Chukat-Balak 5783 – Anan V’arafel
My brother Daniel and I have been known to have whole conversations made up solely of movie quotes. He once texted me “bum ba ba bum bum bum bum bum bum…” and I knew immediately that he was singing the Transformers movie theme song. In one of our favorite movies, Star Wars, Yoda says, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Moses in this week’s parsha could have learned a lot by listening to Master Yoda.
In Parashat Chukat, the people of Israel are complaining again, this time for lack of water. God tells Moses to speak to a rock and water will flow through it, but Moses gets angry and strikes the rock twice instead. As I’ve mentioned a few times in these weekly emails, our rabbinic commentators believe that no word in the Torah is superfluous; every letter has to mean something. So why does the Torah note that Moses strikes the rock not once, but twice?
Rav Yisrael of Rozhin (1796-1850 Ukraine) explained that this was Moses’ sin.
אֵצֶל מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ שֶׁהִכָּה עַל הַסֶּלַע פַּעֲמַיִם נֶחְשָׁב לְחֵטְא, כִּי פַּעַם אַחַת אֶפְשָׁר לוֹ לָאָדָם לָצֵאת מִגִּדְרוֹ וּלְהִתְרַגֵּז. אֲבָל אִם חוֹזֵר אָדָם עַל כָּךְ הֲרֵי זֶה סִימָן שֶׁהוּא כַּעֲסָן, וְהַכַּעַס מִדָּה מְגֻנֶּה
Moshe Rabeinu hit the rock two times! Just once it is reasonable for a person to lose their temper and get angry, but if a person continues to stay angry and lose their temper, this is a sign of hot-headedness, and anger is a negative (offensive) trait.
This is such a human response. Everyone gets angry! That’s okay! What matters is if you make a habit out of it. Or if your anger gets out of hand or lasts too long. We must find ways to work through these traits, even when we are so hurt that we feel we have no other course of action but anger.
Rav Yisrael adds that in trying to move through our anger, we are being like God:
וְהוֹסִיף: חָזָ”ל אָמְרוּ (בְּרָכוֹת ז), הקב”ה כּוֹעֵס בְּכָל יוֹם, וְכַמָּה זַעֲמוֹ? רֶגַע, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תְּהִלִּים ל:ו): “כִּי רֶגַע בְּאַפּוֹ.” מִכָּאן יֵשׁ לִלְמֹד שֶׁלֹּא הֻתַּר לְאָדָם לִהְיוֹת בְּכַעֲסוֹ יוֹתֵר מֵרֶגַע, כְּכַעֲסוֹ שֶׁל הקב”ה. וּמֹשֶׁה, כֵּיוָן שֶׁהִכָּה פַּעֲמַיִם, נִתְגַּלָּה שֶׁעָמַד בְּכַעֲסוֹ יוֹתֵר מֵהַשִּׁעוּר הָרָאוּי, וְלָכֵן נֶעֱנַשׁ. – י’ יפת (חקת)
Our sages taught that the Holy One would become angry every single day. But how long did God’s anger last? Just a minute, as it is written, “For God’s anger lasts a moment (Psalms 30:6). From here we can learn that a person is not permitted to be in their anger longer than a moment, like the anger of the Holy One. And Moses, because he hit the rock twice, it was revealed that he stayed in his anger longer than he should have, and this is the reason he was punished.
This melody, Anan V’arafel, is to words we say every Friday night at Kabbalat Shabbat. “Clouds and misty uncertainty surround God, yet justice and righteousness are the foundation of God’s throne (Psalms 97:2).” Even though God gets angry, righteousness and justice prevail.
Can we aspire to this? When we get angry, do we have the emotional tools and support available to make sure that anger doesn’t get out of hand?
In the Talmud Rav Yishmael ben Elisha blesses God with this beautiful blessing:
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ, שֶׁיִּכְבְּשׁוּ רַחֲמֶיךָ אֶת כַּעַסְךָ
May it be your will that your mercy overcome your anger.
כן יהי רצון
So may it be for us as well