Fixing Your Fire - 013 Anger | Dangerous Rage
Anger Stemming From Fire-of-Fire: Rage
With siyata d’shmaya, we continue here to learn about anger, which stems from the element of fire in the soul. We have so far discussed the branches of anger which stem from “earth”, “water” and “wind” within the element of fire. Now we will discuss the kinds of anger which stem from the “fire” of fire – the most intense kind of anger from all of these.
Fire-of-fire, like the other divisions, will also divide into four branches: earth, water, wind, and fire. Therefore, there is anger that stems from “earth”-of-fire-of-fire, “water”-of-fire-of-fire, “wind”-of-fire-of-fire, and “fire”-of-fire-of-fire. First we will describe each of these briefly, and then we will go through them in detail.
The Four Branches of Fire-of-Fire
1) Earth-of-fire-of-fire is when a person actualizes his anger, from its potential state into its active state.
2) Water-of-fire-of-fire is when a person is continuously dragged after anger, without pause.
3) Wind-of-fire-of-fire is when a person is angered easily by any small reason that triggers it.
4) Fire-of-fire-of-fire is an intense rage, where the level of anger is total. Of this the Sages say that “one who is angered, it is as if he committed idol worship.” This is called resichah (fury).
Earth-of-Fire-of-Fire: The Actualization of Anger
First we will begin with examining anger that stems from earth-of-fire-of-fire.
Until now, in the previous chapters, we have been describing anger that is internal, where it is brimming in a person’s heart, and perhaps his face is also red with anger. But another kind of anger is where anger is actualized, where it goes from its potential state into its active state.
Earth nurtures what is placed in it by producing plants from the original seeds, so the role of earth is that it brings things from their potential state into their active state. Thus, when anger is actualized, it is stemming from the “earth” aspect of fire-of-fire.
Anger In Speech and In Action
This may manifest in a person’s speech or actions. When a person is speaking angrily with someone, this is a less extreme manifestation of the anger, relatively speaking - compared to angry actions that are taken against another. When anger is actualized in one’s speech, it will take on the form of sudden shouting and yelling, and even more so, the words themselves that are uttered then will be “angry” words.
When people are expressing their anger in words, they are apt to let out curses, even at their parents, chas v’shalom, which is forbidden by the Torah. They might even curse themselves. During an angry tirade, a person may stumble upon many Torah prohibitions. Besides for using vulgar language, the person may come to swear, along with committing other sins that are speech-related. These words uttered in anger are an expression of the anger that is in his heart; they are being actualized from their potential state, via the means of speech.
As long as a person is just expressing the anger via the means of speech, the anger can be under control, but the problems begin once a person loses control of the words coming out of his mouth. Sometimes he will continue to express things that are related to his anger, but at other times, he will say things that have nothing to do with what he was angry about. It may turn into cursing, condemning, swearing, and other kinds of speech which are uttered by people when they lose control of the words coming out of their mouth. In many cases, the anger extends way past the subject at hand, and it will either lead to getting angry about other things, or it will lead to cursing and other strong language.
Many times, though, the anger goes beyond speech - and it becomes action. When anger is expressed in action, it is the total actualization of anger from its potential state.
Chazal describe one who breaks things while he is anger, and this is referring specifically to the “actualized” anger which we are discussing here. Anger is a destructive force which is rooted in the element of fire. Just as fire destroys, so does anger destroy things when it is actualized. It might not always be a totally fiery display of anger, but since anger is rooted in fire, the actualized anger will always be somewhat destructive in its nature.
When Kayin killed Hevel, besides for how this was an outcome of the negative trait of jealousy, it also led to murder. When a person becomes very angry, he might wish to destroy the whole world in his anger. Being that this is impossible for him to do, he may instead destroy everything around him, by breaking whatever is in front of him, by breaking objects or hurting people, and in Kayin’s case, to come to murder.
Holding Onto Resentment Vs. Impulsive Anger
When people actualize their anger, there are two possibilities of how it may be manifested.
Some people are very calm when they actualize their anger; they will not be that impulsive, and they will be able to slowly actualize their anger, without feeling a need to act so fast. An example of this is Esav, who waited for his father to die so that he could pursue Yaakov and try to kill him. A person may bear a grudge against someone and be full of resentment towards him, holding onto it for a long time, and then take action against the person at a later time, perhaps by harming him, or chas v’shalom to the point that he will kill him, as Kayin did to Hevel.
