D'vrei Torah by Rabbi Ellie Shemtov
Jewish Conspiracy Theories
Glass Onion (Lennon/McCartney)
I told you about Strawberry Fields
You know the place where nothing is real
Well, here's another place you can go
Where everything flows
Looking through the bent-back tulips
To see how the other half lives
Looking through a glass onion
On November 9th, 1966, as far as speculation goes, Paul McCartney was tragically killed in a car crash on his way home from working on the Sgt. Pepper album in the studio. Wanting to save their fans from the heartache of losing Paul and dealing with the loss of their bandmate, the other three Beatles decided to conceal the truth and replaced Paul with Billy Shears, the winner of a Paul McCartney lookalike contest.
There is, of course, no evidence to support this story. Although Paul was involved in two car accidents around this time, multiple witnesses and Paul himself confirmed shortly afterward that he was perfectly fine. In addition, there is no evidence that a lookalike contest ever took place, and no trace of a Billy Shear ever existed.
John Lennon was particularly vocal about his annoyance with those who read too much into the lyrical meanings of Beatles songs and wrote ‘Glass Onion,’ the song I began with in response.
The “Paul is dead” story never gained any traction until September of 1969 when an article entitled ‘Is Beatle Paul McCartney Dead?’ was published in Drake University’s student newspaper. The “Paul is dead” tale took on a new life as an international conspiracy theory.
While a conspiracy can be defined as an agreement between two or more parties to commit a crime, a conspiracy theory often contains a more dubious and improbable hypothesis, or an intentional lie about powerful and sinister groups conspiring to harm good people, often via a secret cabal. In other words, conspiracy theories differ from actual conspiracies in their relationship to facts, evidence, and logic. These theories have been developed throughout history by individuals, religious communities, and political entities to explain negative events, find scapegoats, or fulfill paranoid fears and fantasies.
A conspiracy theory is often baseless, or based on half-truths. As the Yiddish expression goes, a half-truth is a whole lie. Conspiracy theories present ideas as one-dimension; are linked to political propaganda and totalitarian ideologies and usually demonize certain groups.
The identity of the alleged conspirators can be specific people such as the Kennedy assassination second gunman, or they can be larger groups like all communists or Jews. These groups are generally portrayed as undeniably evil, with a willingness to stop at nothing to achieve their goal.
Conspiracy theories also tend to take what are often complex fundamental ideas or causes and turn them into simplified and easy-to-understand views of reality. Conspiracy theories typically lack evidence, contain distorted evidence, or are false accusations – i.e. the accusation that Jews eat matzah containing Christian blood.
Jews are often accused of being behind a variety of major events, such as the French Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution, German losses during WWI; by destroying German culture), the Stock Market Crash in 1929, and more recently, 9/11 and COVID-19.
George Soros and the Rothschilds Family are examples of specific Jews or Jewish families around whom conspiracy theories abound.
Atlantic Magazine Staff writer Yair Rosenberg notes: “Anti-Semitism is arguably the world’s oldest and most durable conspiracy theory. It presents Jews as the string-pulling puppet masters behind the world’s political, economic, and social problems. For those seeking simple solutions to life’s complexities, this outlook offers a ready-made explanation --and enemy.
A survey done by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in 2020 of US adults under the age of 40 found that 11% believe the Jews were responsible for the Holocaust, 15% believe the Holocaust is a myth or very exaggerated, and 20% think too much attention is paid to the Holocaust.
Arthur Butz is most well-known for his 1976 Holocaust denial work titled The Hoax of the Twentieth Century. In it, he rejects the claim that Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust and that the whole 6 million dead thing is a hoax that forced the Allies to grant Palestine to the Jews.
Butz believes that Hitler simply meant to end Jewish influence and power in Germany, never to murder Jews. While the phrase Vernichtung des Judentums translates as the destruction of the Jews, Butz believes what Hitler had in mind was the destruction of Jewish influence and power, not genocide. According to Butz, Jews didn’t die en masse, they immigrated to the US and Palestine.
How do we know Butz’s claims are false? – Because there is a vast amount of evidence that has come from survivors, Allied forces, and even the perpetrators themselves.
