Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity. — Ecclesiastes 11:10 (ESV)
The Talmud, Judaism’s Oral Tradition, teaches, “When a person becomes angry, he acquires only his anger.” In other words, when we are angry, no good comes of it. We don’t attain our goals, we make mistakes, and more often than not, we incur losses. The only thing we actually do obtain is anger itself. And anger is a toxic substance that is bad for us — and our bodies.
Long before science confirmed the mind-body relationship, King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes: “Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body.” The Hebrew word used in the verse for “vexation” literally means “anger.” Thousands of years ago, Solomon taught that having anger on our mind creates pain in our bodies.
Here is a great illustration as to how this works: There was once a man who was woken up way too early in the morning by what sounded like someone repairing boilers on his roof. The man was so annoyed that he grabbed a robe and ran outside without even putting shoes on his feet. When he found the culprit, it was simply a woodpecker on a TV antenna pounding the metal pole.
Furious at the woodpecker, the man threw a large rock at it. However, instead of hitting the bird, the rock sailed over the house and landed with the sound of a crash. As the man realized that his misfired rock had hit the windshield of his car, he kicked another rock on the ground only to remember — too late — that he was still in his bare feet.
This is the consequence of anger – we hurt ourselves more than anyone else.
It’s natural to get angry. Even Moses succumbed to anger when the Israelites lost faith and demanded, yet again, water in the desert. In Numbers 20:10–11 we read that Moses said to the people: “’Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?' Then Moses lifeted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod." God had instructed Moses to speak to the rock, but instead, Moses hit it out of anger. As a result, Moses wasn’t allowed to lead the people into the Promised Land.
The message of the Bible is clear. Anger is harmful in so many ways, and as Solomon highlighted, it can also have a negative impact on our physical bodies. So next time we are tempted to react in anger, take just two seconds (if you can’t even pause for ten) and remember that anger hurts. Instead getting upset, let the anger go. Heal your heart, help your body, and live in peace with yourself and others.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President