June 12, 2024
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When a person is involved in working on his middot, many times we need to pull out our book of tricks and use various methodologies and alternative tactics to overcome certain character traits…

Elazar Hakohen in this parsha introduces the laws related to hechsher keilim (kashering utensils). The blatant question is raised: Why didn’t Moshe Rabbeinu himself teach these laws? The Gemara in Pesachim (66b) explains that earlier before, Moshe Rabbeinu experienced a state of anger, and anger removes a person’s wisdom, so therefore Moshe Rabbeinu lacked the capacity to teach these laws since this area of wisdom became eluded from him.

Getting angry is not only one of the worst spiritually degrading experiences, but it is also a very uncomfortable state to be in: it is a middah that can wreak havoc on many avenues of a person’s life. Anger is a difficult middah for many to overcome, rightfully so, and surely there are many ways of getting help in this area. I wondered, though, if we can just pull a scheme out of our bag of tricks…

In this week’s parsha, Bnei Gad and Reuven asked to settle on the Eastern bank of the Jordan (because of the abundance of grazing land there and the abundance of cattle that they possessed) in lieu of having a portion on the Western part of Eretz Yisrael. They said, “Enclosures for the flock we shall build here for our livestock and cities for our children…and our children will dwell in the fortified cities in face of the inhabitants of the land” (Bamidbar 32:17). Moshe Rabbeinu responded: “Build for yourselves cities for your children and enclosures for your cattle…” (Bamidbar 32:24).

Rabbi Frand points out that Bnei Gad and Reuven proposed that they would first build enclosures for their flocks and only then would they build cities for their children to live in. However, Moshe Rabbeinu reversed the order and insisted that they first build the cities for their children and only afterward worry about building enclosures for the flocks. Moshe sensed that their first preoccupation was their money and property. The first thing that came out of their mouths was “let us build barns and corrals for our cattle!” The children were an afterthought. He promptly corrected them: “First take care of your children, and then worry about your cattle.” In connection with this incident, the midrash expounds on the pasuk in Kohelet (10:2): “The heart of the wise man is on his right, the heart of the fool is on his left.” The midrash says that “the heart of the wise man” refers to Moshe and the “heart of the fool” refers to the Bnei Gad and Reuven, who made the primary subordinate and the subordinate primary. They gave priority to their money over their children. Indeed, Rav Tzadok HaKohen notes that the desire for money is greater than any other material drive, since it is the only one that is insatiable. There is a limit to how much a person can eat, to how many times he can commit adultery, but there is no limit to how much money he can accumulate. The quest for wealth can become more obsessive than any other quest. As King Solomon wrote: “One who loves money will never be satiated from money.” (Kohelet 5:9)

Now that we know how much of a drive we have toward money, let’s take it a step further. Rav Nachman of Breslov says that before a person is being allocated money decreed from heaven, he is first tested with anger. What this seems to mean is that when Hashem wants to enhance a person’s wealth, He first tests a person with anger, and if he will overcome it he will be granted that increase of wealth. Using this idea of Rav Nachman, I wondered if perhaps we can use this perspective right before we feel that impulse of getting angry: to stop for a split second and reflect that literally an abundance of cash money may be coming to you if you just control yourself in this situation. (Keep in mind that this might not always mean money will fall from the sky, but rather that it might mean that you may get a raise, your AC that Hashem determined will break won’t break, a good business deal will come your way, you’ll find money on the ground, etc. We never know Hashem’s ways of increasing our wealth or saving us from financial disasters.) Anger is not a good middah, and neither is the desire for money. But the fun of working on middot is knowing when and how to use them, to what extent, and in what situation. And thus I thought, perhaps when it comes to the middah of anger, maybe we can use a little “shelo l’shem shamayim” (non-ideal ulterior motives) intentions such as the desire for money to help us fake out our yetzer that tries to get us to become angry.

By Binyamin Benji


Binyamin Benji is a graduate of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan, and Wurzweiler School of Social Work. He currently learns in Lakewood, and is the author of the Sephardic Congregation of Paramus’ weekly Torah Talk. He can be reached at
[email protected]

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