One of the things we learned is that if you are standing on a roof, and you are standing near the middle of the roof, then there is no danger of your falling off, so theoretically it doesn’t matter if there is a fence on the roof or not. But if you are standing right on the edge and you are in danger of falling, then you really need a fence to keep yourself from falling. So in the same way, if a person doesn’t get angry, he doesn’t need a fence, but most of us are getting angry all the time, so we need some kind of fence to protect us.
Rebbe Nachman says that a strong fence against getting angry is to make a vow. If you make a vow, you really have to keep it, because the Torah says not to say G-d’s name in vain. So if you make a vow it is a very strong thing. It gives you strength to keep it.
But he also says; don’t kid yourself. Don’t make a vow that you’re not going to get angry the rest of your life, because you’ll break it, and it has no meaning. Even if you make a vow for just ten minutes – “I won’t get angry,” that is very good. If you can go for ten minutes without getting angry, then you have kept your vow, and it gives you more strength for the next time.
The Hebrew word for vow, shvua, comes from the word savea, which means satisfied, or full. A vow is really like food for the soul, it fills you with the strength to keep it. The Ziditchover Rebbe heard that Rebbe Nachman said he was making vows, so he said, “Even to make a vow for five minutes, you still have to be on the level.”
If you are really immersed in anger, and you can’t even make a five-minute vow, the only thing you can do is be like an ox plowing the field, and really work on it. Lift yourself up to the level where you can make a vow, then make a vow for five minutes.
Rebbe Nachman says, how do you have to talk to yourself when you make a vow? You have to call yourself; “Shlomo, the son of Pesia, don’t speak evil.” You have to talk to yourself, call yourself by your name.