In a working definition, the International Holocaust Alliance defines antisemitism as A certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
Some examples the Alliance provides include:
Perhaps the most famous, or should I say infamous Jewish conspiracy theory kicking around is The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the most notorious and widely distributed anti-Semitic publication of modern times. Although the exact origins of the Protocols are unknown, what we do know is that in 1903 portions of the work were serialized in a Russian newspaper. The intent was to portray Jews as conspirators against the state, who manipulate the economy, control the media, and foster religious conflict.
Although the Protocols were known from the outset to be a lie, they continued to spread all over the world. After the Russian Revolution in 1917, anti-Bolshevik emigres brought it to the West. In the US the Protocols became public knowledge in 1919. Louis Marshall, then president of the American Jewish Committee, complained that: it was distributed in every club, and placed in every newspaper. It has been received by every member of Congress and put in the hands of thousands of personalities. It is the topic of conversation in every living room and every social sphere.
In 1920 Henry Ford published a series of articles based in part on the Protocols in his newspaper The Dearborn Independent. The articles later became a book published by Ford entitled, The International Jew, which was translated into sixteen languages. Ford later apologized twice for publishing the book but online anti-Semites continue to use his name to promote it.
Adolph Hitler was introduced to the Protocols in the early 1920s, referring to them in some of his early speeches. Hitler exploited the myth that Jewish Bolshevists were conspiring to control the world.
Protocols continue to spread their lies, especially on the Internet, making it available worldwide, even in countries with hardly any Jews such as Japan. Many school textbooks throughout the Arab and Islamic world teach the Protocols as fact. Countless political speeches, editorials, and even children's cartoons are derived from the Protocols. In 2002, Egypt's government-sponsored television aired a miniseries based on the Protocols 
This past summer, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. shared his thoughts about the nature of COVID-19 (Atlantic article), stating there is an argument that COVID-19 was ethnically targeted to attack Caucasians and Blacks. Kennedy went on to say that the people who are the most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and the Chinese. While he wouldn’t go so far as to say the targeting was deliberate, it seems that for Kennedy, it is an open question as to whether the pandemic was engineered by a shadowy cabal to spare the Chinese and Jews.
Because over a million people in China have died from COVID-19 and I know several Jews just in this congregation who have gotten COVID-19 and one personal friend who died from it; Kennedy is as conspiracy theorists do, playing loosey-goosey with facts, evidence, and logic.
This is not the first conspiracy theory Kennedy has touted but he has now joined the ranks of a diverse set of folks from Marjorie Taylor Green to Kyrie Irving to Elon Musk, who have “graduated from garden-variety conspiracy theories to anti-Jewish arguments.” Paraphrasing Martin Luther King, Yair Rosenberg writes: “For conspiracy theorists, the arc of conspiracy is short and bends toward the Jews.”
Kennedy also loses points for originality since his musings about Jews and the Coronavirus are not new. Jews have been blamed for spreading plagues for centuries, most famously during Europe’s Black Death.
Then we have Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who in 2018 shared her suspicions that the California wildfires were ignited by a space laser controlled by a corporate cabal, including the Rothschild banking firm, Why? Well, according to Greene, the goal was to manipulate the stock market and line the pockets of “Rothschild Inc.,”…..,” and Sen. Dianne “Feinstein’s husband, Richard Blum,” both of whom are Jewish.
For more than 200 years, the name “Rothschild has been synonymous with two things-- great wealth and conspiracy theories about what they’re doing with that wealth. Almost from the moment Mayer Amschel Rothschild and his sons emerged from the Jewish ghetto of Frankfurt to revolutionize the banking world, the Rothschild family has been the target of myths, hoaxes, bizarre accusations, and constant, virulent antisemitism. Over the years they have been blamed for everything from the sinking of the Titanic to causing the Great Depression, and—here we go again-- creating the COVID-19 pandemic.
Then we have George Soros. Most recently Soros has been accused of influencing Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who led the grand jury indictment of a former president over a hush money payment to a porn star. What’s the evidence? Well, there is none. It’s a conspiracy theory. The theory is that he made donations to a criminal justice group Color of Change, which endorsed Bragg for DA in 2021.
The Hungarian-born financier, whose philanthropic organization Open Society Foundations supports freedom and democracy initiatives in over 100 countries, is frequently without any evidence to the contrary, accused of being a mastermind of international conspiracies, funding Antifa, Black Lives Matter, violent protests, fraudulent voting schemes, to name a few. In addition, the emergence of QAnon has added fuel to the anti-Soros fire, with unfounded claims that Soros is the person behind an international network of pedophiles.
