After Lee Harvey Oswald was taken into custody for allegedly shooting President John F. Kennedy, he was asked if he shot the president. He responded, “No sir, I didn’t shoot anybody…I’m just a patsy.”
What is a patsy? A patsy is a victim of deception, a person easily cheated or fooled, or as we say today, someone who was played—a chump, a dupe, a sucker.
It’s fairly safe to say that almost everyone desires money, to one extent or another. Why do we desire money? We live in a world where, for the most part, living without it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible. Food costs money. Housing costs money. Transportation costs money. Clothing costs money, etc. In other words, money seems necessary for survival.
But we want to ask a different question, a deeper question. Where does the desire for money come from?
Let’s start with a few axioms, i.e. eternal truths, that we’ll take for granted without providing sources in the Torah to prove each of them. The first is that Hashem creates souls. The second is that He also creates physical bodies into which He places those souls. The third is that since Hashem creates souls to inhabit bodies, it is ultimately His responsibility to provide for the sustenance [פַּרנָסָה, parnasah] of those soul/body entities, i.e. people. We see, therefore, that there must be an intimate connection between the source of a soul’s creation in the upper worlds and the source of that soul’s parnasah. As R’ Nachman teaches, this connection is the root of our desire for money (Likutei Moharan 68): וְזֶה מֵחֲמַת שֶׁהַנֶּפֶשׁ בָּאָה מִמָּקוֹם עֶלְיוֹן שֶׁהַמָּמוֹן בָּא וּמִשְׁתַּלְשֵׁל וּמִתְהַוֶּה מִשָּׁם. כִּי בְּוַדַּאי הַתְחָלַת הַמָּקוֹם שֶׁמִּשְׁתַּלְשֵׁל מִשָּׁם הַמָּמוֹן הוּא בְּוַדַּאי בְּחִינַת קְדֻשָּׁה וְשֶׁפַע קֹדֶשׁ וְאַחַר־כָּךְ נִתְגַּשָּׁם לְמַטָּה כְּדֶרֶךְ הַהִשְׁתַּלְשְׁלוּת וְנִתְהַוֶּה מָמוֹן. וְעַל כֵּן הַנֶּפֶשׁ תְּאֵבָה לְמָמוֹן מֵחֲמַת שֶׁהַנֶּפֶשׁ בָּאָה מִמָּקוֹם שֶׁהַמָּמוֹן בָּא מִשָּׁם (This is because the soul comes from the same supernal place from where money comes, and it [i.e. the money] devolves and comes into being from there. Without a doubt, the initial starting point of the place from where money devolves is an aspect of holiness and holy abundance, but afterward it ‘materializes’ down below, as is the way of devolution, and becomes money; therefore, the soul has a desire for money because the soul comes from the place from where money comes).
To put it simply, most of us have a misdirected or misplaced desire. Instead of desiring the devolved substance down here in the lower world, i.e. the money, we have to redirect our desire to the source of that devolved substance, i.e. to the ‘place’ from where the soul and its parnasah jointly emerge. But why must we learn to desire that supernal place? Because it is to that same place that we must return after having filled all of the deficiencies created into the soul and having cleansed ourselves from all of the impurity and filth that we attached to our souls in this fallen world.
Therefore, having money is not necessarily problematic—at least not now, at this point in time in the history of the world. The problem, of course, is having desire for it, rather than having desire for its source. Therefore, based on our three axioms above, all of us should enjoy a plentiful supply of money. So how come some of us, even those of us who work very hard, don’t seem to have much money at their disposal? R’ Nachman explains (L.M. 68): וְדַע שֶׁרָאוּי שֶׁכָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל יִהְיוּ לָהֶם מָמוֹן אַךְ יֵשׁ מִדָּה אַחַת שֶׁמַּפְסֶדֶת וּמְאַבֶּדֶת מֵהֶם הַמָּמוֹן וְהִיא מִדָּה רָעָה מְגֻנָּה שֶׁקָּשֶׁה מְאֹד לְהִנָּצֵל מִמֶּנָּה (Know that it is appropriate that all Jews have money; however, there is one character trait [middah] that causes them to forfeit and lose their money, and it is a despicably bad middah from which it is very difficult to be saved). In other words, although Hashem’s desire is that we receive an abundant flow of parnasah from on high, we often block that flow by one particularly nasty middah. And what is that middah? It is anger.