In others, anger is actualized very quickly and impulsively. As soon as they are angered, they quickly actualize the potential of their fire-of-fire, and before they even get a chance to think, the deed has been done. There are unfortunately people who have killed others as soon as they were angered, without even thinking about the consequences. A petty argument may lead to something, a sharp word is exchanged or an improper action is done to him, and as soon as the person is angered by this, if he has a knife or a gun on him, he may quickly use it against the person.
Many times there are murderers who quickly regret what they have done, and they will say, “What have I done??” The anger is quickly gone after they have acted upon it, and only then does the regret sink in. But during the actual time of the anger, a person might be so impulsive to quickly let it out, he has basically lost his mind and he has no daas at that moment, and he is bordering on insanity. (This is not to say that he isn’t responsible for his actions, since he is insane at that moment. A murderer receives capital punishment in Beis Din if he has been warned by two witnesses.) Everything happens so quickly that the person never thinks about what this will mean for his future.
There are also people who have very destructive middos. Instead of quickly taking action against the person whom they feel wronged by, they will wait a long time until they can take revenge, plotting for a long of time on how they can get back at the person. The person might wait for a few days, a few weeks, a few months and even several years until he eventually strikes back, carefully waiting until he can execute his plan for revenge. This does not stem from anger, however, but from the trait of revenge, where a person is resentful for a long time against another and he wishes to be destructive to another.
A Jew’s soul may know what it’s like to be very angry, but plotting to harm others and waiting a long time to take action against the other person is a nature that is rooted in the wicked souls of the “Erev Rav” (the Mixed Multitude), because the soul of a Jew is not able to do such a thing.
Angry outbursts may be commonplace in a Jew’s life, and the Sages describe a person who is quick to anger and difficult to appease; but at least he has much good in his soul which can do many good things, and it is just that he has an imbalance in his element of fire, which causes him to lose control when he gets angry. But if someone can plot against another person for a long amount of time and wait years until he can take revenge against the person, his very soul is rooted in a destructive nature – and such a nature is a sign that he is not of the souls of the Jewish people.
“Erev Rav” In The Soul
We will digress a bit here from the topic of this chapter, in order to discuss the following important point that is relevant here.
In the later generations, and in our generation especially, there are some people who have different parts to their souls – part of their soul is “Yisrael” (Jew), and part of their souls come from the wicked souls of “Erev Rav”.
On a deeper note, every soul contains the entire universe, so there is also “Erev Rav” manifest in every soul. But on a more specific level, there are many people in the generation today who have a great mixture of good\Jew and evil\Erev Rav in their souls.
Our Sages wrote that in the final generation especially, the parts of the soul which did not yet receive a rectification in previous lifetimes (whether it is their aspects of “nefesh”, “ruach”, or “neshamah”) will return in later generations to receive their rectification, but even more so, the Sages write of a concept where parts of different souls can join together in one person’s soul, in order to receive their rectification.
This is the inner reason of why a person can feel so many inner contradictions inside himself. He has a “split” in his personality, and it will seem to others that he has some kind of “split personality” disorder, but the truth of the matter may be because there are parts of different souls contained in him, so he can really be two people at once.
With regards to our current discussion, in our generation, there are people who are partially Jew and partially “Erev Rav”. When people are ignorant of this concept, they are baffled by the contradictions that they may notice in the personality of many people, who come across as having some kind of split personality, where one day they are very kind and the next day they can act very destructive.
Sometimes we can see a person who has a very good heart, and he can daven with fervor and with tears, and soon afterwards he acts destructive, where he belittles things that are holy, and he enjoys it. He might be a person who causes the public to sin, chas v’shalom, yet when it comes Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, he looks so earnest and he is seen davening and crying. People who see this contradiction in the person will wonder: “What is going on over here? Who is he? Is he genuine, or not?!”
There are even some people who have caused others to sin, and part of their harm was due to the fact that they look like G-d fearing people, who can be seen learning in a Beis Midrash or in an earnest davening, with passionate feelings for the spiritual, but it may all be like one big joke to the person, and it is not genuine. Some people look merciful, it seems that they possess the Jewish trait of rachamim\compassion, but if you look deeper under the surface, there is a lot in his character that contradicts this.
