Monday, October 08, 2007

A Three-Pronged Strategy

(Picture courtesy of

What chutzpah!! My "pious" yetzer hara came to me in the days after Rosh Hashana and quoted a Gemara in Berachos 7a:

From here we learn that the Holy One, Blessed is He prays. What does He pray? Rav Zutra bar Toviyah said in the name of Rav, 'May it be My will that My mercy overcome My anger, and that My mercy overcome My sterner attributes, and that I behave towards My children with the attribute of mercy, and that for their sake I go beyond the boundary of judgment.

"This is proof," said my yetzer hara, "that your new resolution to overcome your anger will NEVER be successful! If Hashem can't overcome His anger, how do you expect that you will be able to do so? Are you trying to tell me that you can do something that Hashem cannot even do? Listen here my friend, while admirable, your Rosh Hashana resolution is just simply unrealistic. If a "C" is a grade that indicates average accomplishment, you most likely I would have received a "C" for the month of Tishrei. You are no better than last year!!"

I know better than to listen to my yetzer hara, though. Even if he does try to approach me wearing a streimel, dressed his finest Shabbos clothes, and providing citations from the Gemara. I looked my yetzer hara straight in the eyes and quoted to him these words from Tzav V'ziruz, written by the Piaceszna Rebbe,

Do not try to justify yourself by saying, "What shall I do? My baser desires are very strong and they always get the best of me." This only shows that you're not really trying.

I also asked my wife for one piece of practical advice to ensure I could be successful to overcome my anger. Knowing that I often get grumpy when I am hungry, my wife advised eating a small snack once when I get home before we sat down together for dinner so that I would have more patience when dealing with our children. Interestingly, and although she was not aware of it, my wife's advice was identical to the advice of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov in Sefer HaMiddos, Ka'as #37,

Eating helps a person gain control over his temper.

After davening on the second day of Sukkos, I sat down with an elderly Ukrainian-born chassid and spoke to him about my struggles trying to overcome anger. I told him that while I was fully cognizant intellectually of all the reasons why anger was damaging to my avodas Hashem, I still needed some solid practical advice on how to control it. The elderly chassid advised me that no matter what, when I felt myself becomming angry, I should remain completely quiet until my wave of anger passed by.

In response to this, I quoted him a line from Sefer Pele Yoetz that I had just read the night before, "Silence at times of anger is like water on fire." The chassid smiled and assured me that his advice was not his own, but taken from seforim that he had learned and also from his personal experiences.

Along with this chassid's advice, I also adopted a new practice from a segula that I saw in Sefer Baal Shem Tov, Parshas Vayigash. There it is mentioned that the Baal Shem Tov once remarked that it was an wondrous segula to say the pasuk בַּמֶּה יְזַכֶּה-נַּעַר אֶת-אָרְחו לִשְׁמֹר כִּדְבָרֶךָ. (Tehillim 119:9) as a way to break one's anger. I now softly say it to myself when I feel myself becoming angry and also at a time when I am attempting to calm myself.

Armed with my new three-pronged strategy of eating, keeping silent , and using the Baal Shem Tov's segula, I hope to make some noticeable gains in the month of Cheshvan and slowly become the type of person I strive to be.


At October 8, 2007 at 9:54:00 AM EDT, Blogger Robert said...

Hi Simple Jew, you're not alone in this one! This is definately my job as well! Especially trying to drive!

Hatzlacha raba in your gains! Also we should revlew Trail to Tranquility many times!

At October 9, 2007 at 4:51:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, great words on Anger!

Thanks for the quotes from Baal Shem Tov and Pele Yoetz.

If eating food stifles anger, what does that mean about America's obesity epidemic? :) j/k

At October 9, 2007 at 10:46:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Very useful post (for me). You wife's advice seems great. Have you tried thinking or even saying to yourself before you eat, "Rabbono Shel Olam, may this food give me the strength to have the patience to deal with all problems"?

Any device we can use to control ourselves helps.

Hashem really put that "Ukrainian-born chassid" in the right place at the right time.

At October 10, 2007 at 4:43:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Neil: Thanks for that great idea!!


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