Rabbi Moses Maimonides (Rambam) writes that when a person becomes angry, it is regarded as if he had worshiped idols and that Gehenna (where souls are purified) will have dominion over him.
But anger is a natural emotion, so how can the Rambam condemn a person for a such a natural reaction?
Idol worship attributes the power to control the world to someone or something other than God. When a person gets angry, he or she transforms themselves into an idol by assuming that they are in control of everything. Why do we get angry? Because someone said something wrong to us or something didn’t turn out the way we had hoped. When people get angry because they did not get the bonus they had expected, they, in fact, assume that they know and understand all of the factors that go into determining the company’s policy regarding bonuses.
The Rambam’s second point, that Gehenna will have dominion over an angry person, is actually quite understandable to anyone who has felt intense anger. “Blood-boiling” is the description ascribed to the physical reaction of our bodies to our emotion of anger.
The point of anger at which one assumes a level of all-knowingness and is brought to physical discomfort is extreme. And yet, each time one gets extremely angry, it makes it easier to happen again. The antidote to extreme anger is humility, to know our limitations and to recognize the potential good in others. A dose of humility keeps one from anger, thus maintaining a person’s understanding of who is the true King of the World.
This Treat was last posted on January 6, 2009.
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