("Let's table the discussion" is a new Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children.)
Many years ago a senior executive of the then Standard Oil Company
made a wrong decision that cost the company more than $2 million.
John D. Rockefeller was then running the firm. On the day the news
leaked out most of the executives of the company were finding
various ingenious ways of avoiding Mr. Rockefeller, lest his wrath
descend on their heads.
There was one exception, however; he was Edward T. Bedford, a
partner in the company. Bedford was scheduled to see Rockefeller
that day and he kept the appointment, even though he was prepared
to listen to a long harangue against the man who made the error in
When he entered the office the powerful head of the gigantic
Standard Oil empire was bent over his desk busily writing with a pencil
on a pad of paper. Bedford stood silently, not wishing to interrupt.
After a few minutes Rockefeller looked up.
"Oh, it's you, Bedford," he said calmly. "I suppose you've heard about
Bedford said that he had.
"I've been thinking it over," Rockefeller said, "and before I ask the
man in to discuss the matter, I've been making some notes."
Bedford later told the story this way:
"Across the top of the page was written, 'Points in favor of Mr.
_______.' There followed a long list of the man's virtues, including a
brief description of how he had helped the company make the right
decision on three separate occasions that had earned many times the
cost of his recent error.
"I never forgot that lesson. In later years, whenever I was tempted to
rip into anyone, I forced myself first to sit down and thoughtfully
compile as long a list of good points as I possibly could. Invariably, by
the time I finished my inventory, I would see the matter in its true
perspective and keep my temper under control. There is no telling
how many times this habit has prevented me from committing one of
the costliest mistakes any executive can make -- losing his temper.
"I commend it to anyone who must deal with people."
One can only be stunned by Yaakov’s stinging rebuke of Shimon and Levi whose anger about an attack on their sister was avenged by their destroying the city of Shechem. Clearly Yaakov disagreed with their method and their decision. Thus, we find Yaakov cursing their anger when he blesses their siblings. However, he ends his rebuke by promising to split them up among Yaakov and Yisrael. Now, if Yaakov was so concerned about their anger, why was he not worried that their anger was going to spread and consume the other Shevatim as well?
The Alter of Slabodka noted that anger can be dissipated when it is replaced with other means or is spread out among other traits and opportunities. He notes that often we may be angry at work, other partners or even at home or a situation but will calm down in order to meet with someone else in order to focus on “getting ahead” if it means calming down in order to meet with a client or doing business or socializing. Putting our anger into a broader context of our experience (or even with the object of our anger) and spreading it out among other emotions and situations will dull its intensity and hopefully improve the outcome.
This was Yaakov’s message to the Shimon and Levi as well. Their anger is strong when it is left alone. Therefore Yaakov decided to put these two Shevatim in the context and comfort of the rest of Am Yisrael – as the Leviim and teachers whose greatest strength came forth when they would be spread out.
Do you think anger is best contained or dissipated?
How do YOU deal with anger within yourself, within others around you?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and community