Monday, 17 August 2009

Righteous Indignation vs. Anger

Micha Berger of Avodah in discussing Rambam's Hilchot Dei'ot:

" I [Micha] once argued that Avraham Avinu's "ha'af tispeh tzadiq im rasha" --
throwing out a rhetorical question in complaint to the RBSO [Ribono shell Olam (about Sedom
et al) was not only justifiable anger, but actually *laudible* anger at the RBSO!"

Sometimes a prophet or saint needs anger to attack injustice.

And sometimes this can be an over-reaction

Sammy the Gabbai tells me this story.

I onced asked "Speedy" to daven mincha. Speedy said tachanun a bit too fast

So "Aryeh" got up and yelled at Speedy - in front of the whole shul - to "slow down". Indeed - Aryeh had a right to be upset but not a right to humiliate Speedy in public! Aryeh should have either addressed him quietly or later on privately. But Aryeh's
Temper clouded his judgment


1 comment:

Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

But are the two cases really comparable?

Obviously, without knowing the individuals involved, these comments should not in any way be taken as personal -- but there is a large difference between Avraham Avinu's question of God and the critique of Aryeh. There was nothing personal or personally applicable to Avraham in his question. He was simply responding to and with the value of justice. What he perceived as an injustice is what angered him.

In the case of Aryeh, though, there was a personal aspect to the critique. He was in the minyan and personally affected by Speedy's behaviour. Maybe he wanted to daven slower, maybe he felt that others davening were be adversely affected by Speedy's davening, but he was personally being affected by Speedy's behaviour. This does not mean that Aryeh was wrong for responding to what he felt was Speedy's adverse affect on either his davening or the davening of the others in his minyan, but it does identify a further consideration. His person was involved -- and this personal involvement could even be extended. This may not mean that he also did not have anger to what he believed to be an challenge to the value of davening, but one must be concerned about the personal's involvement in anger. In the case of Avraham, he was totally a response to his perception of injustice, to a value.

It should be noted that there is another important aspect to Avraham's reaction. He could have just backed away, saying that of course this action of Hashem was just; the problem was simply his lack of understanding. He did not do that but rather, as Micha points out, questioned in anger. As the old saying goes, it is not enough that justice be done but that justice be perceived to be done. Avraham was applying this to Hashem as well -- with perhaps also an further intent. How can human beings learn about justice if our Model is not understandable. Now of course, Hashem's actions cannot always be understood. But the value that we strive to understand also cannot be thereby dampened. Avraham was angry because as far as he understood this was a case of injustice. He therefore questioned God and, I am sure, if God did not answer him, he would have walked away with the recognition that of course God is just and he just doesn't understand. But as we live and are invovled in the fight, we have to strive to understand through our understanding.

Rabbi Ben Hecht