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Rage like a Sage

03/24/2021 11:15:07 AM


There was a piece on NPR yesterday about rage rooms.  Rage Rooms are businesses with rooms filled with all sorts of “to be trashed” items like old cars with windshields intact, old big television sets – you know, the kind with the big tubes, not the newfangled flat ones, old lamps, ceramic dishes, computers and anything else that makes a lovely crash the moment you slam the unstoppable force upon it. 



Does the boss get on your nerves? What about the kids? Traffic? Crowds? Life? Well come and take all your frustrations out on inanimate objects with sledgehammers, baseball bats, golf clubs, and more. We also do parties, fundraisers, team building, date night, anniversaries, and more. We can handle corporate events, too!

Sometimes we need another outlet for our stress and frustrations. Feel free to really let it go. What happens here stays here. So, crying, screaming, cussing, is ALLOWED. Plus, you won't hurt the ones you love or go to jail. And you don't have to clean up the mess.”


This is the spiel from one such “rage room” here in Houston (I’m not endorsing any particular business, I’ve never stepped foot in one but I think I might soon!). This piece on the radio and my subsequent “surfing” led me to discover that this is a quite more common business than I ever knew. And of course, since you’re reading my blog, you will probably not be surprised when I say that there seems to me to be something very Jewish about this.


You are probably familiar with the Yiddish term, chutzpah, which essentially means “nerve,” the willingness to stand up to the powers that be.  Chutzpah isn’t a term only at home in Yiddish vernacular, it carries some significant ages-old, rabbinic weight. You see, chutzpah is defined as, “irrepressible strength” and “irresistible boldness,” and those special souls, who express it, are said to display “chutzpah klapei shemayah," chutzpah even in the face of heavenRabbi Ed Feinstein writes, “The Bible understood that people driven by fear close up into a clinch.  In the face of fear, conscience is occluded, compassion withers and dies.  Living in fear, we become indifferent to the needs of the other and deaf to moral ideals…The sense of powerlessness inevitably leads to cynicism and despair.” 


If you’re scratching your head and trying to wonder why someone would gun down innocent people in broad daylight, unfortunately I don’t believe we have to look further than this wisdom that is thousands of years old.  The main thing that has changed, of course, is the terribly easy means by which this seething anger and despair can be discharged with a violent ferocity none of our sages could have imagined. 


No, I am not saying that the answer to all our troubles are these rage rooms.  However, I do believe very strongly that the expression of anger and frustration is as human an expression as that of love and affection.  It’s perfectly all right to express anger.  Let it go. Let it be out there in the world instead of rumbling inside of you, but you have to do it safely.  Even in the rage room, you have to wear gloves and goggles and there’s a very limited number of people who can be in a room at the same time. What if we approached our anger that way too? God gave us a world that is ripe for the possibility for blessing but also replete with opportunities for loss and misery. It’s the Catch-22 of the inherent freedom of choice of all human beings.  We cannot become ourselves if we are not free to choose our path; but one’s freedom cannot be allowed to come at the cost of another’s. 

So, smash it out or write it out.  Talk it out or run it out. You can even punch it out (into a punching bag or the like). And you can pray it out.  God can abide your sadness and despair.  God can take your punches. Afterwards, God will even sit with you, bruised and bloody, hold you and tell you that God loves you.  So rage against God, God can take it.  Remember that Kindergarten song about “Love?”

“Love is something, if you give it away, give it away, give it away, love is something if you give it away, it comes right back to you.”

It turns out that the same is true for anger.  When you dump it on someone else, it doesn’t diffuse.  Nope. It just comes back with a vengeance.

Mon, September 27 2021 21 Tishrei 5782