"T his is the statute of the Torah that the L-rd commanded, saying…” (Bamidbar 19:2)

“And Moshe became angry at the officers of the army….” (Bamidbar 31:14)

The Gemara in Pesachim (66b) tells us: Reish Lakish says, whoever gets angry, if he’s smart, his wisdom leaves him.

This is one of the three times that Moshe got angry and forgot halachos, as we see a few pesukim later (21): “And Elazar HaKohein said to the people of the army, ‘This is the statute of the Torah that Hashem commanded Moshe.’ ” (Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Sichos Mussar)

It’s been decades since I left suburban America, but apartment living still seems foreign to me. I feel claustrophobic knowing there are 20 families on top of me and as many to the right and left.

Yet there’s beauty in these urban surroundings. Come summer Friday nights, with everybody’s windows open and zemiros harmonizing in the air, there’s an atmosphere of centuries-old shtetl days.

Succos is a communal party. Each neighbor’s Simchas Beis Hashoeivah or party keeps the atmosphere rocking as we all enjoy the music and holiday cheer. It’s like one big family.

Anger is a terrible trait and brings a person down in madreigah. The best way to stay away from this bad middah is to fully understand its negative power. But even after one delves into understanding the bad influences of anger, it’s still possible to fall into its trap.

A person naturally justifies his anger. Anger distorts his logic and his ability to weigh things properly. Therefore, Chazal say that even justified anger causes a person to go down in madreigah. (ibid.)

There’s a flip side to living in such close proximity to your neighbors. Often, you get to be privy to all sorts of conversations and attitudes that are better kept behind closed doors.

Friday afternoon is a prime example. As I hang my laundry outside, the chorus of voices, each with its own note of urgency, pleading, and pressure, fills the air.

“Rivka, can you hear me? Where are the baby’s shoes? Rivka!”

Rivka can hear you and so can the rest of us. I wonder if these mothers realize how their voices carry as the octaves rise as the clock inches closer to shkiah.

In contrast, there’s one apartment that’s always remarkably silent. Rina’s blessed with a lively crew, yet I’ve never heard her caving in to pressure, even when she’s not aware that others are listening.

The voice you hear when passing by her windows is calm, occasionally insistent, but with a modulated tone that doesn’t relay any tension or frustration. How does she do it? I’ve often wondered.

There is no doubt that Moshe’s anger here in the war of Midyan was justified. The purpose of the war was to avenge Hashem in Midyan. But when they left the females alive, they brought a stumbling block into the camp of Yisrael.

Yet, despite the justification for his anger, Moshe still forgot the halachos. We see that losing one’s wisdom due to anger is not necessarily a punishment — rather a direct ramification of the anger itself. An angry person loses his logic; there’s no difference whether it’s justified or not. (ibid.)

A few weeks ago I met Rina at the bar mitzvah of a mutual neighbor, and I decided to finally discover the secret of her calmness.

She gave a small smile as I popped the question. I expected denial of my compliment, but she graciously acceded that, yes, she rarely yells.

“What’s your secret?” I leaned forward, sure I was going to get the key to child-rearing. “What happens when the toddler gets ahold of the toothpaste and your son leaves his sneakers right at the entrance to your doorway and your mother-in-law is coming in five minutes? Don’t you ever lose it?”

“Not really.” She fiddled with her napkin. “I’m no big tzadeikes. I have my issues. But yelling isn’t one of them.”

Realizing I wasn’t satisfied with this generalization, she continued.

“You know I have a son who’s mildly retarded. Years ago I realized that as soon as I raised my voice in either anger or frustration, he’d react by becoming more and more agitated. By expressing my frustration, I was feeding into his negative behavior and I was instantly pulled into the quicksand of an escalating meltdown and the ensuing process of calming him down. I learned quickly, and basically trained myself not to get angry, no matter what the provocation. It simply isn’t worth it.” (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 551)