Rabbi Sacks on Anger

JInsider (March 2010)

Anger is a very interesting subject. Moses Maimonides, in the first two chapters of a book he wrote called Hilchot De’ot, as part of his law code the Mishnah Torah, tells us that in most things we should follow the middle way, we should be balanced. The golden mean.

But he says there’s one thing in particular that you’re not allowed to take the middle way, and that is anger. He says we shouldn’t give way to anger at all. He quotes the Rabbis who say, “People who are easily angered, ba’alei kas ein chayeihem chayim, their life is not a life.”

They say, “One who is angry is as if he or she had worshipped idols.” Moses got angry with the Israelites for one moment, and because of that he lost his chance to enter the Promised Land.

So, anger management is, in Judaism, a sacred task. How do you do it? Well, I love the story of one of the Lubavitcher Rebbes, of whom it was said that whenever he felt himself getting angry, he would take from his shelves all the books of Jewish law, open them up, and discover whether it was permitted to be angry under circumstances like this. And by the time he’d read all those books, how could he be angry anymore?