Saturday, June 8, 2013

Controlling One’s Anger

By Rabbi Thomas Louchheim

38th   Torah portion, 5th in Numbers

Korach 16:1-18:32 (95 verses)



Korach and his followers lead a rebellion against the leadership of Moses and Aaron. God punishes them by burying them and their families alive. God brings another plague upon the people.


Korach has no patience with the travel in the desert, with Moses’ authority; with the direction Moses is taking the people.  He doesn’t like the way Moses became the leader of the Israelites.  He doesn’t like how he is handing that leadership position.  Korach does not demand a response as much as he is demanding a change.  We see what happens to someone with this kind of anger and lack of patience:  It literally swallows him up!  (Numbers 16:30-33)

Moses seems to handle the rude and unruly Korach and his followers very well.  He is patient and calm.  Instead of getting angry (which is how many of us would respond in a similar situation), he consults a Higher Power, and then calmly makes a proposition to Korach and his followers.  At the same time with all of the vitriol of Korach aimed toward Moses, Moses seems to handle it all in stride. He seems to have the patience we all hope for. We can learn from him.

            It doesn’t mean we cannot get angry. We can. God is described as erech apayim, “slow to anger.”  We should not lose ourselves in our anger and we cannot let the anger go on for too long. It is oh so difficult, isn’t it?  None of us are perfect.  It is clear that Moses was not always perfect either. Look at the many people we must deal with and sometimes even live with. They can be obstinate, frustrating, selfish, inconsiderate, and absolutely impossible to please. 

We must learn to be more in control when situations and others tempt us to go over the edge.  Learn patience for yourself.  Learn the signs of your upcoming fuse about to be blown.  Listen to the Psalmist: “I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry.  He drew me from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure” (40:1)


  1. If provoked to anger, be silent; if you have speak, make it a point to speak in a low and gentle voice as this  will keep anger from overcoming you. (Rabbi Hayim Yosef David Azulai)
  2. “Someone who speaks with a low voice and favors silence becomes a chariot for the Divine Presence.” (Erech Apayim, 4:13)
  3. When you have a dispute with someone, do not look into his face. This will cause your anger to dissipate. (Derech Hayim, 6-45)
  4. The Rabbi of Gastinin made it a practice never to express anger on the same day when  he was upset or annoyed with someone. Only on the following day would he tell him, “Yesterday I was annoyed at you.”
  5. A good method for avoiding anger in money matters is to accustom yourself to be easygoing and on the pious side when it comes to money, and be ready to give it up. (Erech Apayim, 9:3)
  6. Typically arguments start over small things. Since no one ever sees himself in the wrong, he determines to take a stand “for the sake of justice,” and not give an inch. He sets himself like an iron pillar before the other person, planted and immovable…. The result: shaming and slander of the other person. Before when stands up “for what is right,” determine whether the issue is one of great value or not first.