I learned this week that anger can paralyze. It's the drone of an alarm clock that won't stop buzzing, or a wall that gets taller and taller even as the lowest bricks crumble. Every time I sat down to write about something good and sweet, my anger, like that big foot at the beginning of Monty Python cartoons, crushed flowers and left no room at all for words on the screen.
I've been trying to find the humor in being a victim of sleazy, deceptive, financially oppressive fraud, and remind myself in every other breath of my many blessings. But it seems much easier to make jokes about God or death, overwhelming, incomprehensible concepts I can still somehow place in context of my life. Anger, like terror, sits on the surface like bad milk in your coffee; no amount of stirring will mix it into the deeper part. And the longer it floats, the more it stinks.
This week's Torah portion features a list of terrible curses to be exacted upon all who disobey God's will. Since liberal Jews try not to believe that human suffering is punishment from above, what relevance can we find in these frightening words? wondered the rabbi at services last night. He spoke of a Hassidic commentary that equated the state of being cursed with the inability to integrate our intellect and emotions: we can't function when these parts of ourselves are out of balance, one ruling the other rather than both working in partnership. Perhaps we invite the curse by not recognizing this aspect of God within ourselves. Shabbat, he suggested, is a time to set things right by creating room in our day for equal amounts of thinking and feeling.
His words rang true, and I realized my anger this past week had thrown me completely out of balance. Finally, this morning, I chanted Torah and my voice no longer sounded like I was being strangled. Elsewhere in Leviticus (19:35-36) we're instructed to use fair weights and measures, because cheating is an abomination against God. I think I'm starting to restore balance to my own scales; maybe one day the scales of justice will complete the process.
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