Closeness to Hashem
Chapter Nineteen
T he Prohibition of Anger

  1. The gemarah and the Zohar deal very severely with the
    prohibition of becoming angry – see Nedarim 22 and Pesachim
    66, and that which is brought in sha’arei Kedusha, part 2:sha’ar
    4, in the name of the Zohar – there is no place here to elaborate
  2. It is written in the book ‘Sha’ar Ruach Hakodesh’ of Harav
    Chaim Vital in the name of the Arizal [piOb] [adapted] that the
    character trait of anger apart from entirely blinding one’s
    comprehension, as we find on the posuk, “And Moshe was angry
    with Elozor and Itamar…’’, Chazal say that whoever becomes
    angry, if he is a prophet, his prophesy is removed from him, if he
    is wise, his wisdom is removed from him [Pesachim 66b[.
  3. it is even worse than this, as we will explain. The Arizal was
    very particular in the area of anger, more than all other
    transgressions, even when he would be angry for the sake of a
    mitzvah, like in the case with Moshe brought earlier. He would
    reason that all other aveirot do not entirely disable, rather each
    aveirah blemishes one limb. Anger, however, wounds the entire
    soul and alters it completely. The point here is that when a
    person becomes irritated the holy soul completely withdraws
    from him, and in its place comes a soul from the ‘exterior’
    (lower) side – this is a hidden matter – the pasuk speaks about
    this, “He tears his soul with his anger” [lyov 18]. At the time of
    anger and fury, it literally tears out his holy soul and leaves it
    torn, killing it. And as the Zohar brings in parshat Tetzaveh
    pi 82b. how much the Zohar stresses the topic of anger, so much
    so that one who is together with an angry person is as if he is
    right next to an idol – see the text inside
  4. Even if a person makes rectifications to his soul and does a
    fantastic repentance for all his sins, and does numerous and
    great mitzvot, it is all completely lost to him. The holy soul
    which did all those good deeds has been exchanged for an
    impure one and left him, leaving the impure maidservant in its
    place to inherit it’s mistress. It requires that he return again and
    correct all that the original corrections that he did. This happens
    every time that he is angry because an angry person cannot
    receive rectification at all; he is like a dog that repeatedly eats
    his own vomit.
  5. He also damages himself in another way. This is that it could
    be that he did some great mitzvah which brought down the soul
    of a righteous person to come to help him. Now due to the
    anger, this also departs from him. This is another part of the
    meaning of the soul being torn.
  6. As long as a person has the trait of anger, he can never reach
    any spiritual heights, even though he may be righteous in every
    other area, since he builds and then when he become angry
    immediately destroys all that he has just built. Other
    transgressions do not tear out and uproot the soul, although
    they remain stuck to it. They are however blemishes in the
    aspect of that aveirah alone. When he corrects that blemish it is
    entirely fixed. But anger requires numerous rectifications and
    much preparation to return his soul that was ripped away from
    him. Perhaps, as we find in the Zohar in parshat Tezaveh,
    according to the type and essence of the anger, sometimes it
    cannot be fixed at all. Even more than this, my teacher would
    rebuke me greatly even for the times that 1 would get angry with
    my brother whilst teaching him.
  7. When it is written that the aveirah of anger is the most
    severe in the Torah because of the departure of the soul, it refers
    to the severity from one specific aspect. Of course from other
    aspects there are transgressions more severe than anger.
    Obviously if a person is forced to choose between desecrating
    Shabbat or to become angry, he must choose the option of
    anger and not desecrate the Shabbat. Not only with Shabbat,
    which is more severe, but with all other transgressions too,
    there is no way that one can slip up in a particular prohibition in
    order to hold himself back from becoming angry, even though
    there is a unique gravity with anger. There are of course many
    other sides to this and therefore there is no leeway to fall into
    any prohibition in order to save oneself from anger.
  8. There is another very severe thing about anger. Apart from
    anger itself being very serious, the fact is that an angry person is
    very likely to harm others with his words. One must take great
    care with this because there is a Torah prohibition of paining
    someone with words – see what is written about this earlier in
    chapter 11.
    C h a pter T w enty
    T he A dvantages of S tudying T orah and
    S erving H ashem with J oy and E xcitement
  9. The Gaon R’ Chaim Volozhin writes in a letter [printed at the
    end of the augmented version of the Nefesh Hachaim p421]
    about how Torah study is something which needs constant
    encouragement. “I have never held back from encouraging you
    and from hurrying a conscientious person to learn Torah with
    alacrity and great enthusiasm, because what one learns lazily
    taking a whole day, he can learn in just a few hours were he to
    learn with zeal…
  10. .. .The thoughts of your heart should always be on words of
    Torah. Even whilst eating and sleeping, one’s thoughts should be
    on words of Torah. One’s studies should also be in Torah, so that
    the words of Torah are constantly in one’s mouth” – see the text
    of the Nefesh Hachaim for further details.
  11. Harav Chaim Vital writes in his book ‘Sha’ar Ruach
    Hakodesh’lp.lOb] in the name of the Arizal, “Whenever a person
    performs a mitzvah, or is engaged in Torah or in prayer, he
    should be happier and merrier than one who has earned or
    found many thousands of golden dinars.” See all his words
    inside. He means to say here that this is the correct way to serve
    Hashem, since the happiness shows how important the service of
    Hashem is to him. [However he does not mean to say that if a
    person has no way to be happy, he should still not slacken in his
    service of Hashem. He should always do as much as he can
  12. Torah should be studied with great joy, as should the
    performance of all mitzvot be. R’ Chaim Vital adds that by
    learning with enthusiasm and happiness, it usually helps the
    success of the study, see what is written in the letter mentioned
    in point 1 above.
  13. Know that excitement and happiness in Torah study, and in
    other areas of serving Hashem, greatly sanctify and purify a
    person’s soul, for many reasons. One reason is that a person has
    many layers in his soul and often when a person serves his
    Creator, it grasps and strengthens only part of these layers, and
    the other layers participate less. But when he learns Torah or
    serves Hashem in any matter, with excitement and zeal, more
    layers of the soul are used in this learning and mitzvah
    performance. The happiness also affects deeper layers of his soul
    and as a result he is greatly purified.
    C h a p t e r 21
    R eferences in O ther W orks R elevant to the
    T opics D iscussed in this B ook
    All the topics in “Words of encouragement for the study of
    gemarah” are relevant to this work.
    There are various points relevant to this work in my
    commentary on the Torah, mainly in parshat Vayeitzei, parshat
    Metzorah, parshat Acharei-mot, pashat Emor, parshat Behar,
    parshat Vayelech, parshat Vezot-haberacha and various other
    In my work on Neviim and Kesubim there are relevant points in
    Yirmiyahu (chapter 32) and in Yoel (chapter 2) and a few other
    places too.
    There are very many connecting points in my commentary on
    The entire work on the collection of matters in areas of ethics,
    from the Vilna Gaon is very relevant to this work.
    Similarly the essays, “Mordechai Ha’alyah” and, “Ma’alot Hakedusha” are connected to this work.