It says that Hillel never became angry. How is it possible that he never became angry?
You have to know that sometimes it pays to restrain your anger in order to perfect yourself. Sometimes you have to go to extremes in order to make progress and so Hillel made it a goal of his to never become angry because he was trying to perfect his character.
Now, you must know that when it says Hillel never became angry, it doesn’t mean it k’pshuto. Because sometimes Hillel had to put on an act as if he was angry. Like it says כעס הפנים ולא כעס הלב – anger that shows on the face, without anger in the heart. Sometimes Hillel had to show anger on his face. It can’t be helped; sometimes you have to show anger about something.
But sometimes the heart must be kindled too. In some situations, for the sake of Hakodosh Boruch Hu, the mind also must become angry. And therefore what we’ll say is that Hakodosh Boruch Hu wanted to help Hillel out in his role as a model for the Jewish people, so He never gave Hillel any real nisayon in that sense. He had smaller nisyonos, like the gemara says there, that when someone came to vex him, to insult him, so Hillel was able to control himself.
But Hillel didn’t have such a case where he had to speak up with anger l’chvod shamayim. You can be sure that if Hillel had been around in the time of Chanukah when the Greek officer came to offer a swine on the mizbei’ach in the streets of Modi’in, Hillel would have taken out his sword and he would have done no less than Matisyahu. He would have become angry for the honor of Hashem, absolutely! Only that Hakodosh Boruch Hu never gave him such an opportunity. All he had was minor conflicts with his fellow Jews, and he therefore restrained himself and never became angry.
TAPE # 624 (December 1986)