [based on this verse], "A person must train himself to be gentle."

Basically, consider anger nothing more than a spiritual "assignment" from Heaven: work this out of your system within your lifetime and, along the way, never let it cause damage in yourself or others. Remember, every moment in life is a test given to you for you to pass (Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato). Rambam (Hilchos Dayos 2:3) refers to anger as "an extremely evil trait." The person who gets angry should separate and distance himself from it. Work on it until a thing that: * used to get you angry or * provokes you or * should get you angry (!) no longer does. Until you get to the point where any causality doesn't faze you, and you remain unwaveringly gentle (Taanis 4a), you have not worked enough on getting rid of anger.

Among the objections presented by members of my audiences are: 1) it's psychologically healthy to release anger, or 2) how can I have a real relationship unless my spouse knows how I truly feel, even when I'm angry?, or 3) anger is a "warning device" by which nature informs you that you need to protect yourself.

Here is a classic example of where secular psychology can be destructive and "traif." Having both Jewish knowledge and psychological knowledge, I can tell you that 90% of secular psychology is destructive, foolish, ineffective and/or sacrilege. There is 10% that is helpful and we use the minority that is kosher and useful. Again, KOSHER AND USEFUL - both together. Even some orthodox psychologists can be poisoned by their amoral secular training and it is vital to exclusively use therapists who have reverence for Heaven, knowledge of relevant Torah, and have the integrity and courage to take practical problems or conflicts to a competent and experienced orthodox rabbi for resolution. The Torah is the revealed wisdom of the Creator, and its instruction has been in consistent and successful use by the family of Avraham for 4,000 years. No marriage is as strong, as close or as fulfilling as one which abides by the divine and benevolent wisdom of the Torah. Among the things that the Torah commands is to be holy and to be spiritually pure. Anger is a superb way to be neither.

The Talmud in Tractate Nedarim tells us (22a), "The angry person is overcome by all forms of hell;...(22b) the angry person considers G-d unimportant...the angry person forgets wisdom and increases in stupidity." The Talmud (Kidushin 41a) teaches that there is nothing left for the angry person but the anger itself (losing health, relationships, etc.).

Anger is serious. An amoral psychologist, in advocating "healthy anger," is sending you and himself into war with G-d and is setting you up for self-betrayal and isolation from people. That's costing you an inordinate price. At least, shouldn't the psychologist pay you? Just kidding.

When the Jews did the sin of the golden calf, G-d said to Moshe that He will kill the Jewish people and start a new nation from Moshe and his descendants. [G-d said this to test Moshe's devotion to the nation he led.] Moshe, the compassionate and responsible shepherd who loved his flock, pleaded with G-d to mercifully spare the Jewish people. Moshe went so far as to say that if G-d kills the Jewish people, G-d should take Moshe's name out of His [Torah] book. Moshe passed his test by defending the Jewish people, but sinned in going overboard to say that if G-d kills the Jewish people, G-d should take Moshe's name out of G-d's book.

As punishment, G-d took Moshe's name altogether out of one portion of the Torah, "Titzaveh." G-d refers to Moshe with pronouns throughout the entire portion (e.g. "you"). What is interesting, is that this portion is JUST BEFORE this interchange with G-d. You would think G-d would have taken Moshe's name out of the portion ("Ki Sisaw") of the Torah in which this interchange is recorded! Why was Moshe's name taken out of the portion immediately before this dialogue?

The Torah is not a historical book. It is not concerned with chronological sequence. It is concerned with spiritual instruction. What the absence of Moshe's name from "Titzaveh" tells me is that every year, when we read the weekly portion of "Titzaveh," we are warned that the sin of Moshe is coming in the next portion. This teaches us, for all generations, to think before we ever may say or do something rash, excited, thoughtless, etc. - anything that would be classified as a sin, by the Torah. Moshe was doing something meritorious (defending the Jewish people) but his effort had a trifle of excess. How much moreso if we are on the verge of some excess? and even "double-moreso" if it is not meritorious, if it is a sin or an indulgence? Just as the "warning" comes in the portion which is in advance of "Ki Sisaw," we are warned by the Torah to ALWAYS THINK IN ADVANCE before doing or saying something that one will regret, or have to pay for, later.

The Talmud (Kidushin 30b) says that G-d created human fault and he created the Torah as its antidote. All who engage in Torah can be saved from sin. The Talmud (Brachos 63a) says, "Every person who weakens himself from diligence in words of Torah, will not have strength to withstand the day of trouble." We see that being strong in the study AND internalization of Torah strengthens a person to be able to stand up to the tests of life. The other side of this is that one who is not able to stand up to the trials of life NECESSARILY has a weakness in his Torah. If he would have been strong in Torah, he would have been strong in confronting the trouble or provocation, in withstanding the situation as the Torah requires. Someone who professes to have Torah but who is nasty, angry, callous or who has any other shortcoming NEEDS MORE TORAH SPECIFICALLY WHERE HE IS WEAK. This will be his strength, protection and antidote.

Proverbs 24:10 says that, "The person who weakens in the day of adversity is truly not strong." Anytime a person is beset by any frightening, jarring or sudden stimulus, the "real" person comes out. You are not "on guard." You have no time to think about your response. If you do any thinking, it is "thinking on your feet." In marriage, one has to develop tolerances and strength of character IN ADVANCE so that surprising, jolting, sudden or explosive events don't bring disastrous or unkind consequences. It's like exercising and building muscles in advance so you can be in the Olympics or major leagues and handle the "big game," without having to take time and think about responses to the events or "other players." A "pro" is trained and ready to handle anything during the heat of the big game. It takes training and "spiritual muscles" to "win the game of life."

Rabbi Chaim MiVelozhin makes it clear that anger, besides being reprehensible, is very impractical, when he writes (Keser Rosh #143), "Harsh words are not heard." King Solomon, in Ecclesiastes [Kohelless] tells us the other side of this (9:17), "The gentle words of the wise are heard." He further makes clear (7:9) that anger and brains are mutually exclusive, "Let your spirit not be hasty to anger for anger rests in the bosom of fools." He prescribes the remedy (7:19), "Torah strengthens the wise more than ten ruler who control a city."

Anger increases imbecility, troubles and self-defeat, as it says, "Let your spirit not be hasty to anger 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)." "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, chapter five)."

Shulchan Oruch L'Midos writes that anger never leads to any benefit. It causes harm, drops one from his rank and it prevents repentance. Orchos Tzadikim writes that people hate an angry person, see him as crazy and they reject his words and deeds. He basically only complains and scares people, so no one can interact with him. One who prevents himself from having anger develops humility and compassion. Anger brings to cruelty and arrogance. By keeping silent one nullifies anger. If the angry one must speak, let him do so by speaking gently with a low voice. "The gentle words of the wise are heard (Ecclesiastes 9:17)." One should always keep in mind to prevent himself from anger. The more one is quick to anger, the more he must work to not be provoked, the more he must be restrained and quiet.

Shammai was severe with people who came to him with silly questions. He threw them out of his school. His strictness, therefore, sought to drive people from the world. He had a contemporary named Hillel who received everyone with wisdom, love and calm. Hillel's humility brought people under the wings of the divine presence (Shabos 31a). No one could anger Hillel and, in his bountiful humility, he always kept himself from anger. No matter how preposterous or insulting one was to Hillel, he gently and sweetly replied in a way that lovingly brought all closer to Torah.

The Orchos Tzadikim writes that the angry person does not pay attention to what he is doing so he does things that one would not come to do without anger. Anger causes one's intellect to cease functioning; so anger leads to fights, provocations and nasty words. At the time when anger comes, if the person's anger prevails, he is an angry person; if his wisdom prevails, he is a wise person. The one whose anger is seen as coming with thought will be seen in a complementary light. The one whose anger is seen as coming without thought is seen by others as an idiot.

