Yesterday, we noted a passage in the Midrash’s comments to Parashat Eikev (Devarim Rabba, 3:13) which, in contradistinction to other sources, seems to criticize Moshe for his decision to break the stone tablets in response to the sin of the golden calf. The Midrash cites the verse in Kohelet (7:9), “Do not be frantic with your spirit to anger, because anger rests in the bosom of fools,” and applies it to Moshe’s angry reaction to the people’s worship of a golden image. God, the Midrash tells, repudiated Moshe for venting his anger, whereupon Moshe asked, “So, what should I do?” The Midrash says that God then commanded Moshe to chisel a new set of tablets, upon which God would then engrave the commandments anew.
This final part of the exchange between God and Moshe conveys an important and meaningful lesson relevant to anger, namely, the willingness to make amends and try to repair the damage caused by an angry outburst. After hearing God’s condemnation of his anger, Moshe did not ignore the criticism, or even simply commit to reacting more calmly in the future. Rather, he turned to God to ask what he could do in the present to repair the damage which he caused. Too often, after an outburst of anger, we are unwilling to humble ourselves and make amends, and instead stubbornly insist that we acted correctly, even if in our heart-of-hearts we recognize the inappropriateness of our furious reaction. Unable to bring ourselves to acknowledge failure, and to admit to having lost our composure, we stand our ground and defend our exaggerated reaction. The Midrash here teaches us of the need to humbly recognize and apologize for our mistakes, for our occasional bouts of irrationality, and for our unwarranted expressions of anger, and to sincerely seek to repair whatever damage this caused, rather than stubbornly refusing to admit to failure.
(See Rav Moshe Taragin’s “A Midrash for Eikev: Anger and its Remedy”)