How come anger is the one middah that has the power to block the flow of parnasah from reaching us? It is because the very source from where parnasah emerges and devolves downward to us is exactly the same source from where anger emerges. What is that place? It is the place of gevurot [strictness, judgments, dinim], which are on the ‘left’ side in the upper world of Atzilut. On the one hand, it is written (Iyov 37:22): מִצָּפוֹן זָהָב יֶאֱתֶה (Gold emerges from the north), and on the other hand, it is written (Yirmeyahu 1:14): מִצָּפוֹן תִּפָּתַח הָרָעָה (Evil opens up from the north). What is this evil that opens up from the north? It is anger, as Shlomo ha-Melech taught (Kohelet 11:10): וְהָסֵר כַּעַס מִלִּבֶּךָ וְהַעֲבֵר רָעָה מִבְּשָׂרֶךָ (Remove anger from your heart, and cause evil to pass from your flesh). But does the north have to do with anything? The cardinal directions of the compass are associated with the layout of the Holy Temple: left to the north, right to the south, east to the front and west to the back. Putting these verses together, we learn that money, i.e. gold, and evil, i.e. anger, both emerge from the place of gevurot which is either referred to as being on the left or in the north.
But there is more to it than that. Money is like a wall that surrounds and protects an individual from harm, yet anger can damage that wall and open up breaches in it. For on the one hand, we read (Mishlei 18:11): הוֹן עָשִׁיר קִרְיַת עֻזּוֹ וּכְחוֹמָה נִשְׂגָּבָה בְּמַשְׂכִּתוֹ (The wealth of a rich man is his strong city, and like a high wall in his chamber), and yet on the other hand, we read (Mishlei 25:28): עִיר פְּרוּצָה אֵין חוֹמָה אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר אֵין מַעְצָר לְרוּחוֹ (A breached city without a wall is like a man whose temper is without restraint). So anger destroys a man’s protective wall of wealth. How does it happen? R’ Nachman explains (L.M. 68): וְעַל כֵּן בְּקַל מְהַפֵּךְ לוֹ הַהִשְׁתַּלְשְׁלוּת שֶׁפַע שֶׁל מָמוֹן שֶׁהוּא בְּחִינַת חוֹמָה לְכַעַס שֶׁהוּא הֶפֶךְ הַחוֹמָה וְעוֹשֶׂה לוֹ מֵחוֹמָה חֵמָה שֶׁמְּהַפֵּךְ הַמָּמוֹן לְכַעַס (Therefore, it is easy to turn his devolving abundance of money, which is the aspect of a wall, to anger, which is the opposite of a wall, and to make anger [חֵמָה, cheimah] out of a wall [חוֹמָה, chomah], turning the money into anger). This is not just a cute play on words, but rather a description of what happens, literally. This is a big topic and beyond the scope of this article, but the essence of reality is not the ‘things’ themselves but rather the letters, i.e. spiritual lights, that comprise the things.
We can also learn about this terrible tragedy by examining two other related verses. David ha-Melech said (Tehillim 111:5): טֶרֶף נָתַן לִירֵאָיו (He provides food [teref] to those who revere Him), but we also read what Bildad the Shuchi said to Iyov (Iyov 18:4): טֹרֵף נַפְשׁוֹ בְּאַפּוֹ (He tears apart [toreif] his soul in his anger). So although Hashem desires to give a man his teref, that same man can change it into anger and by doing so, destroy or tear apart, i.e. toreif, his own soul in the process, G d forbid.
Unfortunately, some of us have made a bit of a habit out of these self-destructive acts. Think about it. At the very moment that Hashem is pouring out a flow of parnasah to us from the supernal source of our very soul, at that very moment, we get angry and ruin everything. It’s rather perverse, isn’t it? So what’s really going on?
We know that Hashem runs the world. Yet, there are times when He turns over authority to the Satan to orchestrate a test for us to determine whether we are truly worthy of receiving that parnasah easily, or whether, G d forbid, we’re going to have to slog away and put forth a lot of effort to earn sufficient parnasah to survive. The Satan sees the parnasah starting to devolve downward and he immediately orchestrates a situation tailor-made for us to provoke us into becoming angry. It’s that simple. And sadly, many of us fall for it over and over again.
How come we repeatedly fall for the same subterfuge? We’re being caught off guard. We’re just not expecting something to come at us at that very moment. In other words, we’re unprepared. Not only that, but when the Satan wants to be very clever, for he is the most clever of any beast of the field that Hashem made (Bereshit 3:1), he just arranges for a variation on a theme, a new situation for us, something that we never encountered before. In that way, we don’t even suspect that he’s been the one orchestrating these situations time and time again.
