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V'etchanan 5769

V'etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! One of the major questions in life is, "Do we control our emotions or do our emotions control us?" Our Torah teaches that we have the ability to control our emotions. It is not easy, but it can be done.

A friend of mine once pointed to a great rabbi and said, "You know, you can be just like him ... if you work on yourself for 70 years." Hopefully, it doesn't take 70 years to learn how to control emotions. One of the most disruptive, destructive and devastating traits is anger. It can harm us and others spiritually, physically, emotionally, and socially. Hopefully, this piece will be of use ... if for nothing else than passing it on to someone you care about.


The Sages tell us (Talmud, Shabbat 115) regarding a person who gets angry that it is as if he worshipped idols. What idol is he worshipping? Himself! We get angry because we have expectations that everything must be exactly as we want it to be. No wonder the author of Orchos Tzadikim (The Way of the Righteous) says that a person controlled by anger denies himself happiness in life. An angry person is out of control and at the whim of outside forces!

Let's analyze when we get angry: We trip on something, someone bumps into us; a colleague, spouse or child doesn't listen to us. In the first two cases, something happens that we aren't expecting. In the latter case, it is the frustration of having our will thwarted!

Anger comes from having a fragile ego. We interpret what happens as a direct personal attack instead of happenstance, sloth, incompetence or inconsideration. Internally, we are telling ourselves: "How can this be happening to me - I am too important for this to happen to me!"

There is a place for anger - the most appropriate place being in the dictionary. Also, if you are physically attacked, anger focuses one's response. An angry person may be listened to (if he has the power), but he appears like a meshugenah (a crazy person); will be feared, not loved; endangers his health (through high blood pressure) and is not being maximally effective or enjoying life. If he is trying to rebuke his children or students, they may hear his point, but they will come away with an awful role model on how to handle stress or displeasure. (A parent owes his child three things: example, example, example.) It has been said that raising children by yelling at them is like driving a car by honking the horn. One should appear angry when punishing a child, but never punish a child out of anger!

Anger can be controlled. Imagine that someone bumps into you very hard; you start to get angry and then you turn around to see that it is a blind man - or that special person you've always wanted to meet - or a 6'6" bully. Your perspective immediately changes and you might find that asking, "Did you hurt yourself?" is a more appropriate or judicious response.

Other tips on controlling anger: (1) Realize that anger is counter-productive and commit to not getting angry. (2) Appreciate how insane you look when you do get angry (perhaps carry a pocket mirror and refuse to get angry until you take it out to watch yourself!). (3) Set up a fine system and pay someone (preferably someone you don't like) a large fine if you get angry. (4) Imagine that you just won the Lottery - would you still get angry over this trifle? (If you don't get angry, you have just won the Lottery in the battle to control your behavior!) (5) Delay getting angry - yes, count to 10 - or leave the room before exploding. (6) If you do get angry, cut it short and be sure to apologize and set yourself to do better in the future.

An excellent book to help conquer anger is Anger: The Inner Teacher by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, noted author and insightful counselor. His nine-step program will help one to purge anger from himself. It and Orchos TzadikimThe Way of the Righteous) are available from your local Jewish book store, or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242.

For more on "Controlling Anger" go to!

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Torah Portion of the Week

Moshe pleads with God to enter the Holy Land, but is turned down. (Remember, God always answers your prayers - sometimes with a "yes," sometimes with a "no" ... and sometimes with a "not yet.") Moshe commands the Children of Israel not to add or subtract from the words of the Torah and to keep all of the Commandments. He then reminds them that God has no shape or form and that we should not make or worship idols of any kind.

The cities of Bezer, Ramot and Golan are designated as Cities of Refuge east of the Jordan river. Accidental murderers can escape there to avoid revenging relatives. They then await there until tried.

The Ten Commandments are repeated to the whole Jewish people. Moshe then expounds the Shema, affirming the unity of God, Whom all should love and transmit His commandments to the next generation. A man should wear Tefillin upon the arm and head. All Jews should put a Mezuzah (the scroll is the essential part) upon each doorpost of their home (except the bathroom).

Moshe then relays the Almighty's command not to intermarry "for they will lead your children away from Me." (Deut. 7:3-4)

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And you shall guard your soul very much" (Deut. 4:15).

What do we learn from this verse?

The Torah is commanding us to guard our health. The Chofetz Chaim noted that the Torah uses the term nefesh, which refers to the soul, and does not write "guard your body." This comes to teach us that whenever we are involved in matters pertaining to the welfare of our body - such as business matters or eating, one must be very careful not to do anything that will be harmful to his soul. Before doing anything for your body's need, give careful thought not to do anything against the will of the Almighty.

A person is sent to this world by the Almighty to do His will; this should be one's motivation in all that he does. Even when you are engaged in the needs of your body, realize that this is part of your mission in this world - it is the will of the Almighty that you guard your health.

One must guard one's physical and emotional health. It is important to keep in mind that different people have very different needs such as the amount of sleep one requires. Be aware of your true needs and act accordingly.



"Who is strong? He who controls his desires - as it is said, 'Greater is one who is slow to anger than a strong man and a master of his passions than a conqueror of a city.' "
--  Ben Zoma



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Anger is only one letter short of danger...


With Deep Appreciation to

Beverly Bachrach

for her friendship and support


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kalman Packouz

Click here for Rabbi Packouz's bio
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Copyright Rabbi Kalman Packouz 2009

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