Sometimes a person simply has some middos that aren’t good, and that is not what we are talking about here. He may be very lazy, or he is very gluttonous, or he is too talkative, or he has a bad temper; but that doesn’t show that he has the evil nature of “destructiveness”. “Destructiveness” is not to be viewed simply as a bad middah; it is a far more serious ruination of character. When a person has a nature in himself to act destructive to others and to things that are holy, this is a “spark of the Erev Rav” contained in his soul, which does not come from the Jewish people.
These people have two major parts to themselves. There is a part of them which is Jewish, and a part of them which is not. The part which is “Jew” is the “pure heart that G-d created me with”, which can be manifest in either the traits that he shows of either compassion, love for Hashem, or crying to Hashem in prayer. Shortly after displaying these earnest Jewish traits, this person might become act destructive towards others and become involved with dissension with others.
It is not simply because he is acting in error and that he’s mistaken. There is a more inner reason to his destructive nature. It is because in the depths of his soul, he enjoys the transition from holiness to evil – which is stemming from the evil that lays deep in his soul.
We are encountering these kinds of people all the time, but we don’t always notice it. We should understand that when we are involved with such people, we must adapt an attitude of “Honor him, but suspect him.” It is difficult to decide who falls into this category or not. But because there do exist such people in the world today, we must be very careful with who we bond with. We should only allow ourselves to bond with someone who is good at his root, which means that he does not have the issue of being destructive. Instead of allowing yourself to be around someone who acts destructive, better hang around people who are not.
Destructiveness vs. Angry Outbursts
We have digressed here to discuss this, in order to point out this very important point to know about. If a person recognizes in his soul that he has a bit of this nature of “destructiveness”, he must realize that this comes from a “spark of the Erev Rav” that is embedded into his soul. If the destructiveness dominates him totally, or on a very large scale, then it is a sign that he is, chas v’shalom, of the souls of the “Erev Rav”; simply speaking.
However, we are not coming to discuss such a person here and how he is rectified. Those people are completely dominated by earth-of-fire-of-fire, and they are able to hold onto resentment for many years against someone until they take action against the person, which is like what Esav did to Yaakov. A person who has this nature dominant in himself is living a lie. He might be a person who helps people, making sure to get a very good name for himself, but he also feels that he is right to take action against others in a destructive way.
Anyone who knows the world a bit will understand exactly what we mean. People who are dominated by earth-of-fire-fire, when they are angered, are capable of destroying entire communities; they are capable of causing dissension in marriages, they are capable of destroying father-son relationships, and they can do it all very quickly - and all in the name of “holiness”. But it does not come from genuine holiness. We aren’t discussing at all here about these kinds of people; it requires its own discussion.
Here we are talking about someone who has quick angry outbursts, which stems from earth-of-fire-of-fire in the soul. This is a kind of person who actualizes his anger not only by raising his voice, but by taking action against others, where he actualizes his anger from its potential state to its active state, and all of this takes place very quickly. He impulsively acts upon his anger and he never gives himself the time to think about the consequences of what he is doing. Only later will it sink in what he’s done, and then he’ll regret it, but then it will be too late – like when Achashveirosh’s anger subsided the day after he had Vashti executed, and then he realized what he had done and he regretted it, but it was too late.
A Problem That Is Not Found In Many
There aren’t many people who have this nature, to act so fast upon their anger. Even if someone does have this nature, if he has spent some years learning Torah in the Beis Midrash, along with purity and holiness, this anger will eventually be calmed somewhat and it won’t become out of control.
Helping Children Control Their Rage
We can see often that there are children and young teenagers who might have this kind of impulsive anger, and the reason for this is because they are not yet balanced in their souls then. We might see a particular kind anger in them that looks like earth-of-fire-fire: when they have quick angry outbursts, and they act upon it impulsively, harming others and breaking things as soon as they get angry.
We can see it for example when a child gets angry at another child and he quickly beats up the other child, violently and with no mercy. If it was just a slap, that doesn’t yet show that he has this problem with anger which we are describing here. But there are some children who can act much more violent in their anger, and we pity anyone who is around such a child when he’s angry. He will quickly lash out in anger and take it all out on the victim, or he will want to damage everything that is near him.
