Yehuda Lave
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Proper and Improper Use of Anger in Bible Section Chukkas (Numbers chapter 20)

As you take a close look at the life of Moses you discover he was a man of action. Did he have a problem with anger? Let’s discuss it. In Exodus chapter 2 he killed an Egyptian (Exodus 2:11-12), whether he was justified or not. In Exodus 32:19 Moses sees the golden calf that the children of Israel had made for worship. In his action, Moses throws down the tablets of stone, shattering the two stone tablets that G-d had made. In Numbers 20:10-12, Moses, disobeys G-d and the result was that G-d would not let Moses enter into the promised land.

The question is was it anger that motivated Moses or something else. Let’s take a test about anger. When you get angry, do you get angry against the person rather than the offense? Do you have a desire for revenge? Do you have a hard time forgiving others? Do you get angry easily? Do you have a reputation for losing your temper? If your answer is yes, then you have a problem with anger.

The context of Exodus chapter 32 is that Moses has been up on a mountain talking with G-d for a number of days. He has received from G-d the 10 commandments and the outline for building the tabernacle that will be used in worshipping G-d. But it has been days since he has been seen by the congregation of Israel. So Moses’ brother Aaron is encouraged to make a god out of a golden calf. So while Moses is speaking with G-d, his congregation is worshipping a calf.


Notice from Exodus 32:10 that is proper to be angry at sin. You will see that one of the characteristics of G-d is that He gets angry and takes action against sin. Look at what G-d says to Moses.32:10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” G-d has a fit of righteous anger against sin. There is a proper use of anger. We know this because G-d can’t be wrong. If G-d says it, it is right.

Sin ought to move you to anger. Abraham Lincoln in his younger days went down to the slave market in New Orleans. There he saw a black girl being auctioned as a slave. Abraham Lincoln said he felt righteous indignation coming over him. And he said to his friend, “That is wrong, and one of these days if I have a chance to stop it, I’m going to stop it.” Black Lives matters retell this story differently and have even damaged Lincoln’s statute. I’m angry that thousands of children are being sexually and physically abused. But my anger is not to drive me to sin. For example, I heard a businessman went to the hospital to visit his partner, who was dying from being poisoned. Suddenly the dying man said, “Before I die I must confess some things to you and ask your forgiveness. I want you to know that I robbed the firm of $100,000. I sold our secret formula to our competitors, and also, I’m the one who supplied your wife with the evidence that helped her get her divorce that cost you a fortune.” The businessman said, “Oh, that’s O.K. I’m the guy who poisoned you.” There is to be a proper use of anger.

2ND — THERE IS THE IMPROPER USE OF ANGER. Moses illustrates the improper use of anger.

Exodus 32:15-19

15 Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. 16 The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. 17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, “There is the sound of war in the camp.” 18 Moses replied: “It is not the sound of victory, it is not the sound of defeat; it is the sound of singing that I hear.” 19 When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. What is this all about? Well, Moses has been on a mountain top talking with G-d. And as he is working his way down the mountain, he sees the golden calf that the people were worshipping. Notice the improper use of his anger.

Moses takes the two stone tablets that contained the law of G-d, and he throws them down. And the result is that they shatter.

Now, look at Exodus 34:1. When G-d wants to replace the 2 stone tablets, is G-d going to make the tablets and give them to Moses again? No way. Moses in his anger broke the stone tablets and now G-d says, “Moses, you replace the 2 stone tablets.”

What is God saying,” “Moses, I provided the 2 stone tablets, but in your fit of anger you broke them. Now you replace them.” Here is the point, there is an improper use of anger. And not only is there an improper use of anger, but there is also another principle.


You don’t just walk away from being angry. You can lose respect. You can lose your children. You can even lose your wife, and you can even use lose your job. There is a cost to anger. I heard of a tough store manager who was walking through the packing room one day when he saw a young man lounging on a shipping crate, whistling and relaxing. In anger, he asked how much he was paid. The young man answered, “$120 a week.” At that, the manager took out his wallet, grabbed some bills, and threw them at the young man. And then said, “Here’s a week’s pay. Get out of here!” The manager immediately found the department head and demanded to know who had hired the young man. He replied, “We didn’t hire him. He was just here to pick up a package.” Anger can be costly.

Proverbs 30:33

33 For as churning the milk produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.”

Did you know that Moses’ anger cost him deeply? Look at Numbers 20:8 (our portion) The children of Israel are grumbling that there is no water. Now notice in verse 8 what G-d tells Moses to do about the water shortage.

Numbers 20:8

8 “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.” G-d says, “Moses, there is a big rock over there. I want you to go and just speak to the rock and water will flow out of it.” Now look at verse 9, 10 & 11 and see if Moses obeys G-d.

Numbers 20:9-11

9 So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

Did Moses obey G-d? No, instead of just speaking to the rock, Moses loses his temper, chews out the people and he hits the rock twice. Are there going to be any consequences for his anger? Most certainly. Look at verse 12.

Numbers 20:12

12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

Moses’ number one dream was to enter the promised land. But the consequences of Moses’ anger were that he could not enter the promised land.

Now a little story:

Shmuel’s Philosophy Exam

Shmuel Shuster went straight from many years of Yeshiva into college. His parents were concerned that he might not have the necessary background in the humanities but he was confident. He came to class at the end of the semester for his philosophy final exam where the students had all prepared from their vast array of assignments and readings.

Their eccentric professor gave a one-question final exam. He picked up his chair, plopped it on his desk, and wrote on the board: “Using everything we have learned this semester, prove that this chair does not exist.”

Fingers flew, erasers erased, and notebooks were filled in furious fashion. Some students wrote over 30 pages in one hour attempting to refute the existence of the chair. Shmuel, however, was up and finished in less than a minute.

Weeks later when the grades were posted, the rest of the group wondered Shmuel could have gotten an “A” when he had barely written anything at all. They asked Shmuel what his answer consisted of and he responded that it only contained two words:

“What chair?”

About the Author
Yehuda Lave writes a daily (except on Shabbat and Hags) motivational Torah blog at Loving-kindness my specialty. Internationally Known Speaker and Lecturer and Author. Self Help through Bible and Psychology. Classes in controlling anger and finding Joy. Now living and working in Israel. Remember, it only takes a moment to change your life. Learn to have all the joy in your life that you deserve!!! There are great masters here to interpret Spirituality. Studied Kabbalah and being a good human being with Rabbi Plizken and Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, my Rabbi. Torah is the name of the game in Israel, with 3,500 years of mystics and scholars interpreting G-D's word. Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement
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