“And Moses was angry with the commanders of the army.” (Bamidbar 31:14)
Chazal tell us that the negative character trait of anger is very grave: The gemora even equates it with serving idols! However, I am sure that many people feel that there are times that it is justified to be angry and indeed we find in Chazal that such times are mentioned. The Maharal asks in regard to the Chazal, which says that a Torah Scholar is supposed to be rigid and is allowed to be angry (Taanis 4a). Obviously, there must be times when anger is permitted and times when anger is not permitted. What is the rule that governs this?
The gemora in Pesachim (66b), speaks about Moshe Rabbeinu in this week’s parsha. It says: “If a wise person becomes angry, his wisdom will depart from him; if he is a prophet, his prophetic ability departs from him.” I once saw the question asked, that it seems from this gemora that as soon as the wise man or the prophet regains his composure, his wisdom or prophecy will return. It does not seem that he must undergo a process of repentance to regain his previous status. If indeed it was a sin to be angry, he should have been required to repent properly in order to regain his status. It seems to me that the answer to this question is very frightening, yet simple: This is not a punishment; this is just a fact of how holy things work. Chazal say that the Divine Presence does not rest on a person unless the person is happy. So too a person who is angry: His temperament doesn’t allow prophecy or knowledge. It is not a punishment. Hence, Moshe Rabbeinu did not have to repent in order to regain his prophecy because he was doing the right thing. Nor does a Torah scholar have to repent from becoming angry when he is supposed to, in order to regain his knowledge. Just while in the state of anger these blessings disappear.
At this time of year when we are mourning the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, many times I am asked about our obligation to be happy, as this would seem to contradict our state of mourning. I would like to share with you a story told to me by a cousin of mine who is also a cousin of Reb Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. My cousin went to America for the bris of his first grandson. When he returned, Reb Shlomo Zalman Auerbach was sitting shiva for his wife. When he walked into the shiva home, Reb Shlomo Zalman stood up, put on a big smile, and gave him a hearty “Mazel Tov!”. The people who were there were astonished, for it seemed as if Rav Shlomo Zalman forgot about his state of aveilus. Reb Shlomo Zalman responded “A person can have many obligations. I have an obligation to sit shiva, yet I also have the obligation to share in the simcha of my family member.”
At this time of commemorating the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, we have to find the place for happiness in our lives, as being despondent pushes away the Divine Presence. This state of happiness has nothing to do with our obligation to mourn the loss of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and our connection to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. May we indeed merit to mourn the Temple properly, for as Chazal say, “those who mourn it in its state of destruction will merit to rejoice in its rebuilding.”