The conspiracy theorists vilifying Soros, a man who survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary and escaped communism, are pushing the perception of a wealthy Jew working as a puppet master behind the scenes to promote a liberal agenda. In the classic conspiracy theory style, they are promoting Soros as a powerful force outside of our control acting on behalf of the global elite to keep the truth from ordinary people.
As the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks once wrote: The hate that begins with the Jews never ends with the Jews. That may be but no other group aside from the Jews has been blamed simultaneously for being both insular and cosmopolitan; for being capitalists and behind Communist revolutions; for being subhuman but also a chosen people.
As I was writing this sermon a new book came out on Sept. 19th called Jewish Space Lasers: The Rothschilds and 200 Years of Conspiracy Theories. It was written by Mike Rothchild – no relation to the banking family. - In an interview with Time Magazine, Rothchild notes: There's always going to be a need for someone to blame when things go wrong—someone who has gotten too powerful, too rich, and needs to be knocked down a peg…..When you hear terms like “globalists, foreign bankers, or London financiers,” that usually has some reference to the Jews. Unfortunately, these theories travel much faster than any kind of debunking will ever be able to stop. The truth is always going to travel slower than the lies.
I told you about the walrus and me, man
You know that we're as close as can be, man
Well, here's another clue for you all
The walrus was Paul
Standing on the cast iron shore, yeah
Lady Madonna trying to make ends meet, yeah
Looking through a glass onion
 Scott A. Shay. Conspiracy U : a case study (New York : Post Hill Press, c2021) 42-3.
 Ibid. 13
 Ibid. 46
 Ibid. 44-5
 Ibid. 47
 Scott A. Shay. Conspiracy U : a case study (New York : Post Hill Press, c2021) 26
 Ibid. 57
 Michael Hagemeister. The Perennial conspiracy theory : reflections on the history of th eProtocols of the elders of Zion. (New York : Routledge, 2022) 8.
Put a Little Love in Your Heart (Jackie DeShannon)
Think of your fellow man
Lend him a helping hand
Put a little love in your heart
You see it's getting late
Oh, please don't hesitate
Put a little love in your heart
And the world will be a better place
And the world will be a better place
For you and me
You just wait and see
Something to ponder: The community of Brisk in Belarus on the western end of Russia, supplied their rabbi Chaim, with basic necessities, including wood to heat his home in the winter. One day, the community leaders discovered that the cost of the rabbi’s firewood was 500 rubles per year. Even the richest person in the town never used more than fifty rubles of firewood in any year. When the community leaders looked into it, they found that the rabbi kept the firewood in an unlocked shed behind his house-- and that the poor had been coming in and taking firewood whenever they needed it. As a result, the leaders of the community put a lock on the shed and gave the key to the Shamash, to the caretaker. But, R. Chaim removed the lock, allowing the poor of the town to come and take more firewood. The community leaders came to R. Chaim to complain “Rebbe,” they said, “the community cannot afford to supply firewood to all the poor in town.” “Then I want you to stop heating my house as well,” said R. Chaim. “How can I sit in a warm house when all the poor are sitting in the cold?’”
Compassion can be defined as an emotional response to someone else’s struggles, along with an authentic desire to help.
While closely related to empathy which has to do with putting yourself in someone else’s position so that you can feel what they might feel in a situation, compassion is about recognizing someone's emotions and taking some action to help them 
The Hebrew word "mussar" means moral conduct, instruction, or discipline. The Mussar Movement arose in the 1800's in Lithuania and encourages participants to delve deeper into a reflective practice of one’s own character traits, which in Hebrew are called middot.
Alan Morais writes in his classic work, Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar, that compassion involves feeling and breeds action. Even more, compassion may be more accurately defined as the inner experience of touching another being so closely that you no longer perceive the other one as separate from you.
A July 2022 article in the US News and World Report, cites growing anxiety brought on by a variety of problems including-- inflation, mass shootings, war, the pandemic, increased polarization, and an insurrection.
Last week in my sermon about anger, I noted how the news is filled with folks directing their anger at people they don’t know. I mentioned how people they don’t know are easy to demonize because they have no connection to them and so have less incentive to resolve whatever differences he or she might have with them.
