In Parshas Ki Sisa, Moshe Rabbeinu comes down from Har Sinai, after spending the last 40 days and nights dwelling in the presence of Hashem, carrying the Luchos – only to be confronted by the sight of the people who had been waiting below – that they had constructed a Golden Calf. As it states, “It happened as he drew near the camp, and he saw the calf and the dancers, that Moses’ anger burned. And he threw down the tablets from his hands, and shattered them at the bottom of the mountain. He took the calf that they had made, and he burned it in fire. He ground it into a fine powder, and strewed it in the water. And he made the Children of Israel drink from it” (Sh’mos 32:19).
The Rambam teaches us in his Mishneh Torah that anger is an extremely bad attribute, and one should distance oneself from it by going to the other extreme. One should train oneself not to get angry, even about something to which anger might be the appropriate response: “The early Sages said, ‘Whoever angers is as if he has performed idolatry.’ They further said that one who angers, if he is a scholar, his wisdom will depart from him; and if he is a prophet, his prophetic spirit will depart from him. [The Sages further stated:] ‘People who have tempers – their lives are not lives.’ Therefore, they have instructed us to keep far from anger, training ourselves to stay calm even in the face of provocation. And this is the ideal path” (Hilchos Dei’os 2:3).
However, the Rambam points out that there is a time when it is befitting to show signs of anger. He states: “If one wants to instill reverence in his children and family, or in public if he is head of the community, and his desire is to show them his anger so as to bring them back to the good, he should appear to be angry with them so as to reprove them, but he must inwardly remain calm as if he were acting the part of an angry man, but in reality he is not angry at all” (Hilchos Dei’os ibid).”
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks explains that Moshe Rabbeinu was not criticized for being angry, because Moshe Rabbeinu understood – when he threw the Luchos in a display of enormous anger – that his people needed a shock to help them change their lives.
In T’hilim (37:8), David HaMelech declares, “Desist from anger and forsake wrath.” The Maharal explains that anger is indicative of a lack of faith. When we are frustrated, we overact in anger because we feel that our sense of control has been compromised. No one is listening to us; nothing is getting done. When one has complete faith in Hashem, he is always happy and at peace with his situation. He feels secure that Hashem is controlling everything and he is not scared by overwhelming situations. If things don’t go his way, he remembers that it is ultimately Hashem’s doing and Hashem’s decision.
The Maharal offers us suggestions to help us deal with pain, anger, and challenging situations: Keep the faith, have emunah. Take time to think about a kindness that Hashem has done for you in the past. Try to remember a specific situation where Hashem helped you succeed and everything worked out well. By focusing on Hashem’s past chesed, it gives us faith and reassurance that Hashem will continue to help us through our current and future difficulties. While we can’t control all events in our lives (and how other people act, treat us, or what they say), having bitachon can help us control our attitude.