י״ז בסיון ה׳תשע״ד (June 15, 2014)

Ta’anit 4a-b: When One Gets Angry

Anger is usually perceived as a negative trait. Nevertheless, the Gemara on our daf appears to suggest that anger has a positive side to it, as well.

  • Rava teaches that when a Torah scholar becomes angry, he is expressing the anger of the Torah itself. This statement is based on a passage in Yirmiyahu (23:29), which teaches that the word of God is like a burning fire.
  • Rav Ashi interprets the continuation of that passage – which teaches that God’s word is like a hammer that smashes stone – to mean that a Torah scholar should be strong as iron, i.e. that he should not be conciliatory in any way.
  • Rabbi Abba argues that this teaching can be understood from a passage in Sefer (8:9), which can be read to mean “the land whose builders (reading boneha instead of avaneha) are iron.” This refers to Torah scholars spiritually building the land, and they must be tough as iron in their teaching and behavior.

In response to these statements, Ravina quotes a pasuk from Kohelet (11:10) that extols removing anger from one’s heart, and he derives from it that everyone should work to behave in a pleasant way.

The question of how we can understand ’ perspective of anger as an ideal is discussed by many of the commentators on our page. The Meiri explains that a person who has dedicated his life to Torah study has raised himself to a spiritual plane where he has a heightened sensitivity to evil or inappropriate behavior. The anger that he expresses in response to such behavior should not be interpreted as a negative personal trait, but as the reaction of a particularly sensitive soul to the wrongdoings of the world.

Even under those circumstances, argues Ravina, the scholar should learn to express his position in a positive way. Rabbi Yehonatan Eybeshuts explains that when one allows himself to become angry, it affects his very soul of the person, even when he is presenting a legitimate argument, Thus it is for his own benefit to be careful not to do so.

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