It’s a given that not everyone will agree to our same understanding of how the world should work and how people should interact. We all encounter people who behave badly and are judgmental, hurtful, and angry. We may even be one of them. We see on the news more and more stories of people having encounters with total strangers in places like parking lots, stores, parks, airports, etc. People in pain are spreading their pain. When we respond in kind, we also spread negativity. It isn’t hard to be kind to people who treat us kindly—but a bit harder when they don’t.
But, that is what we have to do. We have to bring compassion to what each of us can control—our thoughts, our actions, our reactions—which all ripple outward and make the world a better place.
Research shows that being a compassionate and giving person is linked to a longer life. Kindness can reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease; as well as help us maintain vitality and cognitive function as we age 
Research also shows that motives do matter. Authenticity matters. If you display compassion or kindness to someone for strategic or selfish reasons, it won’t help you.
I don’t think you will be surprised to hear that compassion is a topic covered pretty thoroughly in Jewish writings and sacred texts. If you are surprised by that bit of news, maybe you won’t be surprised to hear that compassion is one of Judaism’s highest values. Just how high a value is it? Well, it is such a high value that the word compassion itself is built into one of God’s many names -- Harachaman, the Compassionate One.
The biblical noun raḥamim comes from the root rehem, or ‘womb.’ Some scholars have suggested that the original meaning of this word had to do with “brotherhood," or a "brotherly feeling" between those born from the same womb. Just as a mother has compassion for the lives of all the children of her womb, we should have compassion for all of God’s creations.
Here are a few examples of how thoroughly compassion is used in Tanakh and Jewish writings.
From the Book of Psalms comes a verse that also begins the weekday evening service:
וְה֤וּא רַח֨וּם ׀ יְכַפֵּ֥ר עָוֹ֘ן וְֽלֹ֢א יַ֫שְׁחִ֥ית וְהִרְבָּ֣ה לְהָשִׁ֣יב אַפּ֑וֹ וְלֹֽא־יָ֝עִיר כָּל־חֲמָתֽוֹ
God being full of compassion, forgives iniquity and does not destroy
The rabbis of the Talmud believed in the practice of compassion as a way of imitating God. As beings created in God’s image, we should do as God does. The source of that sentiment comes from the Book of Deuteronomy:
וְשָׁ֣מַרְתָּ֔ אֶת־מִצְוֹ֖ת יְיָ֣ אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ לָלֶ֥כֶת בִּדְרָכָ֖יו וּלְיִרְאָ֥ה אֹתֽוֹ:
Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in God’s ways, and to fear God
The rabbis interpreted “to walk in God’s ways” as --do as God does. Where do we find what God does, or how God behaves? Well in a few places, but the most well-known verse is one that comes from the Book of Exodus – a verse we will chant tomorrow morning during the Torah service. It begins:
יְיָ֣ ׀ יְיָ֔ אֵ֥ל רַח֖וּם וְחַנּ֑וּן אֶ֥רֶךְ אַפַּ֖יִם וְרַב־חֶ֥סֶד וֶֽאֱמֶֽת: נֹצֵ֥ר חֶ֨סֶד֙ לָֽאֲלָפִ֔ים נֹשֵׂ֥א עָוֹ֛ן וָפֶ֖שַׁע וְחַטָּאָ֑ה וְנַקֵּה֙ לֹ֣א יְנַקֶּ֔ה פֹּקֵ֣ד ׀ עֲוֹ֣ן אָב֗וֹת עַל־בָּנִים֙ וְעַל־בְּנֵ֣י בָנִ֔ים עַל־שִׁלֵּשִׁ֖ים וְעַל־רִבֵּעִֽים:
The Lord! The Lord! a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, rich in steadfast kindness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin.
Although it doesn’t include the word rachamim, this verse from the Book of Isaiah teaches us how to be compassionate:
לִמְד֥וּ הֵיטֵ֛ב דִּרְשׁ֥וּ מִשְׁפָּ֖ט אַשְּׁר֣וּ חָמ֑וֹץ שִׁפְט֣וּ יָת֔וֹם רִ֖יבוּ אַלְמָנָֽה:
Learn to do good; devote yourselves to justice, aid the wronged, “uphold the rights of the orphan, and defend the cause of the widow.
