- When a Tzaddik is Obligated to get Angry
- Rabbi Reuven Mann
Dean - Masoret Institute
- A careful and honest study of the Torah makes it absolutely clear
that Judaism categorically rejects the possibility of "miracle
workers". In order to have a proper relationship with G-d, we
must scrupulously avoid any attribution of "supernatural"
power to mortals.
- A fascinating episode in a recently read sedra (Vayetze) clearly
illustrates this point. Rachel, who was childless, and envious of her
sister Leah, pleaded with her husband to "give" her children
or else she would die. Most of the commentators are puzzled with
Jacob's angry dismissal of his wife's request. His lack of compassion
and sensitivity to Rachel's emotional distress seems incomprehensible.
Very surprising, as well, is his display of anger which is an emotion
which the righteous must always avoid except in matters pertaining to
- We must pay attention to the words of Jacob for they go to the heart
of the matter at issue. The pasuk says "Jacob's anger flared up
at Rachel and he said 'Am I in the place of G-d who has withheld from
you fruit of the womb?" The commentary of the Sforno is most
illuminating. He says, "Jacob's anger flared up for saying 'Give
me children', implying that he had the power to do so. In his zeal for
the honor of G-d, he disregarded his love for her." Rabbi Raphael
Pelcovitz in the notes appended to his translation of the Sforno
explains, "Jacob was angry with Rachel for saying "Give
me" not "Pray for me". The latter request would have
been proper, the former was not since it implied that Jacob had the
power to grant that which only G-d can give.....His great zeal for
G-d's honor, however, caused him to set aside his feelings of love for
Rachel, for his love for G-d was greater."
- Jacob who ranks among the greatest of men displayed anger at any
implication that he had the power to change the natural order of
events. This type of overestimation of man violates the honor that is
due exclusively to the Creator. The true tzaddik is the one, who like
Yaakov Avinu, reacts with anger to even the slightest suggestion that
he has transcended the bounds of human limitations and shares a power
which is exclusively that of the Creator.