Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Burning Rage

"דאמר רב חסדא ברותחין קלקלו וברותחין נידונו..."

On Rosh Hashanah 12, there is a discussion about the punishment that was meted out to the generation of the flood. Rav Chisdah said: “They inflamed themselves to sin, so their retribution was exacted through the heat of scalding waters.” The manifestation of their bad middah itself is what came to punish them in the end.

Once, in a certain small town, there lived a man who was known to get infuriated over every little thing. When he would get angry, he would literally thrash his arms and stamp his feet, and his whole body just screamed “fury.” Everyone in town called him “Angry Zalman.”

When this man got old, he grew very ill. People summoned the town doctor, and after he examined Zalman, he announced that his patient had only a few more hours to live. The man’s family members ran to call the members of the chevrah kadishah, so that they should attend to him during his final moments.

The news soon passed from person to person around the town. Hearing this, the children decided to enjoy a cruel joke. Since they knew how volatile Zalman was, they wanted to see how he would act on his deathbed. They went and climbed up the latticework of his home so that they could get a good, clear, view into his room through the window.

There he lay on his deathbed, with no other thought than that he was about to leave this world. Surrounded by his family and the chevrah kadishah, about to say viduy and kriyas Shema for the very last time, he suddenly spotted the children clinging to the window frame and staring in at him.

Completely unable to contain his fury, Zalman began to scream at the children to come down from the window. Using his very last ounce of strength, Zalman died shrieking and flailing his arms and legs, just as he had over every minor incident throughout his long life.

Rav Shalom Shwardron, zt”l, would end this story by saying, “This is what happens to a person who doesn’t refine his middos. Whatever bad trait besets him the most is the one that comes back to haunt him in the end!”

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