The message of rachamim, of compassion also appears often in the Siddur, in our daily prayers. Each morning we recite Baruch She’amar: which includes the words:
בָּרוּךְ מְרַחֵם עַל הָאָֽרֶץ, בָּרוּךְ מְרַחֵם עַל הַבְּרִיּוֹת
Blessed is the One who has compassion on the earth; blessed is the One Who has compassion for all creatures
In the Torah service, we will also chant these words: Av harachamim (Father of compassion).
During Yizkor and funerals, we recite the prayer El Malei Rachamim – God, full of compassion. --
The Birkat ha-mazon -- the blessing recited after a meal in which bread is eaten, speaks about God compassionately feeding the entire world:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם הַזָּן אֶת הָעוֹלָם כֻּלּוֹ בְּטוּבוֹ בְּחֵן בְּחֶסֶד וּבְרַחֲמִים
Sovereign of time and space, who with goodness and graciousness, love and compassion, nourishes the entire world.
When the Birkat Hamazon focuses on nourishing the entire world it means the entire world – beyond the Jewish world. The Talmud is very clear on this point:
One sustains poor Gentiles along with poor Jews, and one visits sick Gentiles along with sick Jews, and one buries dead Gentiles along with dead Jews. All this is done on account of the ways of peace, to foster peaceful relations between Jews and gentiles.
Even more, it isn’t just human beings who deserve our compassion, animals do as well. In the Book of Exodus we read:
כִּֽי־תִרְאֶ֞ה חֲמ֣וֹר שֹׂנַֽאֲךָ֗ רֹבֵץ֙ תַּ֣חַת מַשָּׂא֔וֹ וְחָֽדַלְתָּ֖ מֵֽעֲזֹ֣ב ל֑וֹ עָזֹ֥ב תַּֽעֲזֹ֖ב עִמּֽוֹ:
When you see the donkey of your enemy prostrate under its load and would refrain from raising it, you must nevertheless raise it with him" (Ex. 23:5)
In case that isn’t clear, when you see your enemy’s donkey suffering under a heavy load, you are obligated to help the donkey lift its load.
There is even a Talmudic rule that before sitting down to a meal one must first see that the domestic animals are fed.
According to a midrash Moses and David were both chosen to lead Israel because of their kindness to animals. One day when Moses was tending his father in law’s flock a little kid escaped. He ran after it until it reached a shady place where there was a pool of water. The kid stopped to take a drink. Moses said: I didn’t know you ran away of because of thirst; you must be weary.: So he placed the kid on his shoulder and walked away.
David led his sheep through the wilderness in order to keep them from robbing private fields. As a result, God declared David trustworthy with sheep and told him: Come therefore and tend My sheep.
Elsewhere in the Torah, we read that a farmer is commanded not to muzzle his ox when he threshes and not to plow with an ox and a donkey together, since the weaker animal would not be able to keep up with the stronger one. Animals must be allowed to rest on Shabbat. In my house, it’s a day off for Bali-- off duty from guarding the house except in an emergency.
These concepts are summarized in the Talmud through the Hebrew phrase tsa’ar ba’alei chayim— the mandate not to cause suffering to animals.
Perhaps the Jewish attitude toward animals is epitomized by the statement in Proverbs:
יוֹדֵ֣עַ צַ֭דִּיק נֶ֣פֶשׁ בְּהֶמְתּ֑וֹ
“A righteous person knows the needs of his beast”
Why so much emphasis on compassion for animals? Well, perhaps words from another tradition, from the 12th century founder of the Franciscans, St. Francis of Assisi will help: If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.
The Jewish Bible the Tanakh, is unique in that it focuses on protecting the vulnerable and the powerless—the poor, the widow, the orphan, the fugitive slave, the migrant, the alien, the stranger in your midst. This is a concept unheard of.in ancient times.
The Torah’s decree in Deuteronomy that returning a refugee slave to his master is forbidden, stands in contrast to other ancient Near Eastern legal collections. It is more common to find in these ancient texts prohibitions against harboring fugitive slaves. For example, the Laws of Hammurabi, from the 18th century BCE declare:
If a man should harbor a fugitive slave or slave woman of either the palace or of a commoner in his house and not bring him out at the herald’s public proclamation, that householder shall be killed.