If a person ever tears his clothes, smashes property or scatters money in his anger, he is as one who worships idolatry (Shabos 105b). The craft of the yaitzer hora (evil inclination) is to get a person to do the likes of this. Today it compels you to act rashly, foolishly and destructively as a stepping stone to compelling you to serve idols tomorrow. Besides this, the angry person is overpowered by his emotions. Since the emotional drive determines what he does, it assumes the role which a deity ought to. G-d determines what a person must do or not do. His is the will which aught to govern a person's behavior. When one allows his angry emotions to possess him, his emotions tell him what to do, his anger governs him and his behavior. His emotions have assumed the role of his deity. His anger, then, is the idol which he worships and obeys. The angry person cannot serve G-d.

The Orchos Tzadikim writes that the one who is angry and excited is seen as crazy and appalling. His life cannot be happy. He misses love in his life. The angry person is not flexible, forgiving, compassionate nor receptive. He will complain and will frighten people, he is prone to being begrudging and vengeful. Because of all of this, others won't interact with him. He will be hated. His deeds and words will be rejected by people. His anger prevents his heart from all good spiritual and material things, including personal growth. No one can correct him. If a person is angry, do not speak to him in person. When you are not in view, it is harder for him to be angry at you. The general rule is that he cannot receive any good mida (attribute or character trait) until he gets rid of anger from his heart.



Anger is a means by which a person loses control of oneself and one's reason. Every moment when one is possessed by anger, the person has fallen into the category of wild animal. The angry person loses his/her humanity and (s)he loses his/her attachment to the capacity to live in the spiritual domain that differentiates the human species from the animal species with whom we share this earth. When angry, one has given up his/her attachment to the purpose for which one is alive on earth. While having the characteristics of the animal and angel, the human's purpose is choosing to live as a spiritual and growing entity at all times; with reason, self-control and the instruction of the Torah governing all aspects of life. Because one has relinquished his/her attachment to ongoing spiritual life and growth, (s)he has separated him/herself from the ultimate source of life, G-d.

Anger is an uncontrollable expression of, and preoccupation with, your own self-importance and indignation at having had your toe stepped on. By definition, it is totally constituted of low, arrogant, self-indulgent components that are antithetical to what is human, never mind divine.

The Talmud (Shabos 105b) equates anger with the sin of idol worship. Idol worship is one of the three sins that is so evil that the Torah demands that a Jew die rather than violate it (the other two are 1. murder and 2. prohibited relations [i.e. incest/adultery]). Why? When one serves or worships a deity, one attributes belief in the existence, reality, dominion, power and authority of that entity. When one loses one's temper, one becomes totally enslaved and overwhelmed and overpowered by the emotion of anger. This means that this raging emotion is the authority, the power and the dominion, that the angry person serves. It has the reality and existence that authorizes it to domineer and control him/her. Then, the will and the dominion and the authority and the reality of the one true G-d is negated within the angry person. The Torah says clearly and unequivocally (Deuteronomy 4:35), "You have been shown in order to know that the L-rd is G-d, there is nothing else besides Him." The Torah is absolute. Nothing - with no exceptions - has real, meaningful or lasting existence, and authority, except G-d.

In the spiritual, closeness is measured by similarity. The closest hope that any physical being has to ultimate, meaningful and lasting existence is optimum closeness to and similarity to G-d: His spiritual essence, qualities and imperatives. For a Jew this means total and loyal observance of the entire Torah (for a non-Jew, closeness to G-d is achieved by observing the seven laws of the descendants of Noah - a "mini Torah" of universal decency, recognition of G-d, and civility [not within the scope of this book]).

Anger cancels the existence of one's spiritual qualities, self-control and emotional maturity. The person's behavior says that his fury, within him, takes the place of G-d, of spiritual refinement and imperative. He is doing precisely what an idolater does. He just happens to be the idolater and the idol - in one.

The Talmud [Shabos 88b] says that it is greatness when "one is insulted and doesn't insult back, one hears himself shamed and doesn't reply." Let me elaborate.

In the laws of meat and milk, if a food falls from a higher position onto another food which is in a lower position, one of the principles for determining whether the resulting mixture is permissible or forbidden is "tato gover (the lower dominates)." The one which is lower imparts its taste to the one which is higher. If cold meat falls into hot milk or cold milk falls into hot meat, since cold from above falls into hot below, and the lower dominates, the mixture is forbidden. If hot meat falls into cold milk or hot milk falls into cold meat, the mixture is permissible 1. if there is sixty times more volume in the food below than the food which fell from higher up and 2. after cutting away the portion of meat which actually touched milk (ask your rabbi practical questions).

In an argument between people, keep in mind that, in the Torah, the lower dominates. If you are "boiling" with anger and "spill" it onto any other person, your "taste" is going to dissipate and get nullified. The "hot" or attacking person can only lose. The person who remains still, calm, humble and "in good taste," is eventually going to win. This is so if the victimized person's humility and control are sixty times the amount of the abuse i.e. enough to absorb and nullify the "angry heat" which falls. The victimized person will eventually cut away the part which had contact with the "angry heat" which fell upon him or her and remain intact and kosher (never having compromised his or her standards). This restrained person is considered by the Torah to be greatness. The restrained person will retain his or her integrity and his or her intrinsic "taste" will remain in full measure and unblemished.

This is similar to the Talmud (Bava Kama 93a) saying, "Always be persecuted and not be a persecutor. There is none among the birds more persecuted than the dove and the pigeon and yet the Torah selected them to be the bird species which are kosher for the altar." The dove is described by Chazal as being loyal. It chooses one mate and stays with that one mate for a lifetime. Remaining a loyal spouse is being a "kosher" spouse, whose marriage behavior is holy service of Hashem.

The Kotzker Rebbi asked on the above statement from Bava Kama, "Why does it say 'always?' The Torah is always as concise as it can be. I would understand the meaning if the gemora would have said 'Be persecuted and not a persecutor' without 'always.' The Talmud adds 'always' because there are people who instigate others. When 'A' provokes 'B' it may look like 'B' is the persecutor. But really 'A' is at fault. The Talmud adds 'always' to teach that if you instigate another, you too are a persecutor. Never even provoke or antagonize someone. 'Always' don't be a persecutor, even an indirect persecutor." Rather, "A person's disposition with people must always be sweet (Kesubos 17a)."

Psychologically, anger can also be a cover for pain, that may have been so intense that the body's self-defense-mechanisms effectively cover the unbearable pain, and the emotion that surges to the surface is anger. A simplistic example of this is someone (without shoes on) walking into a wall and bashing a toe. The person screams in anger. It really is pain. However, anger can come more quickly than pain. Since anger lashes out (unlike pain which "lashes in"), the body doesn't have a defense mechanism to ward it off, as it may for pain. The angry person's victim, regrettably, needs defense. The angry person must work on: * eliminating anger, not releasing; * controlling anger, not victimizing.

Often, anger essentially is a psychologically protective layer covering unmanageable and intense emotional pain. Anger is an absence of cultivation of personality. Often people who have anger which actually is a cover for emotional pain suffered some form of major or recurrent psychological trauma, neglect, rejection, disappointment or abuse at an early age. The lack of cultivation may not necessarily mean that the person is a primitive person. It may mean that their personality may have been assaulted, wounded, traumatized, deprived, stunted and protectively covered over at a primitive stage of personality development. The covered part of the personality did not fully develop after that. The personality's potential may be there and brought out with deep therapy. Or, it can mean we are indeed dealing with a primitive (or arrogant) person.

Throughout Jewish tradition, anger is shown to be altogether destructive, sinful, reprehensible and self-preoccupied. When angry, one's intellect, reason, character, principle, stability and self-control all disappear. If you want to do something with anger, think of anger * as the way one's sinning (e.g. by being angry) makes G-d "feel" (anger at the sinner), and * as an "assignment" to work on (to eliminate) during one's lifetime. Attribute no other roles to anger. The following, from the Talmud, describes how far Jewish values abhor and separate from anger.

