Controlling Anger, Ill-Temper and Rage

Know That After Getting Angry at Someone You Will Have to Beg His Forgiveness

…With regard to your traits of anger and rage:

Ask your teachers to thoroughly explain to you the concept of individual Divine providence, which is a fundament of our faith.

The general substance of this concept is: The Creator and Conductor of the world oversees with individual providence each and every detail of your life, that is to say, you are constantly under G‑d’s supervision and He observes all your actions.

When you will ponder this matter many times until it is ingrained in your memory, this will surely diminish your temper and anger.

You should also perform that which the Shulchan Aruch commands, that when one offends another individual, even when done in a fit of anger, he is to beg his complete forgiveness.

It is difficult to ask forgiveness from another [after having caused them offense]. When you force yourself to overcome your [natural] reluctance [to ask forgiveness] and make sure to do so [as directed in the Shulchan Aruch], then every time you are about to become angry you will surely remember that afterwards you will have to ask that person’s forgiveness.

This, too, will assist you in diminishing your character trait of anger and the like.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XVIII, p. 169)

Be Exceedingly Cognizant of G‑d’s Presence

One piece of proven advice to control your anger is to contemplate how the entire world is filled with the glory of G‑d, the King of kings, particularly as this [concept] is explained by the Alter Rebbe in chapter 41 of Tanya that, “Behold, G‑d [Himself] stands over him and scrutinizes him and searches his reins and heart..., [i.e., his innermost thoughts and emotions, to see] if he is serving Him as is fitting.”

When you remind yourself that you are in the presence of the blessed and exalted G‑d, and at this very moment [of your anger] He searches your thoughts and emotions, etc., then there is no room for your anger.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XXIV, p. 124)

…You write about your trait of anger:

Engrave in your memory that which is stated at the beginning of chapter 41 of Tanya that, “Behold, G‑d [Himself] stands over him ... and searches his reins and heart..., [i.e., his innermost thoughts and emotions].”

When you remind yourself of this, even while you are in the midst of your anger, that G‑d is literally standing over you and searches your thoughts and emotions, etc., then your anger will surely pass.

(From a letter of the Rebbe, dated the First Day of Chanukah, 5730)

For Anger and Depression

To a woman suffering from depression and anger, the Rebbe responded:

Give several coins to tzedakah bli neder — every weekday; study the [section entitled] Shaar HaBitachon in the book Chovos HaLevavos; check the mezuzos and their manner of placement.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXXVI, p. 298)

Combating Anger Through Memorizing Passages of Tanya

In reply to your letter of the 15th of Sivan in which you write that at times you suffer from the trait of anger:

Commit to memory the beginning of chapter 41 in the Tanya until page 112, line 2, [and conclude with the words]: “before the king.” Also, ask your counselor (madrich) to explain to you the general content of Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 25. When you feel yourself beginning to get angry, repeat from memory the above [section of chapter 41] and the content of the above Epistle.

When you become used to doing so, your situation [vis-à-vis your trait of anger] will show continuous improvement.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XV, p. 270)

…In answer to the above person’s question as to how he can rectify his temper — referring evidently to the trait of anger — it would be appropriate for him to study in depth the Alter Rebbe’s Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 25, until he is well-versed in its contents. When he feels himself beginning to get angry, he should review in his mind the contents [of the Epistle].

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XIV, p. 225)

Combating Anger and Cursing

In reply to your letter of the 21st of Sivan in which you write about the state of your health — you describe your ailment and that you were cured of it several times and after a period of time it returns:

It would be proper for you to question a specialist in this area and follow his instructions — and “permission was granted the healer to heal.”

However, it is patently obvious that the fact that at times you use expressions that are the “opposite of blessings,” this causes damage to your soul’s health and thus also causes damage to your physical health [inasmuch as the health of body and soul are interdependent]. Moreover, the verse specifically states with regard to each and every Jew, “I shall bless those who bless you, ... [and curse those who curse you].”1

Taking into consideration that your occupation is that of a religious scribe, such conduct becomes even more unthinkable. Furthermore, that which is stated in Kisvei HaAriZal is known that at the time a person is angry, his soul is exchanged, G‑d forbid — and surely it is not necessary to go on at length about a matter as plain and simple as this.

