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Compiled by: Aaron Hai

Monday, December 7, 2009

Advice on how to Stay Away from Disputes

From: Orhot Hayim (by the Rosh) 90.
And ~Rabbi Yitzhak Abohav in Menorat HaMaor
(Sixth Candle, second rule, ch. 1) based on various sources.

Pirkei Avot -5:17. "Any dispute that is for the sake of Heaven is destined to endure;
one that is not for the sake of Heaven is not destined to endure."
Which is a dispute that is for the sake of Heaven?
The dispute(s) between Hillel & Shamai.

Which is a dispute that is not for the sake of Heaven?
The dispute of Korah and all his company.

1. "Never stop seeking friends and people who will love you.
Do not minimize [the danger posed by even] one enemy."
2. "Do not get angry about trivial matters against any person lest you gather enemies for no reason."
3. "Do not refuse the [requests of the] members of your city.
Nullify your will before the will of others."
4. "One should strive to never get angry. Bear embarrassment and don't return it. Forgive one who sins against you. Whoever gets angry—if he's a scholar,
he'll lose his wisdom; if he's a prophet, he'll lose his prophecy; if he was destined for a high office, he'll lose that. Getting angry is like idol worship.
It makes the Shekhinah (Divine Presence) worthless in the person's eyes.
Whoever forgoes on his anger is forgiven for all his sins."
5 "Do not quarrel with anyone without cause, if he did you no harm."
6. "A man of wrath stirs up quarrels, but he who is slow to anger abates strife."
7. "Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."
(Proverbs 3:30).
8. "A gentle reply turns away wrath, but a distressing word stirs up anger.
Often, the same response can bring either resolution or conflict.
It all depends on the tone of voice.
9. "A passerby who becomes embroiled in a quarrel that is not his is like one who grabs a dog by its ears."
It's bad enough that we have our own arguments; certainly we should not mix into someone else's...
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In Hilkhot De'ot (the rules of good behavior), Chapter 1, Maimonides describes his famous theory of the "middle way". According to Maimonides, we all have habits or behaviors, innate or acquired, which sometimes tend to be extreme. And then, Maimonides explains, our challenge is to move towards a middle ground, equidistant from both extremes, a place of balance (derekh haemtsai). In Chapter 2, two exceptions to this rule are described. Two habits in which one should not aspire to be in the center, but in the opposite extreme. One of them is anger (the other one is "pride"). Based on what the rabbis of the Mishna taught in Pirqe Abot, Maimonides explains that anger is "exceptionally bad" and therefore "it is right and proper to completely stay away from anger, taking the opposite end.". Maimonides says that we can "never" be angry, to the point of losing our temper. We must always be in full control of our rage and never react aggressively, furious.

Maimonides recognizes that it is sometimes necessary to "pretend" anger. In his own words: "If a person feels that in order to inspire respect in his children ... [or students] .... or [in the members] community, if he is a community leader ... he should express his outrage to encourage them to return to the right path ... [he could do that];.. but, internally, he should always stay calm. In certain circumstances, one can act like he is angry, but never really be angry. "

There are circumstances that require, for example, that we raise our voice to express our opposition to something wrong, avoid wrongdoing, rebuke our students, etc. According to Maimonides, we could then communicate our discomfort with the strength and passion necessary. On one condition: inside, we must remain calm. We can never loss our minds.

Maimonides' words remind me of what I read about the 2004 Tsunami in the Indian Ocean, which destroyed hundreds of cities and killed more than 230,000 people. The article talked about of a group of divers who were in the sea when the ferocious tsunami unleashed. Despite the great force and fury that was taking place in the sea surface, in the ocean, there was almost no uproar. People who were diving there did not  realized that a tsunami crossed over their heads. Because under the surface, the ocean is always calm.

Anger, if necessary, should only be superficial. Faked. Controlled. In this sense, Maimonides asserts that we have to position ourselves in the extreme. We can not adopt a "middle way" between anger and calm, losing our minds just half the time. Within us, we must maintain our calm and be in control "always". No exceptions.

Maimonides ends: "Therefore, the rabbis have told us to distance ourselves from rage [towards the opposite end], and train ourselves to never react [impulsively], even under circumstances that should arouse our anger This is the right path [concerning anger management]."






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