Anger and Emunah

Rabbi David Sutton October 6, 2018

add or remove this to/from your favorites

We should always try to control our emotions and to avoid anger as much as possible. There is, however, special significance to avoiding anger on Shabbos.


Shabbos is the day of emunah (faith), the time when we are to reaffirm our belief in Hashem as Creator of the world and the One Who continues to govern and manage all world affairs. Anger is a result of deficient emunah. If a person truly believes in Hashgachah (Divine Providence) then he will accept everything that happens as Hashem’s will, and will not be troubled or riled by adversity.



The Maharal discusses this connection between anger and emunah in reference to the incident of mei merivah, the waters of contention (Bamidbar chapter 20). As we know, the Torah relates even the minor mistakes of great tzaddikim in order to teach lessons for us to implement in our lives. Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz commented that when we analyze the mistakes of our spiritual giants, such as the sin of Miriam who spoke negatively about Moshe Rabbeinu, it is as though we are in a laboratory studying microorganisms under a microscope, scrutinizing their conduct so that we can learn the proper way to live. One example is the waters of contention, where Moshe Rabbeinu is punished after hitting a rock to bring forth water.


(The Ohr HaChaim cites ten different interpretations offered by the commentators to explain what Moshe did wrong, and does not find any of them satisfactory.) Analyzing the small mistakes made by great people like Moshe Rabbeinu helps us draw important lessons that we need for leading a Torah life. And thus the Maharal (Gevuros Hashem, Chapter 7) explains the incident of mei merivah as teaching us the connection between anger and emunah:


If [Moshe] had been stronger and more steadfast in his faith, he would have experienced the joyous feeling to act without anger. This is what is meant [when Hashem tells Moshe and Aharon after this incident], “Since you did not believe in Me.” It would have been proper for Moshe to be strong in his faith, and if he had been strong in his faith in the Almighty, he would have achieved an exalted stature and would have acted with joy, rather than being moved to anger…


Had Moshe’s emunah been complete, he would have reached the level where he could remain joyous and calm even under the trying circumstances, and he would not have become angry at Bnei Yisrael.


Rabbi Wolbe (Be’emunaso Yichyeh, p. 21) reaches several conclusions on the basis of the Maharal’s comments. First, the Maharal here teaches that there are many different levels of emunah, and even Moshe Rabbeinu, the greatest prophet who ever lived, could have reached even higher levels. Additionally, the Maharal’s insight shows how emunah enables one to experience joy at all times and in all situations, and how anger is the result of deficient emunah.


Shabbos, as mentioned, is the day of strengthening our emunah, and thus specifically on Shabbos we must endeavor to remain calm under all circumstances and remember that everything that transpires is decreed by Hashem.



Interestingly, in the Shabbos morning Amidah prayer we speak of Moshe’s joy over the gift of Shabbos: “Yismach Hashem b’matnas chelko.” Moshe is associated with simchah (joy), because he was always joyous and content as a result of his emunah. Only on one occasion did he lose his feeling of joy and became angry. His example teaches us about the importance of emunah and of avoiding anger even under very difficult and trying circumstances.


Let us, then, make an effort specifically on Shabbos to reinforce our belief in Hashem’s Providence, which will help us maintain our composure even under trying situations so that our homes and our lives will be free of anger and tension.





Reproduced from Living Shabbos by Rabbi David Sutton

ArtScroll / Mesorah Publications Ltd. Reprinted with permission.