When my son suddenly passed away last year, I felt angry for months. I was angry at my husband, at my friends, at the bank clerk. I was angry at everything and everyone. I was angry at people for no particular reason. I was angry ‘just because’.
All that time, I kept telling G-d that I love Him. I kept telling Him that I understood that He took my Jacob away in His ultimate kindness. I told Him I don’t see the whole picture and that whatever He does is ok because He’s the Boss. At least that’s what I told Him, or told myself.
Then one day, the anger subsided and the feelings of frustration went away.
One year later, my anger has reared its ugly head and I’m angry again. The whole cycle of frustration has returned. Like before, I keep telling G-d that I love Him. At least I keep telling myself that I love Him. But do I really love G-d? Or have I really been angry at G-d all along, aiming my anger at everyone else instead?
I’m Angry At G-d
Burying My Feelings
I think my anger has resurfaced because, until now, I’ve buried my angry feelings toward G-d. I never wanted to admit that I had this anger because I thought it was somehow ‘sinful’ to be angry with Him. After all, who am I, a puny little mortal, that I should be angry at G-d who created Heaven and Earth? It was easier to be angry with people. No one’s perfect and it’s almost effortless to find fault in people. But how can I be angry at an entity that’s perfect in every way?
But still, I’m angry.
It’s not fair!
It’s not fair You ripped my son away from this world at twenty-four years of age!
It’s not fair You didn’t let him marry and bring children into the world!
It’s not fair that You didn’t allow him to fix any mistakes he made, to do teshuva!
It’s not fair!
And on and on with my copious complaints.
We see plenty of places in Tanach, our Torah and Writings, where G-d is angry with people. Did the patriarchs and prophets in our history ever get angry with G-d? After all, they had a keen spiritual insight and they understood that everything He did was good, coming from His supreme kindness. Knowing that, why would they ever get angry? But they did.
Great People Were Angry With G-d
Our Patriarch Abraham Was Angry
Abraham was angry and argued with G-d. Upon learning that the city of Sodom was to be destroyed because of the evil of its inhabitants Abraham says:
‘It would be sacrilege to You to do such a thing, to bring death to the righteous along with the wicked…Shall the judge of the earth not do justice?’ (Genesis 18:25)
Maybe there are a few good people there. Why should they perish along with the evildoers? It’s not fair!
The Righteous Moses Was Angry
The Gemara in Berachos 32a says that Moses argued with G-d when the people used their gold jewelry to make the golden calf:
‘…Thus said Moses before the Holy One, Blessed be He, “Master of the Universe, because of the silver and gold You lavished upon Israel…that is what caused them to make the Calf!’
G-d, it’s Your fault! You gave the people all the wealth of Egypt. What did You expect them to do with it all? It’s not fair!
The Prophetess Chana Was Angry
The Gemara in Berachos 31b cites Chana as being angry with G-d. The childless Chana, soon to be the mother of the prophet Samuel, pleads and argues with G-d to give her a child. She addresses G-d as ‘Master of Legions’. The Gemara interprets her use of this term as if saying to G-d:
‘…From all the legions upon legions that you have created, is it difficult for You to grant me one son?’
The Gemara goes on to say that Chana even argued that she could ‘force’ G-d to give her a child by secluding herself with a man other than her husband:
‘…And when I seclude myself, they will give me to drink the water of the sotah, and surely You will not belie Your Torah, for it is stated – then she shall be proven innocent and bear seed…”
Her words are described as being ‘thrown’ at G-d, indicating she was angry:
‘…Rabbi Elazar said: Chana flung words upward toward Heaven, ie, she prayed ‘against’ (rather than to ) G-d.’
The Prophet Elijah Was Angry
Similarly, Elijah was angry when he blames G-d for the people’s idol worship:
‘…And Rabbi Eliezer said: Elijah flung words upward toward Heaven (when he said to G-d) – “and You have turned their hearts backwards” ‘
G-d, it’s Your fault they worship idols. It’s not fair!
Is It Ok That I’m Angry With G-d?
Yes, it’s ok that I’m angry with G-d. It’s ok that I question what He does and why, even though I know I won’t get an answer. My anger shows there is at least a relationship, and I guess I still have a relationship with G-d.
Is G-d Upset That I’m Angry With Him?
Rabbi Asher Resnick, senior lecturer at Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem, deals with this question. He writes:
‘The classical source for this lesson is the story of Iyov (Job), the ultimate example of the tzadik who seems to have suffered unjustly. Despite his statements that were clearly blasphemous, i.e., denying Divine justice, techiat hameitim (revival of the dead), hashgacha (Divine Supervision), etc., the Gemara (Baba Batra 16b) tells us that Iyov received no punishment for saying these things. Rava, therefore, declares “Mi’kan — she’ein adam nitpas b’sha’at tza’aro” — “From here we see that one is not held accountable [for harsh words spoken] during the time of his pain.” Rashi explains that this person is not held accountable for having spoken harshly because he spoke out of of tza’ar and yissurim (pain and difficulties), not from da’at (clarity).’
G-d isn’t upset with me. He knows I’m in pain.
Anger For a Purpose
There is a common theme between the anger of Abraham, Moses, Chana, and Elijah. All of them expressed anger for a constructive purpose. Abraham was trying to save the people of Sodom, Moses was trying to protect the people from G-d’s wrath, Chana wanted a child to dedicate to G-d’s service, and Elijah was trying to minimize the magnitude of the people’s sin.
My anger won’t bring back my son. It makes me, and everyone around me, unhappy. My anger has no positive purpose and prevents me from finding joy in life. My husband, my friends, Jacob, G-d – they all want me to be happy.
Bitter vs Sweet
The book, Reflecting the Light of the Rebbes of Bobov, recounts that Rabbi Chaim Halberstam (1793–1876), the Rebbe of Sanz, lost his son as a young adult:
‘The Sanzer Zaide suffered the tragic loss of his beloved son Rabbi Meir Nosson, the father of Rebbe Shlomo of Bobov, at a very young age. On the very first Shabbos following his passing, in the midst of the days of mourning, the Sanzer Zaida made an unusual request. He asked that he be served some “British porter” beer. This beer was extremely bitter, especially to those who are not accustomed to drinking it. As he partook of the beer, he explained:
“A fool thinks that this beer is bitter. In fact, one who is wise knows that it is actually sweet.” (Reflecting the Light of the Rebbes of Bobov, vol. 2, pg. 230, by Rabbi Benzion Twerski)’
Only chesed, kindness, comes from G-d. There are times when we don’t ‘taste’ the kindness. We only ‘taste’ the bitterness. My anger is a reflection of that bitterness and I’m desperately trying to find the sweetness. It’s as if G-d is saying to me ‘Just wait a little longer, and you’ll see how it was all good.’ G-d, I’m waiting, I know that there’s sweetness there, I just haven’t tasted it yet.
May we all merit to see the goodness in all of G-d’s interactions with us.
For more Torah insight on grief and anger, read this post by Rabbi Asher Resnick Dealing With Pain and Anger at G-d – What is the Torah Perspective on Emotions