I’ve written about anger here before. I’ve spoken about anger a bunch in my rabbinate. They say Rabbis have a few sermons they often give and I guess one of mine is on that pesky and ever present emotion.
That’s the thing about anger. We can’t escape it. It’s a natural part of life. The question that we should have when we think about anger is, what do we do when the anger comes?
Anger arises differently for all of us. One of the interesting things about anger is its bodily manifestation. Where does it appear for you? For me, it’s an increasing heat in my lower abdomen and in my ears. I am in a constant state of self-betterment when it comes to noticing this feeling and figuring out what the hell to do with it.
Anger makes an appearance in this week’s portion, albeit in an unconventional way. Our portion this week, Emor-Speak, opens up with God’s command to Moses to the Priests(Leviticus 22:1):
וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה אֱמֹ֥ר אֶל־הַכֹּהֲנִ֖ים בְּנֵ֣י אַהֲרֹ֑ן וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֲלֵהֶ֔ם לְנֶ֥פֶשׁ לֹֽא־יִטַּמָּ֖א בְּעַמָּֽיו׃
God said to Moses: Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: None shall defile himself for any [dead] person among his kin.
Something interesting takes place in the first verse. The word for “speak” or “say” appears three times in the verse. For a verse that on the simple level is a warning to the Kohanim to not come in contact with dead bodies because of potential impurities, the repetition of “say/speak” jumps out at us. One “say” would’ve sufficed.
Utilizing this peculiarity, the Mei Hashiloach, Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner, one of the great chasidic masters interprets this verse as talking about the way righteous people deal with challenging situations in life. It’s important to be a person that sees God’s presence in the world in all actions, he argues. Even when things get rough in life, it’s better to understand it through the prism of God’s presence rather than by seeing everything happen by chance. For in this case he says:
Thunderous anger is only possible for the believer
For him, the idea that thunderous anger is possible is a positive. One should want to be able to access that emotion. Yet, he continues, be wary of that anger. When it says, “None shall defile himself for any [dead] person among his kin,” he reads that metaphorically. The defiling there is what happens when one is overcome by this anger. So yes, you can have it, but don’t let it consume your very being.
In closing he turns to this being the rationale for the repetition of the third “say.”
God commanded, “Emor el haCohanim - say to the Cohanim.” “Emor – say,” means speaking softly…God enjoins us to whisper into the ears of the servants of God that they should not hold grudges.
Even the great Mei Hashiloach, a master of text and spiritual development, understands that anger is ever present. He also knows its power. When you find yourself being taken over by the anger, that is where the trouble lies. You can render yourself “impure” through your actions.
Instead, hear that whisper. That is what I am holding on to this week. It’s a different form of the still, small voice that we read about elsewhere. If we can just quiet the noise of however the anger manifests in our body, perhaps we can attune ourselves to that divine reminder to pause, breathe, and reflect.
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Weekend
This is great. Just spot on. Words reached through all of me. I truly appreciate your sharing the power here. It is beyond description.
Thank you for the inspiration to keep on going. Even the words Shabbat Shalom now are richer for me.