06 Aug 2020 Parshas Eikev: Destroying Idols, Eradicating Anger
In this week’s parsha, Parshas Eikev, the Torah warns us regarding the sin of avodah zarah (worshipping gods of others). The pasukim say: פְּסִילֵי אֱלֹהֵיהֶם, תִּשְׂרְפוּן בָּאֵשׁ; לֹא–תַחְמֹד כֶּסֶף וְזָהָב עֲלֵיהֶם, וְלָקַחְתָּ לָךְ—פֶּן תִּוָּקֵשׁ בּוֹ, כִּי תוֹעֲבַת ה’ אלקיךָ הוּא – The carved images of their (foreign) gods you shall burn in the fire; you shall not covet and take for yourself the silver and gold that is on them, lest you be ensnared by it, for it is an abomination of Hashem, your G-d;
וְלֹא־תָבִ֤יא תֽוֹעֵבָה֙ אֶל־בֵּיתֶ֔ךָ וְהָיִ֥יתָ חֵ֖רֶם כָּמֹ֑הוּ שַׁקֵּ֧ץ ׀ תְּשַׁקְּצֶ֛נּוּ וְתַעֵ֥ב ׀ תְּֽתַעֲבֶ֖נּוּ כִּי־חֵ֥רֶם הֽוּא, And you shall not bring an abomination into your home, and become banned like it, you shall utterly detest it, and you shall utterly abhor it; for it is banned (Devarim 7:26).
Sforno comments: כי חרם הוא שלא בלבד יקרה שלא תצליח בו, אבל יחרים את שאר נכסיך – For it is banned: It is not only that you will not experience success if you keep the accoutrements of the idols, but owning them, and bringing them into your house, will bring destruction upon all your other possessions.
R’ Dr. Abraham J. Twerski writes, “The Torah instructs the Israelites to destroy the gold and silver accessories of idol worship that they find when they enter Canaan. These items are cherem (banned), and anyone possessing them will similarly be banned.
“Sforno comments that possession of objects used in pagan rites will bring ruination to all one’s possessions.
“The Gemara says that if one goes into a rage, it is equivalent of idol worship (Shabbos 105b). The above restriction (regarding the gold and silver accessories of idols), therefore, applies to rage as well. Rage is an abomination. Do not bring it into your home.
“When R’ Zeira’s students asked him to what he ascribed his longevity, he said, ‘I never expressed anger in my home’ (Megillah 28b). It may at times be necessary to reprimand and even sharply rebuke someone for doing wrong, and this may give the appearance of anger. But this should be an outward manifestation rather than a true rage response.
“Sforno’s comment applies to rage as well as to idolatry. Rage is never constructive and is always ruinous. The Gemara says that rage deprives a wise person of wisdom and a prophet of prophecy. Furthermore, Chazal teach that: כל הכועס כל מיני גיהנם שולטין בו , All the forces of Gehenom dominate someone in rage (Nedarim 22a). What could be more ruinous? Rage is so destructive that on three occasions it distorted Moshe’s judgement (see Rashi to Bamidbar 31:21), and according to the Rambam, was the transgression which resulted in Moshe’s not being permitted to enter the Promised Land (see Ramban to Bamidbar 20:8 where the Rambam is quoted at length).
“דִּבְרֵי חֲכָמִים, בְּנַחַת נִשְׁמָעִים, the words of the wise are heard because they are said with calm (Koheles 9:17). One may think that the gold and silver items of idol worship are valuable and can enrich one’s life. Sforno teaches us that the very opposite is true; they will only bring ruination. Similarly, one might think that shouting achieves obedience. Quite the contrary. Even if it produces momentary compliance, it will, inevitably, turn the listener against the enraged person.
“There is nothing more precious than life. R’ Zeira teaches us that we may preserve and extend our lives by avoiding rage” (Twerski on Chumash, p.380).
The Sages teach (Pirkei Avos 5:14) אַרְבַּע מִדּוֹת בְּדֵעוֹת: נֽוֹחַ לִכְעוֹס וְנֽוֹחַ לֵרָצוֹת, יָצָא הֶפְסֵדוֹ בִּשְׂכָרוֹ, קָשֶׁה לִכְעוֹס וְקָשֶׁה לֵרָצוֹת, יָצָא שְׂכָרוֹ בְּהֶפְסֵדוֹ. קָשֶׁה לִכְעוֹס וְנֽוֹחַ לֵרָצוֹת, חָסִיד. נֽוֹחַ לִכְעוֹס וְקָשֶׁה לֵרָצוֹת, רָשָׁע – There are four types of temperaments. (a) One who is easily angered and easily appeased, his gain is offset by his loss (The positive aspect of such a person’s character is offset by the negative aspect of his being easily provoked; a moment of anger causes damage that cannot be erased by easy subsequent appeasement.) (b) One whom it is difficult to anger and difficult to appease, his loss is offset by his gain. (c) One whom it is difficult to anger and is easily appeased, is a chassid, a pious person. (d) One who is easily angered and is difficult to appease, is a rasha, wicked person (Translation and commentary from Siddur Ohel Sarah, Artscroll, p. 566-567).
Not only is it forbidden to bring gold and silver accessories of idols into our homes, but it is forbidden to bring anger and wrath into our homes. As the Sages teach, it will bring ruination upon us and our families, R”L, and anger cancels out any positive virtues we may have.
In regard to the saintly, pious Chafetz Chaim zt’l (1838 – 1933) a story is told, “At midnight a sound of alarm and crying was heard, emanating from the walls of the beis medrash in Radin. The people on the street walked toward the window of the beis medrash, and saw that it was R’ Yisrael Meir Ha’Kohen, the saintly Chafetz Chaim, crying from the depths of his heart. ‘RS”O – Master of the Universe! I want so much to distance myself from anger. But I am afraid that I, Yisrael Meir, a kohen, will be one about whom our Sages teach that ‘kohanim are an irate brood.’ Therefore, please G-d, strengthen and fortify me, that I shall be able to conquer the anger implanted in me, לֵב טָהוֹר, בְּרָא–לִי אלקים, וְרוּחַ נָכוֹן, חַדֵּשׁ בְּקִרְבִּי – a pure heart, G-d, please create within me, and a steadfast spirit renew within me (Tehilim 51:12)” (Tales of the Righteous, p.2-3).
If the tzaddik, chassid, tamim v’yoshor, the Chafetz Chaim, davened that G-d should help him overcome his anger, what might we – simple folk – say? It is no wonder that the Sages teach: Who is a mighty warrior? One who conquers his (evil) inclination (Avos 4:1).
Let us remember that not only are the gold and silver of idols banned and to be destroyed, but so is anger and fury. For if we do not destroy it, it will surely destroy us!
May we merit the shalom and simcha that come along with tranquility of soul and purity of speech.
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,