Moreover, since as the verse states, “As water reflects the face to the face, [so does the heart of man to man,”]2 when you act with forbearance, and only words of blessing and kindness will issue forth from your mouth, this is bound to evoke reciprocal feeling on the part of your wife, tichye, and peace and joy will reside in your home.

Also, study in appropriate depth Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 25 of the Alter Rebbe, the Baal HaTanya veHaShulchan Aruch, in which he explains the teaching of our Sages, of blessed memory:3 “Whoever is in a rage resembles an idolater.”

It would be appropriate for you to inspect your tefillin, especially the tefillin of the head, and after morning prayers to recite the daily portion of Tehillim as divided by the days of the month, bli neder.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XV, p. 237)

Becoming Upset and Angry

You write about your nerves — that you frequently get very irritated and so on:

It would be advisable for you to read and also study the appropriate places where the matter of individual Divine providence is discussed according to the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and the teachings of Chassidus. (Some of these points are found in the Alter Rebbe’s Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 25.)

Engrave these teachings in your memory by studying these teachings many times, so that you will easily remember the subject matter with all its details. This will also have an impact on your behavior, for understandably G‑d’s providence negates the concept of anger and even becoming upset (except for matters relating to the fear of G‑d, as explained in Iggeres HaKodesh).

The above is eminently accomplishable and doable, for this matter [of not becoming upset or angry] is readily understandable on a rational level. Moreover, with just a bit of contemplation, one sees how this is a direct result of the simple belief that “there is no place devoid of Him.”...

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XV, p. 240)

Overcoming Anger and Haughtiness

…Regarding the traits of anger and haughtiness about which you write [and which you would like to master]:

Like all matters [that are to be accomplished], this matter too can only be accomplished in an incremental manner. The first step is not to give voice to the anger or haughtiness; by doing so you reduce the intensification of this trait — as we verily observe [that giving voice to an emotion heightens its intensity].

Concurrently, when either of these emotions become roused within you, you should meditate on that which is written in the beginning of chapter 41 of Tanya until [the end of the second line on] p. 56b. It would be proper for you to review this passage frequently, and better yet, that you commit it to memory.

In particular [it is important to refrain from anger] in light of that which is stated in the writings of the AriZal that anger causes one’s soul to be exchanged. See also in the sichah of my father-in-law, the Rebbe, of blessed memory, of the 19th of Kislev, 5693, in which he explains the saying of our Sages: “Whoever is in a rage resembles an idolater.”

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XIV, p. 459)

Negative Effects of Anger

I received your letter ... in which you write about your disputes with ... regarding the business.

…With regard to this trait [of anger], I must add the following:

We veritably observe that anger regarding worldly matters is not only not beneficial, but actually makes things worse.

This is particularly true with regard to interpersonal relationships, where when one person becomes angry it causes the other person to become angry as well and [at such times] the emotions overwhelm the intellect. Only later does the person realize that he shouldn’t have said that which he said, [but by then it is too late to take back his words]....

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. VII, p. 36)

Other Traits

Overcoming Laziness

I am in receipt of your letter of the 4th of Teves, in which you write about the problem of laziness, etc., and you ask my advice as to how you can overcome it:

One of the effective ways of overcoming this difficulty is by deeply contemplating the notion that G‑d is Omnipresent, at all times and in all places, as the Alter Rebbe explains in the beginning of chapter 41 of the Tanya:

“Behold, G‑d [Himself] stands over him and scrutinizes him and searches his reins and heart..., [i.e., his innermost thoughts and emotions, to see] if he is serving Him as is fitting. Therefore he must serve in His presence with awe and fear like one standing before the King.”

The point is to remember that inasmuch as G‑d gives one the great gift of time and of mental capacity, etc., one must not waste these great gifts granted to him by G‑d.

By way of illustration: Suppose a great and majestic king personally and graciously gave you a gift and he stands next to you in order to see what you will do with his gift; what would it look like if you would ignore his gift and go out for a walk or engage in some other pastime, etc.?

