Managing Righteous Anger (Behaalotcha)

Managing Righteous Anger (Behaalotcha)

Anyone can become angry – that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way; this is not easy. -Aristotle

Miriam, Moses’ older sister, gossips a bit with their brother Aaron about Moses. Right there in the text, the Torah tells us that Moses was the humblest of men. The minor gossip probably didn’t bother him. However, it bothered God. It bothered God a lot. It bothered God so much that he immediately struck Miriam with Tzaraat, an unusual discoloration of the skin, an instant and clearly visible punishment.

Moses steps in and begs God for mercy, praying to Him “Please heal her!” God responds as follows: “If her father had spat in her face, would she not bear her shame for seven days? Let her be shut out of the camp for seven days and then let her be readmitted.” And that is what happens. Miriam is banished from the Israelite camp for seven days. At the end of the seven days she’s readmitted into the camp, presumably healed, and then the entire nation of Israel continues their desert journey.

Rabbeinu Bechaye on Numbers 12:14 (Behaalotcha) explains the circumstances. He states that there are different levels of reprimand, of lacking favor in someone’s eyes, and therefore different levels of commensurate exile from their sight.

For example, if one insults or otherwise distresses a Torah scholar, the offending person should take upon themselves a self-imposed exile from the scholar of one full day. However, if the person offended was a prophet or one of the “wise men” (apparently different than a Torah scholar), the self-imposed exile needs to be of seven days (like Miriam with Moses). However, if one offended the King or Prince then the exile needs to be of thirty days.

Though anger is considered one of the most dangerous and destructive of emotions, Rabbeinu Bechaye is explaining that God was correct to be “angry” and that it was appropriate for Miriam to be “out of His sight” for a specific and measured timeframe. In a fashion, it allows the offended party time to “cool down” and the offending party time to recover from the shame their actions caused. The Torah is demonstrating that there are times when one is justified in being angry. However, the anger needs to be limited, measured and constructive. The immediate result may be a “time out” for both parties which then allows them to be reunited in friendship and love.

May we beware of the dangers of anger, and if we need to harness it, may we do so carefully and wisely.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the residents of southern Israel who are currently under attack. May God protect you and bring swift reprisal to the attackers.

Beardless Righteousness

Kli Yakar Numbers: Korach

Beardless Righteousness

Judaism has generally venerated old bearded men. The righteous aged scholar with a lifetime of wisdom is the apex of the Jewish communal life-cycle. There is an ancient belief that these righteous individuals are a major force for good in our lives. The Kli Yakar traces the source of this belief to this week’s Torah portion. Though the personality upon whom this doctrine is based, was not bearded, nor even male.

The source is Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron (see Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Moed Katan 28a). After Miriam dies, the well of water that miraculously accompanied the Children of Israel throughout their desert journey, disappears. This occurred apparently to highlight the connection between the well and this righteous woman.

The Kli Yakar (Numbers 20:2) explains that the righteous individual accomplishes four different things for her or his generation:

      1. Nourisher”: Just as in Miriam’s Well, the righteous are believed to be a source of our sustenance – not only spiritual, but even physical.
      2. Teacher: The righteous guide us in how to live our lives.
      3. Shielder”: In some sense, the righteous protect us from negative events.
      4. Forgiveness at Death: The death of the righteous individual provides atonement at some level to the generation.

An impressive list of effects that the righteous accomplish.

May we find such people and attach ourselves to them.

Shabbat Shalom,

Bentzi

Dedication

To the memory of Berel Schwartzblatt of Cedarhurst, NY. A righteous and sweet singer of Israel, we will always remember his song.