“Some time afterward, when the anger of King Ahashverosh subsided, he thought of Vashti and what she had done and what had been decreed against her.”
Every year as I prepare for the holiday of Purim and the public reading of the Book of Esther, I am struck by the opening lines of the second chapter. In a fit of rage—because the queen would not appear when summoned—the king issues an edict to remove her permanently from the palace. The next morning, the king is feeling sobered and bereft at the queen’s expulsion. The remainder of the story provides lessons about courage, personal integrity and individual responsibility to one’s community, but I find the most important lesson in the first three words of this verse: a person who acts impulsively, out of anger, comes to regret his behavior “some time afterward.” The damage we cause through our irrationality and inability to control our impulses cannot always be undone. For this reason, the rabbis suggested that an ideal disposition is “difficult to anger and easy to calm.” (Mishnah Avot 5:11)
Tziporah, I could not agree with you more. I have personally fallen into the trap of spontaneous anger numerous times and regretted my feelings shortly after. As you might imagine, there are many Hadiths that provide practical advice about how to deal with and control anger. They all exalt the virtues of patience, kindness, and forgiveness. One in particular is identical to your quote from the Mishnah; another notes that a burst of anger can negate the positive effects of a person’s fast. I find the strongest encouragement to those who practice restraint of their anger in the following verse: “Be quick in the race for forgiveness from your Lord and for a Garden whose width is that of the heavens and of the earth, prepared for the righteous, those who spend freely whether in prosperity or in adversity; who restrain anger and pardon all men; for God loves those who do good.” (Al-i-Imram 3:133-134)
I must echo what both of you say about anger and the need for self-control. A passage in Christian scripture that I find instructive is “Be angry, but do not sin: let not the sun go down on your wrath.” (Ephesians 4:26) This verse seems to acknowledge that anger as an emotion alone is not sinful, but that rash actions stemming from anger can be sinful indeed. The quotation continues with the admonition to put away all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking, and “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” (Eph 4: 32) As is true of so many dictums in each of the holy texts we are citing, these words are much easier to say than to practice!