The great Torah leader, Hillel, was known for being gentle and patient. Two "wise guys" made a bet. If one could succeed in angering Hillel, he would win 400 valuable coins. One of these fellows said, "I will infuriate him," and he went to Hillel's house shortly before shabos, while Hillel was washing his hair. As he approached Hillel's door, he brazenly called, "Is Hillel here?!"

Hillel wrapped himself with a garment and came to the door. He softly asked the caller how he could help him.

He asked Hillel, "Why are the heads of the Babylonians round?"

Hillel gently replied, "My son, you ask a very good question. It is because they have no competent midwives."

The caller left and returned a little later. He called out rudely again for Hillel who, again, courteously left his shabos preparations to ask what the fellow wanted. "Why are the eyes of desert-dwellers partly closed?"

Hillel sweetly replied, "My son, you ask a very good question. It is because they live where there is sand."

The caller left and came back a third time, again roughly calling for Hillel. Hillel again warmly welcomed him. "Why are the feet of Africans flat?"

Hillel patiently replied, "My son, you ask a very good question. It is because they walk barefooted in marshes."

The caller said, "I have a lot of questions to ask you but I am afraid you will get angry."

Hillel patiently replied, "Ask as many questions as you wish."

"Are you Hillel, the leader of Israel?"

Hillel gently replied, "Yes."

The caller exploded, "The less people like you the better!"

"Why?" Hillel gently inquired.

"Because," the caller boomed angrily, "through you I have lost 400 zuz!"

Hillel gently replied, "Be careful with your spirit. It is worthy that you lose this 400 zuz and another 400 zuz that Hillel should never get angry" (Shabos 30b-31a).



You are obligated to be in control, to be boss over your emotions. You are stating, thereby, that you serve G-d, His will and His Torah. G-dliness, dominion and authority are attributable only to G-d. Being "the idol and idolater in one" is no exemption.

Miriam and Aaron spoke against their brother Moshe (Numbers chapter 12). Moshe quietly listened, willing to accept any mussar (correction) that they may have had to offer. The Torah there testifies that Moshe was the most humble person on earth. He didn't fight. He didn't get defensive. But do you know who did fight and get defensive on Moshe's behalf? Hashem Himself. He gave Miriam tzoras (leprosy). We learn from this that if one is truly wronged, he should remain silent and humble. Look for what lesson may be contained by the other person's position. Trust that Hashem will correct the wrong. And with all this, Moshe's response was to immediately and sincerely pray for Miriam - that she be healed. He didn't have a speck of bad feeling. He didn't give thought to her criticism. He didn't think about himself. He only thought about her well-being.

King Solomon writes, "Humility is before honor (Proverbs 18:12)." The Talmud (tractate Shabos 88b) says that greatness is being insulted and not insulting back, being shamed and not replying. Pirkei Avos (chapter two) says: never to be easy to anger. Let me elaborate this last item. More completely, the mishna in Pirkei Avos says, "Let the honor of your fellow be as dear to you as your own, never be easy to anger and repent one day before your death." We see, since these are all one sentence, a unity and linkage between these ideas. There is a direct correspondence between giving honor and restraining anger. You are obligated to give enormous honor to your spouse. The honor due your spouse must be dear to you! If you get angry, you violate and cancel another's honor. Concentrate on seeing your spouse - and his/her honor - as dear.

Pirkei Avos (chapter two) says, "Never be easily angered." In his commentary to Pirkei Avos, Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch says: rather than violating another's honor through anger at another's conduct, concentrate on your own shortcomings and work unceasingly on your own growth and character improvement. Mend your ways every day because you never know if you will be alive tomorrow. By studying and respecting the ways of the Torah and its sages, you will achieve spiritual improvement and make your life warmer in the process.

The Talmud (Pirkei Avos chapter 4) says that when a person is angry, that is not the time to try to appease him. Hold out till things subside and get back to calm and to rational, so you can deal with the person and the issue effectively, having a mature dialogue.

The Torah (Leviticus 22:31-32) says, "And you will keep My commandments, and do them, I am G-d. You will not profane my Holy Name, rather, I will sanctified by the children of Israel, I am G-d who makes you holy." It is a mitzva to be a kidush Hashem (sanctification of G-d) and a mitzva to NOT be a chillul Hashem (profanation of G-d). When one fulfills the will of G-d, especially when others see, one sanctifies G-d and achieves the mitzva of kidush Hashem. When one violates the will of Hashem (chillul Hashem), especially when others see, one cancels the mitzva of kidush Hashem and achieves the sin of chillul Hashem. Everything one says and does - even HOW one says or does it - even the attitude, feeling and intention that one brings to each thing we say and do - can either be a kidush Hashem or chillul Hashem. The effect of this is amplified by whether others see us, especially if an action is seen in public. Remember in your marriage that every act, every word, every second, every example of how you treat each other can either be a kidush Hashem or a chillul Hashem - a mitzva or sin every single moment. Every sin is a piece of death. Every mitzva is a piece of life. Over the years you will stack up a million sins or mitzvos. It's up to you. Uvacharta BiChayim - choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19).

The Alshich wrote, "Words that come out of the heart enter into the heart." Shlomo HaMelech [King Solomon] wrote, "A soft reply turns away fury [Proverbs 15:1]. Both of principles are at the heart of the following instructive story.

An American became fascinated with the martial art "aikido." He learned Japanese fluently and went to Japan to study. For years he underwent grueling physical exertion and mental discipline in the training. He developed to the point at which he became a fourth degree black belt. You would need to be inside a tank to fight him and survive.

One day he got on the Tokyo subway. Since there were no available seats, he was standing near one end of the car, holding onto one of the poles that extend from floor to ceiling. At one station, a rough, dirty, smelly, disheveled, rowdy drunk got on at the opposite end of the car that the black belt was on. The drunk had thrown up over himself. The car was filled with respectable Japanese, sitting up straight, clean-cut, "proper." The drunk was a total anachronism. He was antagonizing and intimidating the passengers, one by one, going up the car slowly towards the black belt at the opposite end of the car. He would scowl at one, growl at the next, throw himself at the next, and haul profanity at the next. It was ugly. As he made his offensive, menacing, irritating way towards him, the black belt became smug and thought that when the drunk gets to him, he could turn this obnoxious, stinking drunk into chop meat.

Immediately before the black belt, an elderly Japanese couple was sitting. The drunk fiercely approached the couple. The black belt felt he would have to spring into action a moment sooner than planned if the couple were physically threatened. He was ready now. The drunk knowingly bellowed at the old man, "You despise alcohol!" The old man gently and sincerely said, "I like alcohol. I have a plum tree in my back yard. Every evening my wife and I sit in the back yard. We watch the sun go down and sip homemade plum wine. Would you like to come home with us, sip plum wine with us and get cleaned up?" The drunk broke down crying on the spot. The crowd scorned the drunk. The old man related to the drunk. The old man's kind words made direct and immediate human contact with an aching heart. The drunk said that his wife had just died a few days before and he had gone to pieces over his loss. There had been no kindness for him anywhere in his recent life. Till this old man.

The black belt watched the whole thing in awe. When he considered that he had worked for years to build mental discipline, and that in a second it all went by the wayside and his mouth was watering to bully this drunk who had just suffered through the anguish and grief of losing his wife, he said to the person who told me this story (another, more sensitive, American martial arts expert), that he felt two inches tall. The black belt was beaten to a pulp by a kind, gentle old man; and the drunk was raised back to humanity by that kind, gentle old man.

The Torah is a G-d given system containing tools for developing a full and rounded inner-character; all the secular training of the smug, arrogant black belt fell away, when he was put to the test; the Torah itself says that you have no basis to trust the most civilized of secular people without the tools and the absolutes of Torah because (Genesis 20:11), "There is no fear of G-d here." The Malbim (Rabbi Meir Leibush Ben Yechiel Michel, 1809-1879, one of the major commentator's on the Bible), on this verse, points out that the most philosophical and sophisticated society will pervert its system of law and sink into depravity and murder to get what it wants, in the absence fear of Hashem.