Surely it is unnecessary to emphasize to you this idea at greater length.

I will only add that the yetzer hara is never lazy, and is very busy and industrious in his efforts to distract a Jew from his service to G‑d. Therefore, you must have a ready weapon with which to combat him.

For this reason, I suggest that you learn well and commit to memory the beginning of chapter 41 to which I referred above. Do so until these sacred words are engraved in your mind and consciousness, so that you will always be able to recall and ponder them whenever the need arises to overcome the temptation [to be lazy,] etc....

(From a letter of the Rebbe, dated 13 Teves, 5726)

Sibling Rivalry and Jealousy

Blessing and Greeting:

I received your letter of October 18th, with the enclosure.

In reply, I want to say at once that the situation seems to me much better than your brother-in-law described it, for the reasons for your younger daughter’s condition are not at all complicated.

The causes seem to lie in the fact that your daughter is subconsciously jealous of her older sister, and such a feeling manifests itself by a desire not to be interested in those activities where the person is unable to compete successfully. Therefore, your younger daughter shows little inclination to engage in the activities in which her sister is more successful than she.

However, since such is the attitude of jealousy, creating a subconscious feeling of guilt one is prone to compensate for it by an outward show at attachment. That is why she flies to defense of her sister if anyone should say anything disparaging against her.

All this confirms my general view of her conduct. I trust that her therapist fully agrees with this diagnosis, as he knows her better than I.

At the same time this diagnosis suggests also the method of therapy, namely, that every effort should be made to restore her confidence by offering her opportunities to engage in such activities where she can take a leading part and excel herself.

Needless to say this should be done in a gradual way, for, in her present state of mind she would be reluctant to undertake responsibilities all at once. But surely, both at school and in other cultural circles, there are opportunities for her to develop her artistic and other talents.

It would be psychologically beneficial to her if the activities would be of a kind in which her sister does not participate. The choice of such activities is fairly wide, and they could be cultural, charitable, or youth work among Jewish youth, and the like.

You do not mention anything about her physical health, especially in regard to puberty. It often happens that where these aspects can be regulated and normalized, there is an immediate improvement in the state of mind, for the emotional life is closely linked with the physical.

Finally, and this is just as essential, the physical and mental life of the Jew is directly linked also with the spiritual life.

I trust, therefore, that your daughter will take every effort to live up to the Jewish way of life in accordance with the Torah, which is called the Law of Life, and the Mitzvos whereby Jews live, since these are the channel and vessels to receive G‑d’s blessings. Needless to say, the parents themselves have to show a living example.

I would suggest that you have the Mezuzos of your home checked, to make sure that they are Kosher. No doubt you also know of the good custom of Jewish women to put aside a small coin for Tzedakah before lighting the candles.

Hoping to hear good news from you,

(From a letter of the Rebbe, dated 3rd of Cheshvan, 5721)

Vanquishing Self-Pity

As is understood from Tanya and many other sources, and as verily observed, self-pity is one of the most successful enticements of the evil inclination. [The person says to himself:] “Since G‑d created me in this manner, since my situation is such, and since I am to be pitied more than any other human being — it is therefore impossible for me to do anything [constructive]; I am free of any and all obligations,” and so on and so forth.

In order to forewarn someone approaching him and remonstrating, “How can this possibly be?!” [i.e., “How can you behave in this manner?!”] etc., etc., the person prefaces with the following:

“I am a good person and have no complaints against anyone; I [just] am incapable of doing anything. And even if you should say that I truly can act [constructively] but I do not desire to do so, this is my nature and what can I possibly do about it? I know all the complaints against my conduct, but [what can I possibly do, as] this is my nature?”

In light of the above [self-pity, the person unjustifiably thinks to himself,] “Everything is all right.”

The underlying point [and principle in ridding oneself of all the above, is the saying of our Sages4], “If one says, ‘I have toiled but not succeeded,’ do not believe him,” [for surely one will succeed if he truly applies himself].

The above applies to all matters in your life, in all their details.

(From a handwritten response of the Rebbe)