This Shabbos we read Parshas Shemini. In this Parsha we are told that after the death of two of the sons of Aaron, the other two sons, Elazar and Itamar, did not eat the sin offering. “And Moses got angry at Elazar and Itamar, … saying why didn’t you eat the sin offering…? (Leviticus 10:17) Our Sages tell us that Moses made a mistake here. Really, they were not supposed to eat this offering since they had the status of mourners. However, Moses made a mistake because he got angry. When a person gets angry, the Sages state, he or she will make a mistake.
On a simple level, the Sages are telling us, that the punishment for getting angry is that one will forget his Torah knowledge. However, the Sages are really making a much greater statement to us regarding anger. If we think about it, we have to understand a very basic problem. If Moses only forgot the law that they should not eat the offering after he got angry, then why did he get angry to begin with? In reality Aaron's sons did the right thing by not eating this sacrifice? The Ohr Hachaim explains that the reason Moses got angry was that Aarons sons should not have decided the law on their own without consulting with their teacher. It is considered a terrible sin in Jewish law to render judgment in front of ones teacher, without consulting with him. If so, then Moses had a correct reason for being angry. Why then, was he punished by forgetting the laws?
We see here that the idea of forgetting Torah when one is angry isn’t a punishment. It’s a reality – if you get angry – you will forget your Torah knowledge. Anger, if we fall into it, brings us down and causes us to fall and to lose levels of elevation and sanctity that we may have attained.
How many times do we say things and then wish that we hadn’t said them? How often do we cause pain and anguish to ourselves and to others by saying things that we wish we could retract. Our sages offer us simple advise to avoid these situations. When you feel yourself getting angry, or about to explode, avoid immediate reaction. If we could train ourselves to count until twenty, or even just until ten before we react, than so many of the things that we say out of anger and later regret, could be eliminated. There are so many stories of our sages who would wait a day until they would respond to a tense situation. How many situations of strife and contention wouldn’t arise this way? Let us learn from them and try to avoid doing things that we will regret. Hopefully this will promote peace in our community and in all of Israel.