A Framework for Alleviating Shul Anger

Over the years we’ve discussed many of the anger provoking Shul situations such as talking, shushing, cell phones ringing, seat misappropriation, fast davening, slow davening, tzedekah collectors, etc. I had a new one last week at Mincha. In the middle of my silent Shemoneh Esrai, my neighbor sneezed twice without covering his mouth, generously spraying me with his germs.

You have to wonder why there are so many anger provokers in a thrice-daily activity which should promote achdus. Perhaps the answer is that Shuls provide us with a training ground for which to learn to deal properly with anger, thereby improving our middos.

So how can we deal with these anger provoking incidents. Let me share with you a simple framework that I have found very useful, based on the teachings of Rabbi Dr. Benzion Twerski, son of Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski.

Anger is a signal that there is something wrong in a given situation. Hashem, Moshe, Pinchas, the Prophets all got angry when the Jewish people behaved inappropriately – something was wrong. When we get angry in Shul, it’s because we perceive that there’s something wrong. That person should not be talking. That cell phone should not be ringing. That person should not have asked me to change my seat. That neighbor should have covered his mouth.

When we experience the anger signal, the next question is what to do about. There are three basic options: 1) Say or do something now; 2) Say or do something at a later time; 3) Let it go. When the “what to do” analysis is done with a cool head, which it should be, much of the time the answer will be 3) Let it go. The key idea however is to acknowledge the anger has signaled that something is wrong, and now that we are aware of the situation, you can let the anger go.

What I like about the framework is that it’s workable, it’s Torah based, and it reveals the positive purpose of anger. Try it and let me know your experience.