A person’s wisdom yields patience;
it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense. — Proverbs 19:11
An old Jewish folktale tells a story about a man who showed his father great respect and did whatever his father asked of him. When his father was on his deathbed, he said to the son, “Just as you honored me during my lifetime, continue to do so after my death by obeying these instructions: When you grow angry, refrain from taking action until the next day.”
After his father died, the man left for a business trip that lasted many years. Unbeknownst to him, his wife was pregnant when he left. When the man returned from his trip, he heard a young man in his home conversing and laughing with his wife. He immediately assumed that his wife had been unfaithful in his absence and felt his anger flare. He drew his sword in order to slaughter the man in his home but then remembered the promise he had sworn to his father – not to act immediately on anger – and put his sword away.
A few minutes later the man heard his wife say to the stranger in the house, “Had your father known you were born, he would already be finding you a good wife.” The man suddenly realized that the person he almost murdered out of anger was indeed his son. He greeted his wife and his son and blessed God who helped him control his fury, saving him from making the biggest mistake of his life.
This story has been passed down for generations in order to illustrate the danger of acting in anger. The Talmud teaches: “When a person gives in to anger, if he is wise, his wisdom leaves him. If he is a prophet, his power of prophecy leaves him; if greatness was decreed for him from Heaven, anger will cause him to be degraded.” Anger hurts no one more than the person who experiences it.
In Proverbs we read: “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” Literally translated from the original Hebrew, the verse begins, “A person’s wisdom makes him slow to anger . . .” Either way, the verse is understood as a teaching on anger. If we are wise, we will avoid it at all costs.
One of the greatest causes of anger is when a person feels slighted. The second part of the verse teaches us that to become angry doesn’t increase our honor; rather, when we are able to let offenses pass, we will be honored. Those who act out rashly in anger do nothing to win the respect of others. However, when we can keep a cool head and act intelligently and in a dignified manner, we will earn the respect of all.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President