In relationships, anger is among the most destructive things in existence. If a psychologist says to be free with your anger with any other person, ask your orthodox rabbi if you can dump some pathological fury on the psychologist, to give him a sample of what "health" is! After you've thrown the psychologist's swivel chair through his window, ask him if you've "graduated" (if he wasn't in it!).

Then, there are the Torah prohibitions (Leviticus 19:17-18) against ever * hating any Jew, * bearing a grudge or * taking any revenge.

The Torah openly prohibits any feeling of hate towards your fellow Jew. If the feeling of hate comes into your heart (even secretly), the feeling being in your heart is a transgression every moment that you are not removing the feeling of hate from your heart. If a person wrongs you, give tochacha (verbal correction). This must be done softly, privately and asking why the person did the action. You may never verbally attack. Perhaps the harm was not intended. Perhaps there were extenuating circumstances that you don't know about. Perhaps the person feels badly already. Perhaps the person doesn't realize how hurtful the behavior was.

The Torah is strict on hate in the heart, even if silent. It is a serious sin even without any external hurtful expression or response (hitting, arguing, etc.) against the person. Any vengeance is prohibited by the Torah, whether by actively doing something bad to the person who hurt you or by passively refraining from doing something good for the person who hurt you. If you behave ANY DIFFERENTLY from the way you would have HAD THE PERSON NEVER HURT YOU, you are guilty of revenge.

All the while that one bears a grudge, one transgresses. If you would verbally attack or "put down" the person for doing something wrong against you, or if you would get excited at the person, or if you think that you might want to do something vengeful (even if you don't do it), you transgress the Torah prohibition against bearing any grudge.

Like hate, grudgebearing is violated in the heart (even without any action nor any change in behavior towards the party who wronged you - because, inside, you still feel like complaining or attacking). All the while that one is working within himself to put hate or grudge out of his heart, he satisfies the Torah. All the while that you have not finished putting bad feelings (hate, fury, resentment, etc.) altogether out of your heart, you are not in violation as long as * you are continually working to altogether remove the bad feelings from your heart * you do not behave differently towards the person than had he never wronged you and * your sincere goal is to get as soon as possible to where you altogether forget about the person's having wronged you, such that no trace of bad feeling will be left at all hidden in your heart.

If someone is a genuine threat, one must take appropriate steps to protect himself from danger. This does not mean license to feel hatred - only to take protective steps.

If a person wrongs you, leave it to Heaven to punish him. It is not your job to punish. Your job is to fulfill the will of G-d. Let it not be your problem when another does not do his job! G-d runs the world and He knows what needs to be done. When Miriam spoke against Moshe, G-d gave her tzoraas (leprosy). Moshe kept quiet, listened to what she had to say and he didn't say a word against her. Moshe even prayed that Hashem heal her of the disease that G-d gave her as punishment in his defense! The Torah there (Numbers 12) is showing that It wants us to be humble in the face of being wronged. It is midas hachasidus (the trait of piety) * to suspect that the person who wrongs you does not know better, * to immediately be calm and forgiving, or * to otherwise never feel any bad against anyone who wrongs you.

The midrash (Vayikra Raba 13) lists three occasions on which Moshe forgot laws because he got angry. Consider that this is Moshe who received the Torah directly from Hashem and spent 40 days in Heaven. On three occasions he lost his Torah knowledge because of his temper. He forgot a law of shabos when he got angry [Exodus 16:20] at the people who stored up the mon (against G-d's commandment). He forgot to tell the people that they gather on Friday a double portion, When the tribal leaders reported that the people gathered a double portion on Friday of their own accord, Moshe said that "This is what the L-rd had said." He did not say "What I said." Since Moshe forgot, he had to say, "What the L-rd said." Secondly, Moshe got angry [Numbers 31:14] and he forgot about the laws of koshering metal utensils. Seeing that Moshe did not tell the law to the people, Elazar The Kohen told the men to kosher metal utensils with fire. Elazar said that G-d commanded the law to Moshe. This teaches us that Moshe, not Elazar, received the law from Hashem. Why did Elazar, and not Moshe teach this law? Because when Moshe became angry, he forgot the law. Thirdly, Moshe forgot the law of an onen [one who loses a close relative, before the funeral]. Moshe became angry with Alazar and Isamar [Leviticus 10:16] when they did not eat their portion of that day's sin-offering sacrifices. On that day, Alazar and Isamar lost two brothers. Since he was angry, Moshe forgot that an onen is not allowed to eat holy food before the burial of his dead. Aaron explained that the law is that an onen may not eat holy food before burial of his dead. Moshe was pleased with what Aaron taught him and he admitted that he had made an error. We must note the greatness of Moshe who was willing to admit truth, without any embarrassment, when he forgot a law [Zevachim 101a]. We must learn from this that we must admit truth without hesitation or feeling embarrassed.

Pirkei Avos (Ch. six) tells us "There is no truly free person except he who is engaged in Torah." Chazal have equated anger with serving idolatry. A deity dictates what people do and those of that deity's religion serve the will of that deity. Similarly, anger takes a person over and dictates what he does. His reasoning and self control, and his obedience to the will of Hashem, are gone. The gemora (Gitten 13a) tells us that, "A slave likes to be unrestrained." Being a Torah Jew means giving up your feelings and drives that clash with, or bring violation of, the will of G-d. One who gives in to what he wants is a true slave. Not having the power, the option of saying "no" to oneself, is genuine slavery. The person who is truly free is he who can choose to do what is right, what is the will of G-d. This person is not a slave to his drives and ego. The person who is taken over by anger, or any negative thing which he does not have the ability to choose NOT TO DO, is the true slave. The person who is truly free is the one who can submit his will to the will of G-d under all circumstances, especially those which are trying and difficult.



Don't get caught up in your "rights." "Rights" is "code word" for "demands" which come with explanations. Demands, with or without explanation, still do the same basic damage to a relationship. "Rights" impose upon the next person and when you impose enough, any relationship will break down. All demands, rights, entitlements and taking are a ticket to degeneration of a relationship. Sometimes it is gradual or subtle. But always it is inevitable. Eventually, the house of cards blows down, too weak to stand in the winds of life.

The Talmud (Bava Metzia 30b) teaches, "[The Torah says (Exodus 18:20) that Moshe is to show the Jewish people] 'The deed which they must do.' [What is the meaning of the extra terminology? The Torah could have more briefly said that Moshe should show them 'the deed' or show them 'what they must do']. 'The deed' means 'strict law.' 'Which they must do' means 'going beyond the requirements of strict law.' [The Jew is required to do] acts of kindness, care for the sick, bury the dead and go beyond the letter of the law on behalf of one another. Yerushalayim was destroyed [by the Romans] because they judged based on strict law and did not go beyond the letter of the law in their actions."

Even when empowered by "rights," even by rights taught to us by Moshe, even by rights that could be explained by Torah law(!), when one makes strict demands on others, society and relationships cannot function or endure. This is plain to see in modern society and marriages. One's emotions, frame of mind, emotional needs become overpowered by the drive to grasp, to take, to "be entitled." The person becomes enframed and locked within a rigid boundary, beyond which he or she can not give. The person loses empathy, understanding, feeling, heart. The other person is only seen as a fulfiller or supplier of "rights" to which the person is inalienably entitled. Remember that "rights" comes from democracy, which is a Greek idea. It is the Greeks who were destroyed by G-dly miracle at the time of the Chanuka story. It was their defeat at the hands of the Jews that ended the Greek Empire. G-d's eventual reply to "I have rights," is destruction, so much so that He will do miracles to eliminate it and scatter the Jews in a brutal and lengthy exile to show them that they should have been thinking about Torah, generosity in good deeds and love of fellow Jews instead of "rights."



Rabbi Yonoson Eibshitz was one of the Torah giants of the mid-eighteenth century. The Torah (Genesis 37:4) says that Yosef's brothers "hated him and they were not able to speak to him so as to be peaceful." Rabbi Eibshitz explains that it was because they would not speak to Yosef that the brothers came to hate him, leading to their soon-to-come violence against him. If people would talk out their problems with each other, they can work things out and, thereby, can maintain peace.

