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Food for Thought Rosh Chodesh Society

Personal stories by members of the Toms River Rosh Chodesh Society. Feel free to share yours.

Turning Anger into Prayer

Before I tell my tale about anger, the subject of the last Rosh Chodesh Society meeting, let me say that it is a privilege to attend Chanie's classes. her love for Torah is inspiring, her knowledge is profound and the way she relates the Torah to our lives is very meaningful. The class on anger was especially helpful to me, and here's why:

At the end of the class, after we had acknowledged the dangers of angry feelings, Chanie told a Torah story about how anger can be turned around to become a benefit. She said that, because the emotions generated by anger are even stronger than 'good' emotions, they can be turned around and used to pray. And those prayers are the strongest and can be lifted higher, straight up to G-d. The very next day, I had a chance to test that truth.

Many years ago, about a year after my parents were killed suddenly in an auto accident when I was 13, rabbi Biegeleisen, of blessed memory, gave me a precious gift. he was the 'second Rabbi in command' at Cong. Sons of Israel in Lakewood, the one who gave Chessed to members of the congregation in need. He gave me a perpetual calendar that showed the English calendar dates that correspond to the 16th of Sivan, my parents Yartzeit, for every year from 1948 through 2000. I kept that calendar for over 50 years!

This year on May 25, the 15th of Sivan, the day before the Yartzeit, I had an early appointment with my accountant, Gershon Biegeleisen, who just happens to be the son of that wonderful Rabbi who gave me the calendar so many years ago. After our meeting, I decided that since I was in Lakewood, I'd visit my parent's grave  in the cemetery on East 7th St. I always feel that a part of my mother's spirit is still there and it is a very sacred place to me of course.

Approaching the cemetery gate in my car, I suddenly felt a storing surge of anger. Where did it come from?  It just welled up; I had no control over it. I had been to 'visit' my parents many times before, but, although I WAS very angry that they were takes away so suddenly, so early in my life and theirs, I had always suppressed that anger, especially in the sacred surrounding of the cemetery.

That evening when I lighted the Yartzeit candles, I felt my mother's soul so close to me. As I asked her to help pray for my son, so he be well and strong again, my anger became an enormous prayer that seemed to fill the room with light and power. Somehow I knew that Hashem had heard.

Need I also say, that the Rebbe teaches that on a Tzaddik's Yartzeit, is an especially good time to pray. To me, my mother was a Tzaddik, and coincidentally, today (as I write this) is the Yartzeit of the Rebbe.

G-d is good!

Our second Rosh Chodesh class was phenomenal; why do I say that, because it was about anger! A very intense class, because who has not gotten angry I am guilty of that one, if we are to be honest with ourselves who isn’t guilty of anger at one time or another.  The content of this class had major importance when we feel we are being provoked in situations and how we act when we do not put G-d and Torah first in our lives. One of the major points of the class was when we allow anger to take hold of ourselves it is idolatry because we are worshipping ourselves. That was enough to make me shrink in my chair.

We like to justify our anger by blaming the other person for the set of circumstances that has brought us to the boiling point where we just keep lashing out, and at that moment we never see the other side of how to heal the anger and get back in control of our emotions in a proper way as Judaism teaches us to do.   The class had graphs and inserts besides our workbook, about how to re-think and look at ourselves when we are at that point of no return. Chanie put a large amount of energy and thought to making these graphs, in fact she worked on them four hours.  They were broken down into sections and they are fabulous and can be used over and over again in every set of circumstances.

The delivery of this class impressed me so much, of course I was put to the test immediately following the class. As all of us journey to G-d through Judaism we have our own thoughts, opinions and conclusions about G-d these are very normal emotions. I myself built a wall around these very thoughts, opinions and conclusions, and of course in my mind’s eye I was not letting anyone or anything get in the way of Meryl-ism, to the point of getting somewhat angry and upset when discussion about Judaism did not go my way. I say "my way" as the operative word here.  How much more personal can you get when someone is trying to teach you and give you other ways to look at your relationship to G-d by way of Torah and Judaism these things are touching the very core of your soul and they ignite major reactions, it is what we do with these actions that make the difference.

So the class ends and Chanie and I and one other person begin a conversation that happens to be a bone of contention with me about G-d and his good and all that is happening in the world today, such as Tornadoes, Tsunamis, the world at large and all the awful things that we hear and read about.  I have very strong opinions about all this believing that these things are not from G-d and there is possibly another force directing these events in the world. I was immovable about this subject for nine years by not letting anyone show me other options about my thoughts, it always got to the point of anger about this topic.

In class I was so impressed to learn about Chana and how she was treated not so nicely by another woman, while Chana was suffering from her own problems, not being able to conceive a child she was taunted by Penina who had many children. Chana took her disappointment to G-d prayed about it and did not lash out at Penina but looked at it from another standpoint. And G-d blessed her and gave her a child in fact she gave birth to one of the most important figures in Jewish history Samuel. 

So when Chanie and I were having this very emotional discussion that everything is from G-d and there is only one creator and that when we say certain things we are saying that there might be another force more powerful than G-d, I usually get intensely defensive and will not see Judaism and it’s point of view and I get willful and know it all by saying you’re wrong I am right and let us end this conversation and I do so very abruptly.  

Miracle of miracles I did not do that with Chanie, we had a great discussion. I allowed my anger about this very subject not to come to the surface, and in fact I found a lot of peace as we discussed G-d and his good and his running the world seen through G-d’s eyes and not Meryl’s, huge major breakthrough for me! As I allowed a real two way discussion about this, two things happened, I was open to learning another way to look at this, and that coming to conclusions about G-d and what he does or doesn’t do is not my job.

 I learned that G-d in all his infinite wisdom is far larger than anything I could conclude. I found a peace that I did not have about G-d, good, evil and the world. I found out I do not have to be in control of everything that happens out there and furthermore I did not get angry willful or obstinate I acted in a rightful manner and I must tell you more good is coming out of this than you can imagine, because now I am open to more thoughts about this and I am inching my way towards more understanding of our spiritual nature and relationship with G-d by way of Torah and what our Sages teach us. Chanie was the vehicle for me to apply what I had just learned in this class for my life.  It opened up so many new and wonderful ideas about G-d, Torah and relationships a freedom had come at last of not having to carry this major burden around with me.

Without the Rosh Chodesh learning program for women there would be no way anyone could have broken through to me. And I would have continued to walk around with negative energy, and to tell you all the truth a deep resentment to G-d about all this. Once again I say come to a class you will walk away with pearls, diamonds, rubies and sapphires, of course I am talking about a better journey with G-d these are the precious gems of Rosh Chodesh.  Once again thank you for letting me share, if my struggles and journey help you I am so glad to share. There have been major changes in my thought, deed and action, bondages have been broken. Ask yourselves is this not good and what freedom do you need?

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