These angry tirades take place every day in the lives of many children. It is the particular kind of anger which stems from earth-of-fire-of-fire, which is a quick and impulsive kind of anger that results in destruction. In children, this nature can be in its full force. How can we help such children deal with this kind of anger? Understandably, when dealing with children, who are not yet capable of mature and inner avodah, we need to train them with the following external techniques, if we recognize that the child has this nature to have dangerous angry outbursts.
One way to deal with such a child is to apply opposite measures of authority and love at the same time. He needs to get the message that his behavior is unacceptable, but at the same time, we need to apply love to him. We must make him aware that there are certain lines which he is never allowed to across, so that he gets the idea that there must be boundaries to his anger. And we may have to apply some extreme measures in order for him to get the point. This doesn’t have to be accomplished through giving him a slap; it can be done in other ways.
But when you punish him, you have to show him at the very same time that you love him. He needs to receive the message from you that no matter what he does, he is always your son whom you love. As the Gemara says regarding the relationship between the Jewish people and Hashem, “Whether they are like this or like that (righteous or sinful), they are called “children to Hashem.” While the child is raging and you are stopping him from unleashing his anger, at that very moment, you should express your love to your child, and let him know clearly that you absolutely love him no matter how he acts. But at the very same time, you must also apply force on him so that he will not unleash his anger any further, and you must be very firm about this.
There are no clear rules about how much strict measure should be applied and where to draw the line, and it is impossible to give exact guidelines for this. The point is that you should be both very firm yet loving to him as he’s raging, without compromising on any of these two aspects; and it is especially important to do so when he’s in the midst of the rage and he wants to let out all his anger. You will need to keep doing this several times whenever the child is raging and losing control of his anger: apply firmness with him, let him get the message that he is not allowed at all to act like this, and make sure to keep expressing love to him, so that he gets the point that he is loved unconditionally by you.
This will help a child develop boundaries to his anger, a rectified form of the element of earth in the soul, which helps him counter his nature of impulsive actualization of anger; and at the same time, he will also feel loved by his parents, even though he knows that they are applying authority to him.
If we don’t express love to him as we are stopping him from unleashing his anger, a great distance is created between the parents and the child, which does almost irreparable damage.
How A Mature Adult Can Deal With His Rage: Developing Boundaries
So far we have explained about how to help children deal with their anger when they are raging. Now let us see how one can help a mature adult deal with his anger, when he feels like he is about to explode in a rage and do drastic things.
As mentioned earlier, most adults do not get to this point of anger where they lose control so much. A few people, however, do have this kind of anger. The Sages refer to this as “One who is easily angered, and difficult to appease.” How he is appeased after his anger is a separate matter, but here we are addressing the first aspect, which is that he is easily angered. When one is “easily angered”, his anger bursts out of him like a lightning bolt, and soon afterwards the anger is gone, as in the case of the anger of Achashveirosh, who had Vashti quickly executed in his anger, and later his anger calmed down.
Only a few people do drastic things as soon as they are angered, but this problem does exist, so let’s see how to deal with it. The solution to this kind of anger is two-fold.
The first part of the solution for this kind of person is that he will need to go to an extreme in order to acquire the idea of having boundaries to his anger (which builds a holy kind of element of earth in the soul). We already mentioned this earlier with regards to dealing with children, where it is the parents who show the child how to develop boundaries. But here we are dealing with an adult who has never yet learned how to acquire boundaries to his anger. This is not only with regards to restraining his angry outbursts. He will need to learn how to develop boundaries in all areas of his life.
One needs to have boundaries, like a wall of solid earth that he builds for himself, which restrains him from unleashing any imbalances in his nature. This is the holy use of the element of “earth” in the soul. When one has placed strong boundaries on himself in some areas of his life, this will also help him deal with his anger and stop it from being unleashed.
However, one cannot start placing boundaries on his anger while he’s actually raging. This is because there is a rule, “At the time when the yetzer hora is present, there is no mention of the yetzer tov.” There is nothing that can help a person start overcoming his yetzer hora when it is dominating. Even more so, it will be not enough for a person to place boundaries only on his anger; he will need to develop the very idea of boundaries on all areas of his life. Of course, this needs to be done sensibly, in proper balance with the other elements in the soul, and this depends on each person’s particular soul makeup.
