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Pirkei Avot 1:12 – Strive for Peace and Reduce Anger


Pirkei Avot 1:12

הִלֵּל וְשַׁמַּאי קִבְּלוּ מֵהֶם. הִלֵּל אוֹמֵר, הֱוֵי מִתַּלְמִידָיו שֶׁל אַהֲרֹן, אוֹהֵב שָׁלוֹם וְרוֹדֵף שָׁלוֹם, אוֹהֵב אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת וּמְקָרְבָן לַתּוֹרָה

Hillel and Shammai received [the oral tradition] from them. Hillel used to say: be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving mankind, and drawing them close to the Torah.

In the Talmudic literature[1] Aaron is described as the great peacemaker who went to any ends to make peace between man and wife and between feuding Jews:[2]

When Aaron heard of two men who had quarreled, he would go to one and say to him, ‘So-and-so, peace be upon you, my master!’ and he replied, ‘Peace be upon you, my master and teacher! What does my master seek here?’ He then said, ‘So-and-so, your friend, sent me to you to appease you, because he declares, “I have offended my friend” ’. Immediately the man reflects, ‘A righteous man like him has come to appease me!’ and exclaims, ‘Master, it was I who offended him’. [Aaron] then went to the other man and said the same to him. When the two meet on the way, one says to the other, ‘Forgive me for the offence which I did to you’ and the other speaks likewise.

It is not always easy to step up to someone in your own anger and make amends. This is because if you are in your emotions, it is difficult to think rationally about the situation. Aaron acts as a mediator here. The anger, the emotion, in both parties subsides, allowing one to better reflect on one’s own actions. People who are angry feel that they have been wronged, but so does the other party. It does not matter so much who is in their “right”. Both have in whatever way hurt the other, when both name and discuss that, there is room for a normalized relationship.

When we see people arguing, it is good to adopt Aaron’s example and it is good to try to settle people’s quarrels. You do this because every human being is valuable and created by G-d. Anger is so destructive to individual people, but also to society.

When a person is angry, he gets a pounding heart, a knot in his stomach and the muscles of his body contract. If this persists for a long time, it can lead to physical complaints.

But anger also does a lot to people mentally. A person may become lethargic and energetic and may develop depressive feelings.

It will also make one’s relationship with G-d go downhill. When you are angry you deny that He determines everything that happens to you and instead of learning something from the situation, you fight against it. It can lead to you getting angry with G-d as well. Only a joyful heart can be fully open to G-d.

Anger can completely destroy a society as we can read for example in Avot D’Rabbi Natan 12:7:

Love all people. How so? This teaches us that a person should love all people and not hate anyone. For so we find with the people of the Generation of the Dispersion, *See Genesis 11:1–9. that because they loved one another, the Holy Blessed One did not want to wipe them off the face of the earth, but instead only scattered them to the four corners of the world. But the people of Sodom, because they hated one another, the Holy Blessed One took them out of both this world and the World to Come, as it says (Genesis 13:13), “And the people of Sodom were very wicked and sinful against God.” “Sinful” – this is sexual transgression; “against God” – this the desecration of God’s name; “very” – this means that they sinned intentionally. From this you learn that because they hated one another, the Holy Blessed One took them out of both this world and the World to Come.

When people are no longer angry with G-d, with their fellow man, they are open to Torah. Then you can start telling them about the 7 Noahide Laws. How they themselves can learn to develop a relationship with G-d and how a just and peaceful society can emerge when people align their life’s journey with the Noahide Laws.

By Angelique Sijbolts


[1] Tractate Kallah Rabbati 3:4
[2] ArtScroll Pirkei Avos p. 12

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