Messages for Elul #2

Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Friday, September 2, 2022 / 6 Elul 5782

Summary: This year, I am changing the format of Oasis Songs for the month of Elul. Traditionally, this month has been used as spiritual preparation for the Yamim Noraim, our Jewish High Holidays. I will share a quote from a Jewish historical figure that I find inspiring and offer a few of my own thoughts about the selection. This week’s comes from Martha C. Nussbaum, a distinguished American philosopher and professor of law and ethics at the University of Chicago and a Jew by Choice.


Reading Time: One minute

“It is often believed that anger can be both noble and essential, helping the oppressed to assert themselves and pursue justice.…Anger is not only unnecessary for the pursuit of justice, but also a large impediment to the generosity and empathy that help to construct a future of justice.”
Martha C. Nussbaum, Anger and Forgiveness

We live in an age of rage—that is what undergirds all periods of polarization. When anger becomes normalized, it also becomes invisible, so that the well-intentioned are often unaware of how deeply they are driven by it. Our sages noted what anger makes us lose. Resh Lakish, a third century Talmudic amora, stated that when we get angry, our wisdom and our vision withdraw from us. It is difficult to see the world clearly, let alone work toward a better future, when rage physically, emotionally, and intellectually blinds us. This rage tilts us toward blame rather than constructive change.

When and how does your anger show up? Is it more directed at yourself or others? If anger at the self prevents us from experiencing the healing touch of self-love, why do we imagine that anger at others will be more healing?

Shabbat shalom,

Rav D

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