The more a person develops boundaries upon all of the aspects of the soul, he will have the firmness to stop himself from exploding in anger and from actualizing it when he feels it brimming. This is not to say that he will uproot his anger totally, but it will be greatly lessened. The boundaries which he will have developed for himself in other areas will have its effect on his anger as well, and it will stop him from releasing the anger.
During A Rage: Extreme Measures Required
During the time when a person is actually raging, however, none of the above will work. Even the advice we mentioned in the earlier chapters, such as pushing off the anger for later, and the other techniques mentioned, are only of use to a person whose anger is not that intense, who is capable of more self-control. But while a person is in a rage, the advice mentioned in the earlier chapters will not be of that much use, because he will need something that quickly removes the anger as fast as it came, which can send him back to the point of before the anger.
The following advice which we will suggest for this is of a more extreme kind of nature, but we have no choice but to apply it, for one who experiences extreme kinds of anger that causes him to fly into a dangerous rage. When a person is often experiencing an extreme kind of problem, he will have no choice but to use extreme techniques which can prevent him from the problems. Let us emphasize that the following technique is extreme and it should not be used under normal circumstances, and it should only be used by those few people who have problems with rage.
Once again, I must repeat that it should only be used by those who have extreme anger, and it should be not be used by most people, who have “normal” anger. If a person with normal problems of anger makes use of these extreme techniques, he is endangering himself, because it is not recommended for a person to live extreme. “Many did like Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, but they were not successful.”
Only those who are easily enraged when they are angry, whose anger quickly becomes dangerous, should make use of the following technique. They won’t be able to deal with their anger by using the normal methods, which are all a slow inner process to conquer anger. They have a more extreme kind of anger, so they will have no choice but to take extreme measures in order to quickly get rid of their extreme anger when it overtakes them.
So let us be clear that the following advice we will mention is extreme, it is only for people who have extreme anger by their very nature, who are found in very extreme situations, who have to deal with an almost uncontrollable kind of anger, which appears to them to be impossible to control.
The “Cold Water” Technique
The first thing that this kind of person can do, upon feeling a loss of self-control as his rage is about to explode, or if he has already started to let out his rage and he feels like he does not have any control over himself anymore (it is impossible to judge each person on how much self-control he really has, because there is always some level of control that a person has over himself, for every person has bechirah (free will), and the only issue is how much – which only Hashem knows) – is to do the following.
One technique he can try is to quickly take a cold shower. The water should be very cold, and this should be done even if it’s in middle of the winter.
How does this work? It is because when a person is angered, his body heats up, due to the fire in his soul that is burning. The body and the soul are interconnected, and one of the ways how we can clearly see the connection is through anger, where the heat of the soul is extending into the body and heating up its temperature. The body temperature becomes hotter as a person is very angry, and this in turn fuels the anger. Therefore, by cooling the body temperature, we cool the heat of the body, which in turn influences the soul, calming it down from the anger that the person is feeling.
If we could the calm the body through calming the soul, we would be calming ourselves from within, and that is one way of how we can calm the body. However, practically speaking, when a person is raging, it is very hard to start calming the soul and to thereby calm the body, because our soul is not calm right now, and therefore it is hard to use it now. The good news is that there is an alternative approach that can work: we can calm the body, using external means, which can influence the state of our soul.
Practically speaking, one can do this by entering into cold water. It can be done either through a cold shower, or through entering into a cold mikveh and immersing there several times, until one feels that the freezing cold has become absorbed in his body. At that point, he will discover that the anger has been calmed. This doesn’t mean he will totally calm down, but he will succeed to a large extent in restraining himself from raging.
A person can either enter into a cold bath for this, or he can keep immersing in a cold mikveh if he has access to one. This isn’t always possible for most people, so one can accomplish the same effect by pouring cold water on himself. If this isn’t either possible, he should stick his head under a sink and turn on the cold water. This is an extreme course of action to take, but as we explained before, there are some people who need to use this solution.
He should let the cold water run on his head until he feels that his anger is calmed, or he should enter into a cold bath or a cold mikveh so that the cold is absorbed into his entire body, and if he doesn’t feel ready to do this, he should at least pour cold water on some of his body, such as by sticking his head into a sink running with cold water. It must be cold water specifically.
