Emotionally Incoherent at the Bully Pulpit

July 14, 2022
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Emotionally incoherent,
they failed with filial disobedience
by showing less to God, their Parent

than to a Golden Calf allegiance,

behaving bovine in confusion,
looking darkly through a glass,
illuminated by illusion,

turning from epiphany to farce.

Faced by a golden calf that towered
just as a tower had in Babel,
Moses never anger showered,

destroying it, and not the rabble,

emotionally, in the process,
of control of damage in-
tellectually coherent, Moses

prevented harm caused by their sin.

Yet at Meribah, Moses was
not intellectually coherent,
blown by belligerence because

he was emotionally aberrant,

inappropriately angry
with followers whom he would mock
hitting a non-tangere

Meribah microphonic rock.

Abuse of Jews became the cause
of his dismissal, less coherent
than at the Golden Calf, because

to anger he became adherent,

not using as a microphone
the rock, condemned by God as culprit
for, with an unbullish, bearish tone

speaking from his bully pulpit.

Expressing anger thus to Jews
was implicitly forbidden,
In anger spoken, a “J’accuse”

caused Moses by God to be smitten.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, in an article called “Anger Management”, suggested that Moses’ fatal flaw was lack of emotional intelligence, which caused him to succumb to anger at Meribah (Num. 20:10-1) where he suffered from the same emotional incoherence that caused the Israelites to worship the Golden Calf. In his article, Rabbi Sacks cites what Maimonides wrote in Shemoneh Perakim, the “Eight Chapters” that form the preface to his commentary to the Mishnah, Tractate Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers:

In the course of these chapters Maimonides sets out a surprisingly contemporary account of Judaism as a training in emotional intelligence. Healthy emotions are essential to a good and happy life, but temperament is not something we choose. Some people just happen to be more patient or calm or generous-spirited or optimistic than others. Emotions were at one stage called the “passions,” a word that comes from the same root as “passive,” implying that they are feelings that happen to us rather than reactions we choose. Despite this, Maimonides believed that with sufficient training it is possible for us to overcome our destructive emotions and reconfigure our affective life.

Gershon Hepner is a poet who has written over 25,000 poems on subjects ranging from music to literature, politics to Torah. He grew up in England and moved to Los Angeles in 1976. Using his varied interests and experiences, he has authored dozens of papers in medical and academic journals, and authored “Legal Friction: Law, Narrative, and Identity Politics in Biblical Israel.” He can be reached at gershonhepner@gmail.com.

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