D'vrei Torah by Rabbi Ellie Shemtov
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