The Lap of Fools

“Do not repeatedly hasten in your spirit to anger, for anger inhabits the lap of fools.”

(Ecclesiastes 7:9)

There is a commercial for a popular credit card that uses the tagline: “What’s in your wallet?” Solomon is raising much the same question and in a sense asks, “What’s in your lap?” What is interesting about this figure of speech is that to have the lap, one must be at rest. So, what he is asking us is, “When you are at rest, does anger still inhabit your life?” If it does, you are the fool.

Solomon is not telling us that there is never a time for anger — at least that there is a time and place for righteous anger. But not only should we not be quick to anger, but we should address that which has made us angry, right the wrong that was done, and then let the anger go so that we do not dwell on that anger. As Paul writes, “do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26). 

The Rabbinic Sages went as far as to teach that when you got angry you ought not show that anger — even if you are disciplining an errant child (see Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz’ commentary on this verse). There is great wisdom in this. How often we discipline too harshly if we discipline in anger; how often we react too sharply when our reaction to injustice is done in anger rather than with a sober and disciplined approach. How often we have spoken to harshly even to loved ones when we are angry. My mother used to say that you should never make a big decision when you are weary or angry because in either case, regrets will follow. That has been counsel that has served me well over the years.

So, do not develop a reputation for being rash or easily angered. Never let those in community with you think of you as someone who is easily provoked. And if you are easily provoked, don’t brag about it or use it to intimidate people, repent of it that you may not be labeled the fool. Seek peace and honor those who do the same.

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