Anger Mismanagement

“And the frog ascended and covered the land of Egypt” (Shemot 8: 2).

Hashem’s assault on the Egyptians began with the plague of blood and was followed by the plague of frog infestation. Moshe followed Hashem’s command and instructed Aharon to stretch out his hands over the bodies of water in Egypt. Immediately, frog infestation covered the land. Rashi points out that the singular form of “frog” is used. The simple meaning, he explains, is that the total infestation is referred to as a single event. He then cites a Midrash that states that only one frog came up from the water and the Egyptians began to strike the creature. Every time they hit the frog, swarms of frogs inundated the land.

The Steipler Gaon (Birkat Peretz, Va’eira) points out that if the Egyptians saw that each blow produced swarms of new frogs, their reaction should have been to stop hitting the giant frog. Why, then, did they continue hitting? The Steipler says that such is the nature of anger. The Egyptians thought, “If the frog doesn’t respond to my control and doesn’t stop producing swarms of new frogs, it deserves to be hit again and again until it complies with my wishes.”

This is a lesson in anger management. If a person holds back and does not vent his spleen on the subject of his ire, the anger burning within him soon subsides naturally. However, if one falls into a “tit for tat” mentality, feeling that one must outdo one’s adversary, there is no end to the intensity the anger can reach.

There was once a Rabbi who was approached to bring shalom bayit — peace — into the home of a couple who always found grounds for loud dispute. After several raucous meetings, he threw up his hands and said, “The only thing that can work here is special kabbalah water.”

The couple became silent and looked at each other with dismay. “What does the Rabbi mean?”

The Rabbi went into his study and returned with a bottle of water which he placed on the table between the combatants. “This,” he declared, “is the only solution to your problem!”

“How does it work?” the curious couple asked in unison.

“You must always leave it out and accessible when you are together at home,” he explained. “Whenever the other says something that upsets you, don’t reply. First take a mouthful of this water.”

“That’s it?” the husband asked.

“Not yet,” the Rabbi replied. “Then don’t swallow. Count backwards from 10 to zero while holding the water in your mouth. By the time you swallow, the anger will subside enough for you to control yourself.”

All of us can learn a lesson from this story on how to control anger. Think before speaking and reason before reacting. Is what’s upsetting you so important? Is the damage to you so great? Only you can make a small matter into a big deal and only you can make a hurt insignificant.

We look at the Egyptians as unreasonable, but very often our behavior is no different than theirs. Anger is self-destructive; the primary one hurt is the person who displays it. When you train yourself to accept all events calmly, with patience and tolerance, life is much more beautiful and pleasant — for you and those around you. Hold that imaginary water in your mouth before swallowing and avoid the deleterious effects of anger mismanagement.

Shabbat shalom.