As I sit in front of my fireplace early this first day of 2016 watching the flames dance and listening to the crackling of the wood, my thoughts are seeking to make this new year different. For me 2015 was a year of transition. I must confess I didn’t handle it very good. I’ve struggled with a lot of Anger over change and perceived injustices. I’ve struggled with anger over the injustice of Washington’s buerocrats, the semely greater division of our nation politically, socially, and racially. With the loss of income and struggle financially in business. With the loss of minstry opportunities to speak and teach. And the the stress that through my anger I’ve placed on my family. Anger, if not confessed to the Lord and not dealt with can be a killer emotionally, to your health, and cause loss of purpose and vision. This is why Jesus spoke of this issue of life and the Torah has given us direction.
The Torah says, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13), but the Master says that anger, hatred, insult, and public humiliation are tantamount to murder. Two forgotten sayings of Yeshua further illustrate his teaching. He warned His disciples that murder begins with anger in the heart. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, “You fool,” shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. (Matthew 5:22)
The apostle John explained the Master’s words as follows: “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). The Didache interprets the teaching as follows: “Do not be an angry person, for anger leads to murder; nor be envious, nor adversarial, nor hot-tempered, for from all these things murder results” (Didache 3:2).
In fact Hebrew Thought and Mindset has a lot to day about Anger. The sages regarded publicly shaming or embarrassing a person as a grievous sin. In the no-longer extant Gospel of the Hebrews, Yeshua says that one of the most serious sins a man can commit is that of vexing his brother: And in the Gospel which is according to the Hebrews which the Nazarenes are accustomed to read, among the worst crimes is set he who has distressed the spirit of his brother. (Jerome, Commentary on Ezekiel)
Anger, quarreling, and public insults may be punished in a court of law on earth such as the local court (beit din) or even the high court (sanhedrin), but ultimately, if not in a court on earth, a person who publicly shames and insults another must pay the penalty of character assassination in the “fire of hell.” Rabbinic teaching contains similar sentiments:
Whoever hates his neighbor is among those who shed blood. (Derech Eretz Rabba 11)
He who publicly shames his neighbor is as though he shed blood. (b.Bava Metzia 58b)
Better that a man throw himself into a fiery furnace than publicly put his neighbor to shame. (b.Bava Metzia 59b)
So for me in this new year of 2016 I am going to like the words to the Christmas song, “let it snow, I’m going to LET IT GO!