In the United States, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 required that slaves be returned to their owners even if they were in a free state. In the Torah however, to return a human being to his master is inhumane. 
Last week I talked about anger and this morning I want to talk about moving from anger to compassion. It starts by being aware of the anger you are feeling as it begins to rise up within you. To move past that anger, try to think of everyone around you as another form of you—another vulnerable human being, whose feelings and personalities are like ripples. Whatever another person might do, you need to understand that you are capable of doing the very same thing.
We can also become compassionate by practicing patience and trying to see things from another person’s perspective. On Rosh Hashanah evening I mentioned having compassion for and seeing things from the perspective of the mosquito who needs to bite me. If you weren’t there on Rosh Hashanah evening, take my word, it’s a long story.
In any case, seeing things from the perspective of another person may help turn your anger into compassion. The highest peace, said Reb Nachman of Bratslav, is peace between opposites. Don’t respond until you are able to do so without causing harm. Patience prevents things from escalating by allowing a lot of space for the other person to speak and express themselves.
In the Talmud, Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai, argued about almost everything. Yet Jewish law follows Beit Hillel. If you ask why it’s because Beit Hillel would always begin by summarizing the opinion of Beit Shammai and only then state his own position. This way, Beit Hillel demonstrated a concern not just with being right, but seeking the truth that lied somewhere in between.
More practically, Rabbi Shraga Simmons offers a few ways to practice compassion in our everyday lives:
Another day goes by and still, the children cry
Put a little love in your heart
You want the world to know we won't let hatred grow
Put a little love in your heart
And the world (And the world) will be a better place
And the world (And the world) will be a better place
For you (For you) and me (and me)
You just wait (Just wait) and see
 Shmuel Himelstein. A touch of wisdom a touch of wit (Brooklyn, NY : MwaoeH, 1999) 89-90
 Ps. 78:38
 Ex. 34:6-7
 Isaiah 1:17
 Gittin 61a
 Gittin 62a
 Ex. Rabbah 2:3
 Deut. 25:4
 Deut. 22:10
 Ex. 20:10
 Bava Metzia 32b
 Proverbs 12:10
 Deut. 23:16
 Shane Lobo. Turning anger to compassion (2017) location 41
Billy Joel –Angry Young Man
There's a place in the world for the angry young man
With his working-class ties and his radical plans
He refuses to bend he refuses to crawl
He's always at home with his back to the wall
And he's proud of his scars and the battles he's lost
And he struggles and bleeds as he hangs on the cross
And he likes to be known as the angry young man
Something to Ponder: A father told his son: “You honor me now, during my lifetime, but please also honor me after I am dead. You can honor me after I’m dead by putting aside your anger for one night, checking your temper, and saying nothing.”
After his father died, the son traveled far away and left his pregnant wife, although he did not know she was pregnant. The man stayed away for a considerable amount of time, and it was night when he returned home.
Walking up to the room where his wife usually slept, the man heard the sound of someone kissing her. At once, he drew out his sword and wanted to kill both of them. But then he remembered his father’s command and he returned the sword to its sheath.
He then heard his wife say: “It has been many years since your father left me. If he only knew a son had been born to him, he would return to arrange your marriage.”
When the father heard this, he spoke: “Blessed is the Lord who curbed my anger. And blessed is my father, who commanded me to curb my anger for one night so that I did not kill you and my son.”
I guess many of you have recently noticed that America has become a much angrier country. Now, some would say that America has always been angry. Not only is it a country born out of a revolution, but our history is peppered with episodes in which aggrieved parties have settled their differences not through conversation but with guns. 
Our government was also designed to maximize the beneficial effects of anger. For instance, the Bill of Rights guarantees we can argue with one another in the public square, through a free press, and in open court. The separation of powers forces our representatives in government to arrive at policy through disagreement, negotiation, and accommodation. Even our mythology, the American dream, is driven by the discontent felt by people unwilling to accept the circumstances life has handed them.
But, in the last few years, the tone of our anger has become a constant drumbeat in our lives. While we may still direct some of our anger at people we know, the news is filled with anger being directed at people we don’t know – people easy to demonize because we don’t know them and with whom one might feel because we don’t know them --- less incentive to resolve whatever differences we might have with those folks.
