The sounds of a party reached Moses’ ears, descending from Mt Sinai. Approaching, he caught a glimpse of a Golden Calf glistening in the sun but after 40 days up there, learning Torah with G-d Himself and harmonizing with the angels, he was in such a high spiritual place, nothing fazed him. He knew just what he had to do: Carefully, he handed the precious two tablets to Joshua, his ever devoted servant, and with a smile, tapped Aaron on the shoulder. “Hey, Bro, what’s happenin’?”
“Nothing much”, replied the older brother, catching his breath and whipping his sweaty forward with the sleeve of his priestly garment, “A small celebration. The peeps missed you so much!”
“Well”, says Moses, still smiling, “I do appreciate the effort and the gesture; it’s beautiful. But, ahem”, he clears his throat and pulls Aaron to a secluded area where they can speak privately, “to tell you the truth, I’m not 100% comfortable with it. Do you mind if we pencil in a time to talk about it some more? How’s next Tuesday between the morning and afternoon offerings? Thanks. And thanks for taking care of things while I was away. I tell you, Sinai? That was something!”
If by now you’re scratching your head, having no idea where is this story in our scriptures, rest assured: It’s nowhere. I made it up as the “politically correct” alternative to Moses’ famous angry outburst, smashing the tablets, grinding the golden statue into the drinking water and killing some of the key participators, and I’m curious, do we like this soft spoken, very controlled, all smiles Moses better?
The sages are very critical of Moses’ anger: Rambam (Maimonides, 12th century) says that “anyone who is angry is like worshiping idols”. He is quoting the Babylonian Talmud (Shabbat 105) which says: “the one who tears his garments in anger, breaks his vessels in anger and scatters his coins – in anger, should be viewed in your eyes as an idolater”. Reish Lakish, famous sage and leader of the 1st-2nd century, is quoted to say: “anyone who gets angry, his wisdom departs from him”.
What is idolatry? I see it as a statement about priorities; about putting G-d first, and all else – second. Us getting angry means we put our ideas of what supposed to happen before what G-d caused. We express distrust that this – whatever this is – is what meant to be, what is best for us, what G-d wills. We are ungrateful to life’s gifts. We “want” a better outcome, another option, a different god, and all that can be viewed as idolatry. And the wisdom departing? That is a consequence, not a punishment because when we’re consumed with anger, there is no room for anything else inside us, and any clear, constructive thought, just evaporates.
And yet.
A few days ago, we went to see the movie “Her”. Briefly, set in the Los Angeles of the slight future, the story follows Theodore Twombly. Heartbroken after the end of a long relationship, he is delighted to meet “Samantha,” a female voice (a flat and expected “oh honey” female voice) of a computer operating system. Soon, their relationship “deepens” and they “fall in love”.
As is evident from the critics, some who rave about it and some who walk out 15 minutes into it, this is simultaneously an excellent, thought-provoking and most aggravating film. It raises questions about love and “coupleship”, and looks into who we are, where we’re going to and what can become of us in this tech-driven age. Not to ruin the movie for you if you haven’t seen it, let’s just say that eventually, the prince and Samantha don’t live happily ever after. In spite of her seeming sophistication (guessing in advance how to arrange his thousands of emails, unable to sleep “thinking of him” etc etc), the bottom line is – she doesn’t have toes. It’s great fun to talk to her (especially when she says everything he wants to hear -) but when he discovers she also “talks” to another 800,000 some people at the same time, 6000 some of whom she is in love with, sleeping with a blinking square, half the size of one’s iphone, seems less and less like a good idea.
And the point (now that I ruined the movie for you after all)??
Yes, anger can be dangerous and it should be treated, like all fire, with much care and caution. It’s really too bad Moses broke the tablets, but we need to make peace with who we are as humans, because the alternatives are much worse.




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2 Responses to Ang(h)er

  1. Tali shenhar says:


    Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2014 17:28:47 +0000

    • tali, your comment appears like “chinese” / “boxes” on some computers so I’m responding in english.
      I agree that it’s hard to see benefit in “ibud eshtonot” (“losing it” – in this context to anger). my question is, what are the alternatives? to not ever lose it means that humans (we) would have to be either like G-d or like (programmed) puppets, and I think that it worse. so we get to walk this crazy line between ok and not ok all at once, and I actually like this most about judaism: this “schizophrenic” line of thinking where 2 conflicting things are ok at the same time. it addresses the real, complex (mature 🙂 nature of life but, I’ll write more about that another time…
      thanks for reading. shabbat shalom.

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