But can we not prepare ourselves so that we stop being such patsies? Yes, we can. It is written in L.M. 56:6: וּלְפִי הַגְדָּלַת הַדַּעַת כֵּן הַפַּרְנָסָה בְּנָקֵל כִּי פַּרְנָסָה בְּנָקֵל תּוֹלָה בְּדַעַת…כִּי עַל־יְדֵי הַדַּעַת נִגְדָּל הַשָּׁלוֹם כִּי נִתְבַּטֵּל הַכַּעַס וְהָאַכְזָרִיּוּת עַל יְדֵי הַדַּעַת כִּי כַּעַס וְאַכְזָרִיּוּת הוּא מֵהֶעְדֵּר הַדַּעַת כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: כַּעַס בְּחֵיק כְּסִילִים יָנוּחַ, וְכָל מַה שֶּׁמִּתְרַבֶּה הַדַּעַת מִתְרַבָּה הָרַחֲמָנוּת וְהַשָּׁלוֹם וְעַל כֵּן הַפַּרְנָסָה בְּנָקֵל (The greater the da’at, the easier the parnasah, because parnasah with ease depends on da’at…for through da’at shalom is increased, because anger and cruelty are nullified through da’at, for anger and cruelty are the result of the absence of da’at, like it is written [Kohelet 7:9], ‘Anger rests in the lap of the fool’, but to the extent that da’at is increased, mercy and shalom are increased, and therefore, parnasah comes easily).
The only reason the Satan is able to fool us over and over again is because we lack da’at. This means that we don’t see the essence of what is happening at the moment it is happening. That is our deep vulnerability that he exploits to his advantage. Therefore, if we want to cease from anger, to see through his provocations, his dirty little tricks, his setups, the games that he plays with us, we need to work on developing da’at.
As we have explained elsewhere many times before, da’at comes through learning Torah and praying with kavanah. There is no other way. If we only learn Torah but do not pray with deep concentration and focus, then we won’t really develop da’at. We may develop a lot of Torah ‘head knowledge’, but we won’t develop true da’at. On the other hand, if we excel at tefillah, but we don’t learn a lot of Torah, we’ll also lack da’at. A simple way of understanding it is that da’at is the wedding of Torah and tefillah, of chochmah and binah.
There are other strategies that we may employ to defeat anger. For example, we say to Hashem during tachanun: בְּרֺֽגֶז רַחֵם תִּזְכּוֹר בְּרֹֽגֶז עַקֵדָה תִּזְכּוֹר בְּרֹֽגֶז תְּמִימוֹת תִּזְכּוֹר (In rage, remember mercy; in rage, remember the Akeidah; in rage, remember the innocent ones). When you know that anger is starting to well up inside you, remember to be merciful. Alternatively, bring to mind what Avraham and Yitzchak were willing to go through—for us—in their mutual service of Hashem. A third option is to recall our holy Patriarchs and Matriarchs who lived lives of such simplicity, purity and innocence. The problem, however, is that each of these things would seem to be predicated on having sufficient da’at in the first place, the very thing we are lacking! So although these approaches may suffice for Hashem when He is angry, it may be that we may experience only limited success with these strategies.
That being said, we’ll share a little secret on how to combat anger in the short run and even with just a little effort. How is that? By dancing and jumping. Yes, seriously. We’re not joking. Just as someone can become easily angered when he’s already upset or stressed out, one can easily avoid anger when he’s happy. And one of the quickest and safest routes to happiness is by dancing. This secret was known to Yosef ha-Tzaddik. How do you think he keep his spiritual health and sanity all those years when he was locked up in Pharaoh’s dungeon? The Torah describes Yosef in Bereshit 39:2 as אִישׁ מַצְלִיחַ (a successful man). What was the basis for his success? It is taught in the Midrash (Bereshit Rabbah 86:4): רַבִּי בֶּרֶכְיָה אָמַר גֶּבֶר קָפוֹז (R’ Berechyah said, ‘gever kafoz‘). What is the meaning of gever kafoz? It means ‘a jumping man’, someone who jumped, hopped, skipped and danced—all the time. That was the key to his success. And we can learn to do the same thing, to be just as successful in our endeavors. To repair the terrible middah of anger, all we need to do is rearrange the letters of קצף [ketzef, rage] into קפץ [kafatz, jumped].
Therefore, if we’re really serious about conquering our anger, something that we may never have been able to achieve yet in our lives, then here’s a little piece of advice. We should set our alarm clocks to go off at least 10 minutes earlier than normal every morning. Let’s get out of bed and dance for those extra 10 minutes. We’ll experience the best results if we can get up to dance before dawn, but we can still receive some benefit even after dawn.
Don’t we owe it to our spouses and children? Haven’t they waited long enough to experience a true gever kafoz?