One reason America is so angry is that anger can work to make our lives better. When channeled by organizations such as MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving or civil rights movements, it can save lives, lift up the disadvantaged and reshape a nation. 
MADD came in to being because moms and others got tired of watching their sons and daughters being killed in the streets by drunken drivers who more often than not, received slaps on the wrist or small fines, and then got back into their cars the next day. 
When the founder of MADD, Candy Lightner’s 13-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver, her shock and grief turned to anger when a California judge gave the repeat offender a light sentence. That anger provoked by injustice, created MADD which now has over 600 state organizations, chapters and community action teams all over the US and Canada.
But anger’s power isn’t reserved just for the righteous. When less scrupulous leaders tap into our rage and use it for their own ends, it can be turned against us.
Something to ponder: A grandfather imparting a life lesson to his grandson tells him, “I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is vengeful, fearful, envious, resentful, and deceitful. The other wolf is loving, compassionate, generous, truthful, and serene.” The grandson asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win the fight?” The grandfather answered, “The one I feed.”
We become angry when something doesn’t happen the way we want it to happen. But, the last time you got angry chances are it was because of a perceived or real injustice.  It could also have been because of a misunderstanding or a communication gap; because of frustration, or because we were distracted and didn’t realize the expectations and needs of others. Let’s face it, we all have a lot of noise in our heads.
In general, arguments can help us become aware of other views. It doesn’t have to turn into anger. Arguments can help us learn more about each other. We shouldn’t be wondering who is right or wrong, but rather why we think like we do.
The Dalai Lama once said: If your neighbor hates you and is always creating problems for you if you lose your temper and develop hatred toward him, your digestion is harmed, your sound sleep goes, and you have to start to use tranquilizers and sleeping pills. Your mood is affected. Then your neighbor is really happy. Without having inflicted any physical harm, he has fulfilled his wish. 
The early 20th century Chasidic Rabbi Imrei Chaim once said: A father who becomes angry in front of his son, or a teacher who gets upset in front of his student, causes his son or his student to likewise become an angry person. Children and students emulate their parents’ and teachers’ behavior.
I know this to be true from my own personal experience growing up with a mother who was very angry and whose anger masked her own mental illness. This may very well be my own perception but it seemed a lot of her anger was directed at me and I often fought back. As Rabbi Chaim noted and as is a common understanding in modern psychology, I too became an angry person. This anger manifested itself well into my adulthood but exactly how and when I was able to rid myself of that rage is a sermon topic for another day.
Anger on the outside as with my mother, often masks pain on the inside – the death of a close friend, the end of a marriage, dealing with a high-stress job, or just general mental illness.
If you haven’t seen one of the latest critically acclaimed TV shows The Bear, I highly recommend it – especially if you love shows about cooking. The Bear follows the struggles of Carmen – or Carmy—Berzatto, a top chef who returns home to Chicago to run his family's Italian beef sandwich shop, after the suicide of his drug-addicted older brother Mikey.
Filled with angry people and exposing the mental health and addiction problems so prevalent in the restaurant business, I think I can safely say after two seasons of The Bear that every episode has at least one scene where anger explodes and that scene often involves Richie, Mikey’s best friend. Richie, challenged by events in his personal life while grieving for Mikey, is forever picking fights with anyone and everyone.
Author, Ambrose Bierce said, “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” Most of us have had the experience of saying or doing things in the immediate flush of anger that we later regretted but unfortunately were unable to erase. Or perhaps we sent a scathing text or email to someone in the heat of the moment. Far better to restrain our immediate response.
Not surprisingly, the Tanakh, the Jewish Bible contains a few stories involving anger. Whether it’s Cain murdering his brother Abel or Moses striking the rock when God tells him to speak to it, or King Saul trying to kill David, or Jacob’s sons Levi and Simeon murdering the Shechemites after their sister is raped, human behavior hasn’t changed in several thousand years.
The Book of Kings contains the story of Naaman, an Aramean military commander stricken with leprosy. Hearing about the prophet Elisha’s ability to heal leprosy, Naaman journeys to Israel to ask Elisha for help.
When Naaman comes to the prophet’s house, rather than greet him at the door, Elisha sends a messenger, who tells Naaman that washing himself seven times in the Jordan River will restore his flesh. Wondering why Elisha did not personally greet him, Naaman becomes angry and calls on God to cure him.