Whenever Moshe's brother, Aaron HaKohain, heard that there was any argument between Jews, he ran to make peace between them (Sanhedrin 6b). When Aaron died, the Torah (Numbers 20:29) says that the entire Jewish nation mourned for 30 days. Why such nationwide tribute and grief? Because when two people would quarrel, Aaron would go to one and say, "Your friend feels so badly to be in a quarrel with you. He is ashamed for wronging you. He told me he loves you so much but doesn't know the words with which to make up." He would stay with the person until all enmity was gone from the person's heart. Aaron would then go to the second friend and say the same. Both would say, "How can I remain in a fight with such a beloved friend?" Both would go to the other and meet and, without saying a word, each would hug the other and be best of friends (Avos DeRebi Noson, chapter 12). Aaron did this to make peace all of his life. Israel loved him.

The Torah (Leviticus 26:6) tells of the bounty of the land of Israel (rain, crops, fruit, wealth) and G-d says, "And I will give the land peace." Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Ben Yitzchok, 11th century, foremost commentator on the Bible and Talmud) writes, "Perhaps you will say, 'I have what to eat and drink, but without peace there is nothing.' So the verse teaches, 'And I will give the land peace,' from which we know that peace is EQUAL TO ALL other blessings combined together."



The midrash (Bamidbar Raba) teaches that the only pipeline through which blessing comes down from Heaven to earth is peace. The Talmud (Chulin 89a) teaches that the world is kept in existence by G-d only in the merit of the people who hold themselves back in a time of fighting, who keep the mouth closed in a time of anger. Whenever there is a dispute, difference or impasse of any description, the first rule is to always remain soft and calm, no matter how provoked, agitated or justified you feel. No one benefits from anger, loss of control, threats, insults, attack or "I never should have married you." In the merit of your keeping quiet, controlled and peaceful, you help keep the world existing.

The midrash (Bamidbar Raba 18) says that the Hebrew word for "fight (machlokess)" tells us how G-d hates fighting. By analyzing the word "machlokess," we see that built right into this word is G-d's attitude to fighting between any Jews. The letters of the word are mem, ches, lamed, kuf and sov. Mem (m) stands for makeh (beating), ches (ch) stands for charon (fury), lamed (l) stands for likui (punishment), kuf (k) stands for klala (curse) and sov (t or s, depending on grammatical conditions) stands for to'aiva (abomination). When a Jew fights, G-d beats him, is furious with him, punishes him, curses him and deems him a repugnant and disgusting abomination. Any breach of the peace just isn't worth the consequences. G-d wants Jews to be good to each other and to get along peacefully with each other. And this is the case all the moreso for one's highest priority: one's spouse and children...consistently.

A good idea for beating anger is to inspect if there is any constructive way to channel your emotional energy? If you can focus and harness anger or any intense emotion, it could drive you to do productive things while that adrenalin is flowing. One fellow knew of a charitable cause for which money was urgently needed. He knew some people with money but he felt inhibited, so he put off calling. He kept on procrastinating. In the meanwhile, something happened with his wife and he got angry. Instead of blowing up at her, he excused himself, saying that then was not the time to talk about the issue with her. He used his newfound energy and courage creatively. He went to the phone and called the people and raised money for the charitable need.

Another strategy for coping with anger is to ask yourself if there is any mussar (ethical growth lesson) that you can learn from the fact that G-d put you into this nesayon (trial). One fellow was provoked by his boss. Because he needed the job desperately, he controlled his fury. He used the opportunity to examine why G-d may have put him into this vulnerable and aggravating situation. He worked on mollifying his temper. As it turned out, he met a very sweet young woman and they got married and were very happy together. This woman was highly sensitive and could not handle anger. Had he not trained himself to control anger after being abused by his boss, this woman would not have been able to live with him. Because he succeeded enough in conquering his temper, he found and kept this lovely wife!

Every moment when one is possessed by anger, the person has lost control of himself and his reason. The angry person loses his/her humanity and (s)he loses his/her attachment to the capacity to live in the spiritual domain that differentiates the human species from the animal. What is more scary is "A person is recognized [for who he really is] by three things: how he is when he is drunk, how he spends his money and how he is when angry [Eruvin 65b]." If a person remains mild and he still behaves like a mentsh when angry, this truly is a "quality-person." If he behaves in an uncontrolled, cruel, furious, destructive manner when angry, he is unlikely to be a genuinely good person.

When angry, one has given up his/her attachment to the purpose for which one is alive on earth. While having the characteristics of the animal and angel, the human's purpose is choosing to live as a spiritual and growing entity at all times; with reason, self-control and the instruction of the Torah governing all aspects of life. Because one has relinquished his/her attachment to ongoing spiritual life and growth, (s)he has separated him/herself from the ultimate source of life, G-d. The Talmud in Tractate Nedarim tells us (22a), "The angry person is overtaken by every form of gehenom;...(22b) the angry person considers G-d unimportant...he forgets wisdom and increases in stupidity." The Talmud (Kidushin 41a) teaches that there is nothing left for the angry person but the anger itself (losing health, relationships, etc.).

Anger is serious. A psychologist who advocates "healthy anger" is sending you and himself into war with G-d and is setting you up for self-betrayal and isolation from people. Anger is an uncontrollable expression of, and preoccupation with, your own self-importance and indignation at having had your toe stepped on. By definition, it is totally constituted of arrogant self-indulgent components that are antithetical to what is human, never mind divine.

The Talmud (Shabos 105b) equates anger with the sin of idol worship. Idol worship is one of the three sins that is so evil that the Torah demands that a Jew die rather than violate it (the other two are 1. murder and 2. prohibited relations [i.e. incest/adultery]). Why? When one serves or worships a deity, one attributes belief in the existence, reality, dominion, power and authority of that entity. When one loses one's temper, one becomes totally enslaved, overwhelmed and overpowered by the emotion of anger. This means that this raging emotion is the authority, the power and the dominion that the angry person serves. It has the reality and existence that authorizes it to domineer and control him/her. Then, the will and the dominion and the authority and the reality of the one true G-d is negated within the angry person. The Torah says clearly and unequivocally (Deuteronomy 4:35), "You have been shown in order to know that the L-rd is G-d, there is nothing else besides Him." The Torah is absolute. Nothing - with no exceptions - has real, meaningful or lasting existence, and authority, except G-d. In the spiritual, closeness is measured by similarity. The closest hope that any physical being has to ultimate, meaningful and lasting existence is optimum closeness and similarity to G-d: His spiritual essence, qualities and imperatives. For a Jew this means total and loyal observance of the entire Torah, including subjugation of intense, selfish, immature or angry emotions.

In a case where one is about to explode or get vicious, imagine that the Chafetz Chayim (or your rebbe, or posaik, or any tzadik for whom you have awe and respect, or your boss at work, or your next door neighbor who you always try to impress) is there in the room seeing every move you make. When Yosef HaTzadik was approached by his employer's wife, he ran away (Genesis 39:12). He saved himself from sin by seeing the image of his holy father (Midrash Tanchuma). By seeing Yaakov's image in his mind as if his father was there, Yosef came under control immediately, and effectively saved himself from sin. It is in the merit of this that he came to be called "Yosef Hatzadik."

