Va'eira: Frogs & Anger

This week my wife and I celebreated (or commemorated) our 18th anniversary.  Which is … strange, to say the least.  Before I could even think of a plan, my wife made it clear exactly what we will be doing to celebrate OUR anniversary.

To be fair, she was nice enough to ask me, in theory, of course, if I had a choice on how to celebrate our anniversary, how would I do it?  As I was thinking, she was able to read my mind and add, "WITH ME!!! NOT BY YOURSELF OR WITH YOUR FRIENDS!!!".

She's good.

Rashi describes, in this week's parsha, how the plague of frogs came about.  One big frog came out from the river, and when the Egyptians hit it, more frogs came from it.  The more they hit the frogs, the more the frogs increased until they overran the entire country.

The Steipler learns a very simple but powerful lesson from this.  After hitting the frog the first time and seeing the results, what would be the logical course of action afterwards?  Simple!  Stop hitting the stupid frog!  However, the Egyptians didn't take such a course of action.  Rather, they got angry and hit it again.  Then they got angrier and angrier, hitting it over and over, not realizing that they are the ones causing the frogs to multiply.  Hence, says the Steipler, we see the power of anger.

When a person is angry and certainly when he begins to get angry, he loses control over himself.  And that loss of control, will often contribute to more pain and misery than the original source of anger!  Had the Egyptians "kept their cool", they would have dealt with only one big frog, but they couldn't, they had no self-control, and in the end, they caused their own demise.

Rav Pincus notes on this, that we run into such things every day.  Let's say a person jumps in line.  You have two choices, get in a fight with that person or leave it be and wait another five minutes.  If you fight with the person, there's a good chance that the fight will take an additional five minutes easily, AND you will have a fight on your hand.  However, by "keeping ones cool", one can write it off as "this is what Hashem wants from me and it's costing me a whole five minutes.  No big deal."

Of course, there are much bigger things that occur and some of them do require you to fight.  But, in such cases, you should speak to a third party to ask what you should do and how to do it, before setting off on a losing crusade.

Last year, a local rav told me not to pay one of the schools the remainder of the money that I owed them, due to some … "issues".  When they started to call the house and bother us about it, I went to him and said, "They're starting to pester me about the money".  He coldly replied, "So, what do you care?"  I replied, "Because whenever they call, it reminds of what happened and it reignites my anger.  Perhaps it's better to pay them and be done with it and then I won't have to deal with the anger".  He looked up at me and said (surprisingly), "Then work on your anger. Do not pay them" and went back to his learning.

So, even when you do have to fight, it should be with as little anger as possible.  Not only for the very obvious reasons of anger being a bad character trait, but for the simple reason of: you won't lose control of the situation or of yourself.

However, small things like what Rav Pincus said, happen nearly daily, and while they are extremely annoying at the time, in the grand scheme of things, any angry response will cost your more than no response at all.

It's hard to remember this lesson when things are heated, but when I person reminds himself of this several times a day, when things are not heated, the thought will be in his back pocket.

Have a wonderful Shabbos!