Thinking Elisha had done him wrong, Naaman’s thinking was as Gary Chapman describes in his book Anger, taming a powerful emotion--distorted as opposed to definitive anger.
Definitive anger comes about when someone does us wrong --treats us unfairly, steals our property, lies about our character, or in some other way does us wrong. Distorted anger is initiated by a situation that has really just made life inconvenient for us. It’s distorted because we are responding to a perceived and not a real wrongdoing.
Naaman’s perception was not based on fact but rather based on how Elisha’s actions made him feel. Fortunately, Naaman, had good advisors who encouraged him do what Elisha told him to do. After washing himself seven times in the Jordan River, Naaman was cured of leprosy.
In his book Chapman also describes explosive and implosive anger. While explosive anger begins with rage and may quickly turn to violence, implosive anger begins with silence and withdrawal but in time leads to resentment, bitterness, and eventually hatred. Explosive anger is readily observed by the person’s screaming, swearing, condemning, criticizing, and other words or acts of rage, while implosive anger is not as easily recognized because it is by definition, held inside.
In Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers, a tractate in the Mishnah, we read:
There are four types of people: a person who is easily angered and easily calmed down – his losses outweigh his gains. A person who is slow to anger and slow to calm down – his gains outweigh his losses. A person who is slow to anger and easy to calm down – he is pious. A person who is easy to anger and hard to calm down –is a rasha (an evil person)
Rabbi Abraham Twerski of blessed memory asks: Why does the Mishnah not describe the most virtuous person as one who cannot be provoked to anger at all? Rabbi Twerski answers his own question—because the Rabbis understood human nature. A total absence of anger is rare. In fact, Rabbi Twerski, who was also a psychiatrist, notes that with the exception of a select few, total absence of anger when severely provoked is more apt to be a pathological repression rather than a noble virtue. The most that can be asked of the average person is that he not be so sensitive that he is easily aroused to anger, and that when he does become angry, to quickly rid himself of his resentment and allow himself to be appeased.
We are far more likely to make a positive response to our anger if we first acknowledge to ourselves that we are angry. How can we deal with valid anger?
And if that doesn’t work, heed the words of Jacob the Baker, who scribbled his thoughts on bits of paper as he waited for the bread to rise. One day, by accident a small paper was baked into a loaf and the woman who bought that loaf was so moved by the words of wisdom she found inside it that she returned to the bakery the next day for more. In that way, Jacob’s simple sayings became known. Here is what he scribbled about anger:
When our hand is made into a fist we cannot receive the gifts of life from ourselves, our friends, or our God. When our hand is closed in a fist, we cannot hold anything but our bitterness. When we do this we starve our stomachs and our souls. Our anger brings a famine on us.
And there's always a place for the angry young man
With his fist in the air and his head in the sand
And he's never been able to learn from mistakes
So he can't understand why his heart always breaks
But his honor is pure and his courage as well
And he's fair and he's true and he's boring as hell
And he'll go to the grave as an angry old man
 Gary Chapman. Anger : taming a powerful emotion. (Chicago : Moody, c2015) 29
 Shane Lobo. Turning anger to compassion (2017) 22.
 Gary Chapman. Anger : taming a powerful emotion. (Chicago : Moody, c2015) 22
 Shane Lobo. Turning anger to compassion (2017) 22.
 Ibid. 27
 Dalai Lama. An open heart: practicing compassion in everyday life. (New York : Little, Brown, 2008) 20
 Tubolsky, Avraham. Remove anger from your heart (Brookyn, NY : Judaica Press, c2010) location 1614
 Gary Chapman. Anger : taming a powerful emotion. (Chicago : Moody, c2015) 38
 2Kings 5
 2Kings 5:13-15
 Gary Chapman. Anger : taming a powerful emotion. (Chicago : Moody, c2015) 58
 Ibid. 86
 Avot 5:14
 Abraham Twerski. Living each day (Brooklyn, NY : Mesorah, 1990) 344
 Gary Chapman. Anger : taming a powerful emotion. (Chicago : Moody, c2015) 37
 Noah benShea. Jacob the baker : gentle wisdom for a complicated world. (New York : Ballantine, c1989) 27-8