One person had powerful, driving and intrusive yetzer hora. He used the technique of agreeing with himself to commit the sin AFTER a delay which would allow him to forget about it. He became very creative at "brainwashing" himself and he avoided sinning repeatedly. He told himself, "OK, I'll give in to myself BUT now it's almost time to doven. How can I pray to my Creator with my prayer stained with sin? Let me pray first, and then I'll [do the sin] after the minyan." "Today is: Monday/Thursday, a day of extra Heavenly mercy; Rosh Chodesh, a day of kapara; Shabos/Yom Tov, a day of holiness - how can I do this on such a special day?" "OK, I'll do the sin BUT today has been such a good day for me. Why should I ruin it? I'll do it tomorrow." "OK, I'll do the sin BUT I'm tired now. I'll rest for a while and do it when I wake up." "OK, I'll do the sin BUT I first have to [speak to (so and so), do (a chore), make a phone call]. I'll do it afterwards." "OK, I'll do the sin BUT now I'm with [my wife, business associates, neighbors, children]. How could I be a chillul Hashem? I'll do it later when I'm in a different place." "OK, I'll do the sin BUT I didn't ask my rabbi yet if the halacha permits this [explosion, abuse, sin]. Before I do something, I always have to ask a shaalo anyway. I'll wait until I ask my rav and hear what he says to do first." "OK, I'll do the sin but I need exercise for my health. I'll go for a walk first and do the sin later." He used this technique effectively and perseveringly and just about never did the sin.

Repeatedly read Tehillim chapter 131 (lo govah leebi). It has only three verses and has power to nullify a yetzer hora. If you don't know Hebrew, learn this so that you can say it with understanding and concentration. In essence, King David reports how he never allowed his heart, eyes or deeds to succumb to bad things. Be careful to pronounce the "mapik heh" in the word "govaH" (a "mapik heh" is when heh [corresponding to "H"] 1. is the last letter in a word, 2. has a dot in it and 3. has a vowel - in such a case, the vowel is pronounced first and the "h" consonant sound is pronounced AFTER the vowel sound).

Read "Krias Shma" with kavona and with awareness that this life is brief and fleeting, with correct pronunciation (e.g. the "mapik heh" in the word "yevulaH;" and making sure to separate every word and never slurring words together). Imagine yourself on a deathbed and recovery depends upon never sinning again. Moshe Montefiore, the famous philanthropist, bought a coffin, got into it every day and said, "Moshe, it's one day closer to the end." One man felt a powerful impulse to become angry and abusive at his wife. The gemara says to ridicule a yaitzer hora (Sota 43a). He saw in his mind's eye a big dumb gorilla, with his own face, holding a banana. Instead of blowing up, he giggled at the silly thought of his acting like a monkey, and the impulse was over.

When calm, consider your behavior. Ask yourself, "Do I want to act like a [tyrant, beast, warrior, maniac, whatever]?" When an impulse comes to blow up, abuse, lose control, go into rage, be vicious or callous, remember how you answered, "No, I don't want to act like a...". You don't want to see yourself in a negative way, nor to treat anyone in a negative way. You want to do what is right. You are "Tzelem Elokim (the Image of G-d)" and so is every other Jew. You want to see yourself, your behavior and your spouse in a positive, consistently favorable way. You want to see yourself and your spouse as G-dly.

Another thing that people overlook is proper and balanced nutrition. For example, there are protein deficiencies which show up as depression, anxiety or (you guessed it) anger...things which appear as if they are psychological or midos conditions. When was the last time you considered your diet and nutritional intake? When was the last time you went to a doctor for a physical examination? When was the last time you got a blood test to see if there is enough iron in there? Do you need professional help to manage the level of stress, pressure, responsibility, frustration or aggravation in your life? Do you get enough sleep? Does your diet include the full range of needed minerals to keep physically healthy and capable of responding to life wholesomely and effectively? Do you have to work on a combination of issues?

In the Torah portion Vayikra, the Torah describes the sacrifices that atone for an individual's sin. In most cases, the Torah says "When a person [odom] brings a sacrifice...". In one case, the Torah says, "When a soul [nefesh] brings a sacrifice...". Why the change this one time? Why in only one specific case does the Torah see fit to refer to a nefesh? When the Torah changes to the word "nefesh," the Torah is discussing the flour offering. If a rich person sins, his offering is to be from a large animal [e.g. cattle] which is quite expensive. If a person is in the middle class, he brings two birds, a smaller expense. If a person is a pauper, he brings a handful of flour as his sacrifice, a relatively tiny expense. A rich person thinks nothing of spending money. For him, it flows like water. The middle class person can live with the smaller expense of his two birds. The impoverished person does not have money for bare necessities. Even though a handful of flour is very cheap for everybody else, any expense, even for a handful of flour, is a sacrifice. When the impoverished person brings his flour offering, he is sacrificing his very soul for Hashem. To show that this is the most precious sacrifice, to Hashem, to acknowledge that the pauper is sacrificing his own soul, the Torah says, "When a soul brings a sacrifice...[the pauper will bring it from flour]."

Similarly, any fulfillment of G-d's will, which comes with our sacrifice, is dear to Hashem.



Pirkei Avos (chapter five) tells us to go through and through the Torah because everything is in it. Accordingly, when I do marriage counseling, I often tell quarreling couples, "Your policy should be 'We don't have fights, we have shaalos [Torah questions].'" Since everything is in the Torah, the answer to every dispute is. This should apply to all inter-personal relationships: "We don't have fights, we have shaalos!"

I occasionally ask people what "psak" means. They typically tell me "an answer to a question." I inform them that "tshuva" means "answer" with respect to a question. "P'sak" means the termination of a question. When the rabbi answers a question with a p'sak, the question is not merely answered - IT IS OVER! There is no more discussion, there are no more personalities or conflicts. The rabbi's answer is what the Torah says the halacha is with regard to the question and that is the end of it. Finished.

Rabbi Yonosan Eibshitz made an intriguing observation. When someone comes to a rabbi asking him to determine whether a certain animal is kosher or not, he will accept the reply that it is not kosher with a good attitude, even though this causes considerable financial loss. However, if the same person comes to a rabbi asking him to determine a financial dispute with another person, he will be angry at the rabbi for deciding against him, even when his financial loss is very small. Why is there this difference in attitude? When someone is told that his meat is not kosher, he accepts the loss graciously because no one else gains. But in a financial dispute, his loss is the other person's gain and this fills him with jealousy.

We see that interpersonal disputes are filled with emotion and subjectivity. One who loses is tempted to say, "The rabbi did not understand my side to the story." "This rabbi does not know what he is talking about." "The rabbi must have been bribed."

"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.

The Torah Jew is obligated to live by halacha. The Chazone Ish said that the first test of whether a person is frum is whether he observes ALL of halacha. It is hoped that the reader will be made to think, from this section, in terms of applying halacha to every difference with another person, so that on each occasion he will do only what is "correct and good in the eyes of Hashem."

I will bring some representative cases, from various Torah sources, primarily Shulchan Oruch [Choshen Mishpot] and Halichos Olam [Kitzur Dinim Bain Odom Li'Chavairo]. In order to bring awareness of halacha in the arena of interpersonal quarrels, and to get the reader thinking about replacing fights with shaalos in practical every day life, we proceed with the following sampling of halachos. Hopefully the reader will:

* become sensitive to all other people,

* learn and recognize what impact your actions have on others,

* remain calm, polite and friendly when a difference happens,

* learn that there are two sides to each story,

* understand that the other party has rights, needs, feelings,

* retain yiras Shomayim throughout the entire episode,

* seek a qualified rov for instruction for all disputes and

* resolve all differences peacefully through da'as Torah.

This way, Jews will only have shaalos and never, chass vishalom, fights.



All who are involved in fighting violate the Torah commandment, "Do not be like Korach and his group" [who made a dispute with Moshe Rabainu; Numbers, 17:5]. The one who fights with others is called "evil." Fighting is not merely a sin itself but it brings to many other sins. Swearing that one will take sides in a dispute is a false oath because he is swearing to violate a mitzva. If he disgraces a person on the opposite side, he has a serious sin, all the moreso if the victim is a Torah scholar and more than that if the victim is his main rabbi. One can lose his portion in the world to come for disgracing a Torah scholar. Fighting can cause the sins of hurting feelings, slanderous or damaging talk (loshon hora, motzee shame ra and rechiluss), harming another's health or property, hate, vengeance, grudge-bearing and anger.

