The Living Torah is a weekly publication distributed in and around North West London. Written by members of Hasmonean High School's Sixth Form programme - we aim to bring you divrei torah for your Shabbat table each and everyweek.

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Thursday, 4 March 2010

A Burning Fury

“You shall not kindle fire in any of your dwellings on the day of Shabbat”

Regarding this Pasuk the Chatam Sofer emphasizes the necessity to prepare oneself spiritually in order to derive maximum spiritual benefit from Shabbat. Within the soul of every Jew burns a fire of love for Hashem and a desire to achieve closeness with Him. If we invest energy to fan that flame during the weekdays, so that it will burn strongly, we will not have to begin ‘from scratch’ on Shabbat. However, one who wastes his weekdays on foolishness, entering Shabbat unprepared will have to begin to ignite the flame – kindle a spiritual fire – on Shabbat. Therefore the Torah teaches us that “you shall not kindle fire…on the day of Shabbat”. Don’t wait until Shabbat to kindle your soul; keep it warm all week long, so that the flame can peak on Shabbat.

There are two traits that the Rambam (Hilchot Dei’ot) says that we should avoid enacting through something called Middah Benonit (sometimes called the golden mean, generally meant as the middle path – one of temperance; it is recommended for various middot) and warns against any moderation. He says that arrogance and anger should both be eliminated in an extreme and uncompromising fashion. He says that rage is a terrible trait and endorses a distancing from the path of Middah Benonit to the removal of any trace of anger or fury from within us.

He quotes various sources, one of which says that “he who expresses his anger it is as if he has done Avodah Zara.” The comparison stems from the lack of any boundaries and the vulnerability which submission to anger both reflects and generates.

Namely by showing such utter lack of control, such inability to maintain or coordinate moral will and impose it on emotional torrent or emotional strain, the person has displayed or even created vulnerability for future temptation, the type of temptation that could even lead to idolatry. Because on the day when you succumb to your anger, the Yetzer Hara has overpowered you and that overpowering creates a mode of submission to the Yetzer Hara, submission to hormones, to emotional needs and to personal aggravation; today’s submission will precipitate, will facilitate tomorrow’s vulnerability to other suggestions of the Yetzer Hara i.e. Avodah Zara.

The inability to condition oneself to restraint means that we will surely sin in the future. Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak says in Nedarim כב: quoting a Pasuk in Mishlei that one who is constantly full of rage and anger is overwhelmed and suffused with sin. (“ובעל חמה רב־פשע - A man of wrath commits much transgression” - 29:22)

The Gemara earlier on (כב.) says regarding one who is angry that it as if the Shechinah is trivial to him and says that the moment of anger itself, the submission or expression of anger can only be conducted if there is a blurring or neglect of Hashem’s presence.

The Shelah interprets אש, fire, as a reference to anger and strife. The Pasuk is telling us not to allow the fire of anger or strife to burn specifically on Shabbat. But this raises the question of surely this should be so every day of the week, we should be Rodef Shalom constantly and we should be avoiding anger wherever possible (as we saw above) – why is the prohibition against becoming angry especially relevant on Shabbat. According to Chazal the fire of Gehinam does not burn on Shabbat. One who gets angry causes Hashem to allow that fire to burn in him. If you are angry specifically on Shabbat you are explicitly demonstrating the blurring or neglect of Hashem’s presence.

Shabbat is a time for peace, the Zekan Aharon quotes the Ramban who said that the Mussaf offering of Shabbat, unlike the other Mussaf offerings, does not include a Korban Chatat (a sin offering) because “for Shabbat and the nations of Israel are mates, and peace reigns between them”. On Shabbat peace should reign between man and Hashem, demonstrated through peace between man and man.

‘No אש may burn in any of your dwellings on Shabbat.’

And Shabbat Shalom. 

(Transcribed partly from KMTT Podcast - Ethics and Character - by Rav Moshe Taragin)

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