Iggeres HaRamban and Anger

The following entry is Zecher Nishmas (in memory of) Rochel Bas Aryeh. Although I did not personally know her, a friend of mine relates that she was a very caring, thoughtful, altruistic and modest person – and an awesome listener. Even when she was very sick she continued with the same level of altruism, caring and concern for others. Her Yahrzeit is today and she always used to say over the Iggeres Ramban. Here is a the Iggeres HaRamban for anybody who would like to carry it in their wallet and read it regularly.

The Ramban begins by telling us that we should work on eliminating anger and then we will come to humility. From humility we will come to awe (fear) of Hashem which will keep us from aveiros and help us be happy with our lot. The Ramban then teaches that arrogance is a primary deterrent to coming close to Hashem and presents us with various tools to overcome arrogance.

I find it interesting that the Ramban starts his classic letter with eliminating anger. Although the Gemora has many references to the problems of anger, the Mishna in Avos (4:28) states “Rabbi Elazar HaKappar said, kinah, taivah and kovod remove a person from the world” and kinah, taivah and kovod are usually translated as jealousy, lust and honor.

I noticed over Yom Tov that the second chapter of the Even Sheleimah, the mussar sefer authored by the Vilna Gaon, starts out by stating that the principal bad traits in man are anger, lust and arrogance and then he brings down the phrase kinah, taivah and kovod from the above stated Mishna (4:28) in Avos. So it seems that the Vilna Gaon is translating kinah as anger and not as jealousy.

The Ramchal in the Mesillas Yesharim (Chapter 11) learns that kinah refers to jealousy, but he does add anger to jealousy, lust and arrogance as the character traits he discusses in his sefer because of their prevalence in our lives.

The Orchos Tzaddikim starts the chapter on kinah/jealousy by stating that jealousy is a branch of anger and no one escapes it. I also happened to notice that in Shir HaShirim on the word kinah 8:6, Rashi says “that kinah every place in Tanach means enprement in old French, an expression of conveying feelings to wreak vengeance”, which seems to tie kinah to anger.

It seems that anger is more of a problem for most people then jealousy. That could be because the signs of anger are more visible than those of jealousy. In any case it’s an area in which we could probably all use some improvement. I would like to point out that 99.9% of the time it is a real pleasure working on Beyond BT and almost all of the problems are rooted in anger, on either our part or those of our commentators.

The Iggeres HaRamban is so packed with valuable advice and we hope everybody will find the time to review it on occasion. Here is the text for your convenience:

Listen my son to the admonitions of your father, and do not disregard the teachings of your mother. Attempt to constantly speak softly to every person, at all times, and through this you will avoid anger, which is a terrible trait, and (which) causes people to sin. The Rabbis have taught us that whoever gets angry, all forms of purgatory are visited upon him, as it says, “Remove anger from your heart and evil from your flesh.” This “evil” refers to purgatory, as it says, “Also wicked on the day of evil.” When one saves himself from anger he begins to reflect on the trait of humility, which is the best of all the wonderful traits, as it says, “The heel of humility is the fear of Hashem.”

As a result of humility you will reflect on the trait of fear, as you constantly think: from where did you come, and to where are you going? In life you are an insect and worm, and also in death. And before whom are you destined to give an accounting? Before His Honor, the King, as it says, “Behold, the Skies and heavenly skies cannot sustain you, certainly not the heart of men.” It also says, “Is it not so that I occupy the heavens and earth, says Hashem.”

When you will think of all this, you will fear your Creator and guard against sin, and with these traits you will be happy with your lot. When you will act with humility, to be ashamed before all men, and to fear from them and from sin, then, the spirit of Hashem will descend upon you, together with a halo of glory and life in the world to come.

Now, my son, know and observe, that one who is arrogant, is rebellious against the Heavenly Kingdom, as it says, “Hashem rules, dressed in arrogance, etc.” With what should man be arrogant? If with wealth – Hashem impoverishes and gives wealth; if with honor – this belongs to Hashem, as it says, “Wealth and honor are from you,” and thus how can one flaunt with the honor of his creator? If he flaunts with his wisdom, “He uncovers the lips of the trusted ones and removes sanity from the elderly.”

Since everyone is equal before Hashem – who, when angry, cuts down the arrogant and with His will lifts up the downtrodden – therefore lower yourself, and Hashem will uplift you. I will therefore explain to you how to constantly act with humility; all your words should be said softly, your head should be bent, your eyes should look down to the ground and your heart should be up; do not stare at a person when talking to him; every person should, in your eyes, be greater than you. If he is wise or wealthy you must honor him; if he is lacking and you are wealthier and wiser than he, think in your heart that you are the guiltier, and he is the more innocent – since if he sins it is unintentional, while your sins are intentional.

With all your words, actions and thoughts, and at all times, think in your heart that you are standing before Hashem, and His countenance is upon you, since His glory fills the world. Your words should be with fear and trepidation like a servant before his master. Be shy before every man; if a man calls you, don’t reply in a loud voice, but rather softly, like in the presence of your master.

Be careful to constantly read the Torah so that you will observe it, and when you finish your study, search out what you have learned to see if there is something you can now observe. Review your actions in the morning and in the evening, and in this way all your days will contain repentance. Remove all your worldly issues from your heart during prayers, and prepare your heart before Hashem. Purify your thoughts and think before you speak; do this all the days of your mundane life in every area, and you won’t sin. In this way your words, actions and thoughts will be straight, your prayers will be pure, clean, well-intentioned and acceptable to Hashem, as it says, “Prepare their hearts – your ears will pay attention.”

Read this once a week, and not less, to observe and constantly go in the way of Hashem, so that you will succeed in all your endeavors and you will merit the World to Come that’s hidden for the righteous. Every day that you read it they will answer you from Heaven, whatever you will decide to request, forever – may it be so eternally.

4 comments on “Iggeres HaRamban and Anger

  1. Interesting correlation/ connection and common denominator threading between the anger and jealousy traits.The Iggeres Haramban piece is an awesome prayer and definitely a facilitator in the medicating and properly channeling of the inconsistent and misguided energies of wayward emotions.Mark,Thanks Very Much for the in-depth expounding & enlightening on this Iggeres with the different sources/ theories/actual meaning and the link to the actual letter for future reference.

  2. Anger is a serious stumbling block to Avodas Hashem. It’s hard, at times, not to be angry when your kids break something (Shabbos dishes, for example). I heard from Rav Moshe Weinberger (Cong. Aish Kodesh, Woodmere, NY) that their is a special Yetzer Horah that comes to the home on erev Shabbos/Yom Tov with only one purpose: To destroy Shalom Bayis. There are dozens of authors who’ve delt with this issue. Rabbi Zelig Pliskin has written extensively on anger. For sure a reading of Iggeres HaRamban on a weekly basis is a powerful tool anytime of the year, yet very meaningful during Sefiras HaOmer.

  3. I began reviewing Iggeret HaRamban about a year and a half ago and I have noticed since that time how much more aware I have become of the tendency to get angry in my daily life. And the advice of the Ramban has definitely helped to me address this challenge. I recommend a regular reading of this letter to everybody!

Comments are closed.