One already engaged in a dispute must strive with all his might to get out of the quarrel, reject loshon hora about any disputants, accept any insults or embarrassment derived from quitting the fight and disobey his father who orders him to be in the dispute. Instead, one must do all that is possible to silence the fight and to bring peace. All suffering derived from separating from a quarrel cannot compare with suffering of gehenom for being in the quarrel.

To settle a fight and bring peace, one is obligated to impose on himself and do all that is within his ability, for example to travel or spend money. It is a sin to remain silent, whether the disputant is someone he loves or hates, whether he is a party to the fight or whether he is not a party to the fight. Even if your strivings to end the fight do not succeed immediately, perhaps your efforts will succeed at a future time or will cause people outside of the fight to refrain from entering the fight. Therefore, you should not hold back because you fear you will not succeed at ending the quarrel. A distinguished person and a common person have equal obligation to end a fight between any Jews. Moshe Rabainu tried to make peace with Doson and Abiram, two evil trouble-makers. To not strive to make peace is considered undoing fear of Heaven, which is very evil.

The above is said of people arguing over worldly interests such as money or glory. It is an obligation to fight against those who sin and pursue ways that are not good in the eyes of Hashem, but only after first doing all that is possible to pursue peace and bring sinners back in tshuva. If one does not do all that he possibly can to exert himself and stop the sin, he is punished for their sins. One must differentiate between arguing against a sinful path and being a "rodaif" against a person [one who pursues a person to harm him]." Hashem always favors one who is pursued by a rodaif even if a righteous person is a rodaif after a sinner. Hashem wants sin eradicated, but not sinners. He wants them to do tshuva and receive His blessings along with the righteous. It is only an argument for the sake of Heaven if:

* the parties love each other,

* there is no struggle of personalities,

* there is no quest for victory or conquest,

* there are never personal insults,

* the parties follow instruction of a great Torah authority with fear of Heaven, and

* they differ only on what the truth is regarding the halachic matter at hand, so that there is greatest service of Hashem.

If their fight is personal and there is hate, Soton is behind this fight; it is not for G-d nor Torah.



The Torah prohibits wrongful pricing for certain kinds of merchandise, whether overcharging by the seller or underpricing by the buyer. Rather, one must conduct business honestly. This applies to all forms of business, including renting, contractual deals and monetary exchange.

One may not be deceptive about product. For example, one may not put attractive fruit at the top of a barrel of spoiled fruit to make the batch look like it is all fresh or mix a few spoiled fruit in to the barrel to raise profit on the batch. One may not paint product that is worn and rusty and then sell it as new.

One may not cheat on weights or measures whether to a Jewish customer or non-Jew. Doing so is a very serious sin. You may not even keep in your possession a measuring tool (e.g. worn out scale) that is deficient because maybe it will come to accidentally be used and thereby cheat someone. Money obtained through dishonesty or sin is separated from the person (e.g. robbery, doctor bills or losing investments) or the person is separated from the money (i.e. premature death). There are many terms in the Torah for stealing, each with a slightly different meaning (e.g. genaiva, gezaila, oshek) to teach that Hashem hates stealing so much that every variety merits its own unique name. To become wealthy and keep that wealth, one must conduct business faithfully (bi'emunah). One must conduct business according to what is customary in that region. For example, if the custom is to give a little extra (more than the precise weight), one must not fail to give the extra. This applies even if the customer agrees to accept less (the precise amount he is charged for) because someone may see and learn to fail to give extra and then, in that location, he is stealing and G-d is very strict about any stealing.

You must always keep your word whether for yes or for no (i.e. whether you say you will do something or you will not do something). If you promise to buy or sell something and to transact at certain terms, you must keep the agreement even if a better deal comes your way before you finish consummating the transaction, whether with land or merchandise, whether from a Jew or non-Jew. If a price has not been agreed upon, it is permissible to retract. If an action has taken place (e.g. partial payment has been made or if the buyer made a mark on the item), and there has not yet been a formal transfer of ownership, if either retracts, he cannot be technically forced to complete the transaction but is cursed by Chazal to have punishments like the people of the time of the flood, the Tower of Bavel, Sedom and Egyptians who drowned in the sea; because he did not stand by his word. If terms were agreed upon without an action, and the buyer or seller goes back on his word, he is called "lacking in faith" and he is disparaged by Chazal. If you are an agent for another, you must act according to the terms. For example, if A gives money to an agent to buy land or merchandise, and if the agent uses his own money and buys the item for himself, he is called a swindler. If he used the owner's money and bought the item for himself, he is a thief who must return the item even though he took possession. The pious person is not satisfied to only keep his word, he will also do what he decided in his heart to do. For example, if someone said to himself, "I will sell this to him at this price," and the other person offers him a larger price, the righteous man will sell it at the lower price that he decided upon in his heart. In all things, one should keep the thoughts in his heart when the matter has any interpersonal characteristic that is for the good of another Jew and which is in his power to do.

Regarding himself, one does not have to do even that which one says verbally that he plans to do to benefit himself, unless the matter is somehow pertaining to a mitzva. Generally, it is a Torah prohibition to say one thing with the mouth and intend another thing with his heart.

If one gives property to a workman and the workman damages the object, or does something different from the assignment (e.g. a tailor dying a garment the wrong color), the workman is obligated for damages to the owner's property.

All debts or loans must be paid according to their terms, whether to pay any employees [steady employees, contractual workers, part-time or per-project workers, etc.], pay creditors from whom you have purchased, to pay back monetary loans or to return borrowed property. This applies regardless of the means through which you hold back, whether by force, deception or locking the property out of the owner's reach. Sefer Mitzvos HaGadol says that withholding the money or property of others violates the prohibition of machlokess [quarrels, disputes] as the Torah says, "Do not be like Korach and his group." If necessary, one should sell his property, even seforim and land, to pay his debts on time.

The Torah commands many mitzvos addressing various kinds of thievery: g'naiva (sneaky stealing), gezaila (forceful stealing in the open), oshek (holding back something that belongs to another person), not to hold back pay to a worker and to pay a worker on the day he is due to be paid. The midrash tells us that G-d made many mitzvos against stealing to show how much he hates it. The Chinuch says that the Torah could have said one mitzva, "Do not take anything of another's in a way not allowed by Torah law." Since there are many detailed mitzvos addressing the various specific types of stealing, we see that a person can, in one act, violate several commandments and be serious punished; and, by not stealing in any way, there is enormous reward given by G-d because we can fulfill more than one mitzva at a time.

If one wants to sell land or a house, a neighbor with adjoining property has precedence over someone else because it is much more value-adding to obtain adjacent property than non-adjacent property. If two people come with money, there are halachos of priorities for who can buy the house. Generally, precedence goes to the one who lives closer, or who is a closer relative or who is a closer friend or who is a greater Torah scholar (practical questions should be taken to a rov).



You may not dig near your land's boundary - even though you want to work on your own property - because your neighbor's land may collapse or underground water may cause water damage to your neighbor's property. The softer the ground, the further away you must distance your digging from your neighbor's boundary. If you ever sell land, you must offer it first to your neighbor because expanding his existing property is more value-adding than selling the same land to another person without connected land [we mentioned in the paragraph above that a neighbor has the highest level of priority for selling a house or land; here we specify the obligation to let him know when you want to sell]. You may not set a fire where heat can damage a neighbor or if an expectable wind could spread the fire to another's property and cause damage or danger. You can't make noise, foul odor (e.g. from having animals), nor cause dust or smoke nor do business in your home that brings the public, if this disturbs neighbors. You can't put up a wall that blocks a neighbor's view, or is too close to his window nor a window that lets you see into the window of your neighbor so as to violate privacy.

If a plank protrudes from your house into your neighbor's air space, or if a water pipe brings water from your house to your neighbor's property, he has the right to demand removal. You may not leave any object in a place that is not your property that can cause a person to slip, be cut or be otherwise damaged. You cannot spill water on public property nor leave a sheet of paper on a floor nor a bulky object below a person's line of vision on which a person can trip, fall and be hurt. You cannot leave a long object, such as a pole or "s'chach" from a sukka, protruding up from a garbage can on a sidewalk which can injure a passerby. You are also responsible for damages if you leave an object on your own property and give someone permission to enter your property and he gets damaged by it.