Repeating Verses or Statements of Chazal About The Detriment of Anger
The second part of the solution, for one who wants to calm down from extreme rage, is to repeat verses or statements of Chazal about anger. Examples include the verse,הסר כעס מליבך (“Remove anger from your heart”), or the statement in Chazal, כל הכועס, כאילו עובד עבודה זרה(“Whoever gets angry, it is as if he committed idol worship”), and other verses\statements of Chazal about the detriment of anger.
That is what a person should do when he feels like he’s about to explode in a rage, but what should a person do after he has started to rage? He should start yelling out these verses or statements of Chazal, in a loud voice. One of the Amoraim in the Gemara, Rav Amram, began to yell when he felt tempted to sin. There is a power that a person has to scream from the depths of his soul. Using this technique, a person can steer the very outburst of his rage into screaming at himself in order stop his anger.
When a person is screaming like this, he has almost no daas, and although he cannot be considered totally insane, he still does not have that much daas at this moment, because he has very little self-control. Yet, even at that point where he has lost self-control, he can steer the rage away towards a healthier direction, by yelling out verses and statements of Chazal about how bad anger is, with all of his energy.
Understandably, one cannot always employ this solution. When one is around other people as he is about to express his rage, he will probably find it uncomfortable to start screaming out verses in order to calm down his anger, because he doesn’t want other people to think he’s insane. Some people wouldn’t mind what others will think, but most people are not able to handle shaming themselves in public and to act upon the statement of Chazal, “Better to be deemed as insane for all of my life, rather than anger my Creator for even one moment.” But as long as one finds it possible, one should try steering the rage into a different and healthier direction.
Alternative Technique: Running Fast
Another method to try, in order to calm down rage, is to start running as fast as you can. The running can have a calming effect on the anger.
Any sensible person knows that any of the above methods are extreme, and it is not a way for most people to live their life with. But for those who are prone to dangerous rages, these extreme methods need to be their first course of action to take, in order to improve. These methods should never become a way of life; rather they should be viewed as a beginning remedy, to be practiced on a trial basis.
Weakening The Anger Vs. Releasing It
We can give more examples of extreme techniques to use in order to stop rage, but these are the three basic options: either through cooling off the body [via freezing water], or, by releasing the rage through yelling out verses of the detriment of anger, or by releasing the rage through running. There are more techniques as well similar to the above three, which anyone can come up with on his own. The goal is either to weaken the intensity of the anger, or to try to release it in healthier ways.
Obviously, it is better to weaken the anger rather than release it. But if a person finds it more helpful to release the anger in healthy ways, as opposed to merely trying to weaken it, then he may do so.
Earth-of-earth-of-fire, as we mentioned earlier, is not a nature that is dominant in most people. Those who do have a dominant amount of earth-of-earth-of-fire in themselves, and who have not yet worked on their middos, are people who are very hard to be around and live with. Their marital peace is usually very shaky, and they are not that successful with raising their children well, because they are prone to angry explosions, where they lose control of themselves in extreme ways, and their family members lose respect for them.
But if someone has this nature and he wants to fix it, he can be helped to an extent, using the instructions given in this chapter which we have explained briefly.
 Refer to the pdf of “Erev Rav Talks”.
 After this class, the Rav was asked, “What should I do if I recognize this “Erev Rav” aspect in my soul? How do I rectify it?”
The Rav responded, “First of all, let’s understand that if someone has a large percentage of “Erev Rav” in his soul, he won’t be that insulted from the words here. However, there are people who do have some “Erev Rav” aspect in their souls. This is the part of the soul upon which we have a “mitzvah to erase Amalek”. If a person recognizes that he has some trace of ‘Erev Rav’ in his soul, he should daven to Hashem that he merit to die al kiddush Hashem. If a person is truly willing to die al kiddush Hashem, that very decision to have mesirus nefesh for Hashem is like a “death” to that evil part of his soul; just as the neshamah leaving the body is considered to be ‘death’. In this way a person is left with an entirely holy soul.
“The question you have asked is very important, because there are indeed many people in this generation who contained a mixture of good\Jew and evil\Erev Rav in their souls.”
 see above footnote
 Nedarim 32a
 See Fixing Your Anger #002 – Advice On Reducing Anger
 See Kiddushin 81a