A person is always fully responsible for all damage, whether:

* you damage with intent or by accident,

* awake or asleep when you cause the damage,

* you are also damaged by the act that damages another or you only damage the other person,

* you damage by action or by passively neglecting to guard that which you are obligated to guard from damaging (e.g. fire, an animal, etc.),

* you did the entire act or another started the act and you completed it so it causes damage,

* the damage is done to a person or to his property,

* the damage is tangible (e.g. physical injury, damaging property) or intangible (e.g. hurting feelings or reputation, wasting someone's time or coming late to an appointment, aggravating or provoking a person, teaching apikursus [heresy], waking a person from sleep for a reason that matters less to the person than his sleep, etc.).

You may not even harm someone who asks you to harm him. Even when you have his permission to harm him, you never have the Torah's permission to harm him.

If two businesses are next to each other, they may not damage each other's work or product. For example, an animal stable, paint factory or bakery cannot be set up next to a winery because the odor or steam will destroy the wine; but if the other business was there first and operating his business first, the owner of the winery cannot complain.

If your neighbor has a bird house, you may not put a ladder within eight feet (two meters) so that rodents can not use it to climb up and kill or eat the young birds. The neighbor must put the bird house far enough away from your boundary so that birds will not be likely to fly over to your land and damage your field or garden. You must distance vines or trees away from your neighbor's boundary enough so that when you do the gardening work around each vine or tree, you will not violate your neighbor's boundary nor damage his property. If a neighbor's tree is on your property at all, you may cut down the part on your property. If one's tree or a beam reaches over public property, it can be cut away by the public enough so that a camel could pass under; and if they reach over a neighbor's roof, he may cut them off where they interfere with his needs over his roof. If a tree is on their boundary, both neighbors may take its fruit, even if the tree leans towards one side more than the other. If someone complains against a thing, and it is normal that people are unable to withstand that thing, this is considered a reasonable complaint. All specific complaints, questions or cases should be addressed to a qualified rov, known for expertise in the subject and for yiras Shomayim (fear of G-d).



If a Jew is in need, whether he is rich or poor; especially if he needs to be saved from any kind of collapse, danger or trouble; it is an obligation to give him an interest free loan (Exodus 22:24, Ahavas Chesed, Leviticus 19:15). It is a positive mitzva to supply the loan and it is a prohibitive mitzva not to withhold the loan, so refraining violates two commandments. The mitzva applies to men and women, to rich and poor according to the person's means.

If you give a loan when another is in trouble, G-d guarantees to hear your prayer when you are in need (Isaiah 58:9). If you cannot lend the entire amount needed, give what you can and help the person find other people who can provide the rest of his needs.

The person with money has been given the money by G-d to give chesed and rachamim (kindness and mercy) to G-d's children. The person with the need has been given the obligation to give ne'emanuss and acharayuss (honesty and responsibility) in paying back according to all the terms and applicable halachos (laws).

The mitzva of lending also applies to property. You may refrain from lending if you have halachic cause to believe the person will not return what is owed (e.g. will break or lose property, will steal money or property, is lying about his need) but you may not refrain from lending due to your stinginess or due to indifference to the person's feeling's or situation.

When one borrows property, one must return that actual property, in satisfactory condition and on time. However, when one borrows something that is normally used in a way that makes it impossible to give that precise item back (e.g. food or cash), you may pay back with replacement property (you do not have to give back the same dollar bill that you borrowed, you can give back a different dollar bill). A person should never say "lend me an egg, a cigarette, a quarter for a pay phone;" when you will not truly pay back.

You must guard the dignity and feelings of all who request or receive loans.

When you have money that you could earn interest on (e.g. lend on interest to a non-Jew or make an interest-bearing investment), and a Jew needs a loan, you are obligated to lend to the money to the Jew for no interest.

You might be excused from lending in certain cases but you must ask a rov a shaalo because the considerations are varied and complicated. You do not have to jeopardize your livelihood or expose yourself to negative risk or consequence to give a loan; for example, if you:

* are in the banking or mortgage business and lend with "hetter iska" (partnering contract), your business is not required to give interest-free loans, or

* have a store that sells merchandise for cash, and giving credit could harm you such as by reducing needed cash-flow or buying power, you are not compelled to give credit, or

* give charity or a loan, when you will no longer have enough money to support yourself or family, this can cause you to need to take charity or a loan, or

* have genuine opportunity to use the money for a very major profit, or

* have objective reason to believe that a recipient might not be willing or able to pay the loan back, or

* need to keep money invested to earn interest to have money needed for life expenses.

You may not lie to excuse yourself from giving the loan but you may say diplomatically, when true, that circumstances do not permit you to give the loan.

The Torah commands us to lend money to our fellow Jew at no interest. The laws for this mitzva are extremely strong. Yet, the wording of the mitzva to lend (Shmos/Exodus 22:24) literally says, "If you will lend money to My people...". The Torah uses the word "if," which is seemingly weak language for such a strong mitzva. Daas Zekainim, commenting on the verse, deals with why. The Torah is teaching us that there are some people towards whom lending is optional: people who borrow and do not pay back.

Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetski, z'l, once gave an interesting ruling on a shaalo relating to the laws of lending. A yeshiva was in serious need of funds. The Rosh HaYeshiva was applying for a $5,000 loan at interest from a local bank. A man who knew the Rosh HaYeshiva wanted to save the yeshiva the interest and indignity of the bank loan. However, his money was invested at a very high rate of interest and lending the yeshiva $5,000 would have meant a significant sacrifice of earnings. The Rosh HaYeshiva was a man of unquestionable integrity and could be relied upon to fully keep his word and honor all obligations. The man asked a posek (rabbinic law authority) whether he should lend the yeshiva the $5,000 (saving the yeshiva from the bank loan, but with a big financial sacrifice for himself) or give an outright tzadaka donation to the yeshiva for the value of the bank interest (so, at least, the yeshiva would not lose the value of the interest, while the man would have a smaller financial sacrifice). The rabbi said that this was a very hard question and that he would take it to Reb Yaakov, one of the leading Torah scholars alive at the time, who the posek knew personally. Rabbi Kaminetzki said that the man should lend the money and that the reward in olam haba (the world to come) for the monetary sacrifice would be great [heard personally from the posek].

Primary considerations in deciding whether to lend and the amount to lend can vary according to:

* what you can afford,

* how pressing the need is in the potential borrower,

* the number of people needing to borrow from you,

* the halachic priority order for lending to various people,

* the integrity of any potential borrower and

* the duration of any loan.

The terms of the loan must be written so that there will be no confusion or quarrel; and there must be two kosher witnesses to validate the document, or one or more co-signer(s) or a deposit to guarantee the repayment.

In Torah law, all monetary matters (borrowing, stealing, cheating, paying debts, etc.) are serious. In the subject of loans, failure to repay a small amount (pruta) is just as sinful as failure to repay a large amount (may'ah). Repayment of a loan is not any less obligatory if the amount borrowed is small or if the borrower comes on hard times. If one dies owing another a pruta, he is not allowed to enter Gan Aiden. The lender is not allowed to ask the borrower for repayment if the borrower is destitute and has no property. However, the lender may ask the borrower for repayment if the borrower has money or has property that could be sold for money to repay with. As much as the lender is obligated to be considerate, the borrower is more obligated to be honorable.

For certain cases with a complex combination of positive and negative factors (e.g. an honest person with no financial prospects), the Chafetz Chaim suggests to tell the borrower, "This is a loan and you will pay it back when you can." You consider it tzadaka and "take it off maaser" (take it from the tzadaka money that you give) until the person pays back.

When you have a difficult shaalo and are considering whether to give any loan or not, 1. follow the teaching of the mishna (Pirkei Avos, chap. 2) which tells us to weigh the reward of a mitzva against its loss and 2. bring the shaalo to a rov.