Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics about Anger

DO NOT BE LOCKED IN THE PAST…

TORAH PORTION: BO

BO3-DO NOT BE LOCKED IN THE PAST-483838701

There is a huge difference between living with the past and living in the past. You may have been cheated or verbally abused by someone close. A teacher’s words may have stung or a friend betrayed you. It is easy to be stuck with those memories of pain or hatred, but while we can’t change our past, we can certainly change our future.

G-d tells the Jewish nation that they are soon to leave Egypt, where they have been enslaved for over two hundred years, and He gives a curious instruction. The soon-to-be-free slaves are to approach their Egyptian neighbors – their masters – who will give them valuable gifts. This was not compensation for the years of misery the Jewish nation had endured. Precious gold and silver would not erase their memories, but it would take the sting off.

Receiving these gifts would allow the Jews, with time, to let go of the pain of their exile and move on to build their future. Have you heard the phrase “so-and-so lives in the past”? It’s what happens when one cannot let go of his or her experiences of the past and is unable to move forward. We must remember the past and learn from it without constantly reliving emotions and experiences that have long since passed. Truly great people are those who can retain the memories, yet learn from them and apply their lessons to the future.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about ways to let go of the past in a productive way. (Perhaps you know a Holocaust survivor who was able to build a new life.)

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Why do we like to hold on to feelings of anger or hate?
  • Can you give an example of a time that you held on to a grudge or remained angry for a long time?
  • Could you have learned something from that experience?

By Rabbi Moshe Becker

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.

ACTING WITHOUT THOUGHT…

TORAH PORTION: VAYECHI

ActingWithoutThoughtWhen we are angry, our vision narrows and we sometimes act in ways that would shock even ourselves in a better moment. It is hard to maintain perspective when someone or something angers or offends us. But, upon reflection we are able to look back on our actions and make changes for the future. We will not be forgiven for our regrettable actions if we do not make changes in our behavior.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayechi, Jacob is on his deathbed and shares parting words with all of his sons. These are not the blessings you might expect from a dying patriarch. Many of them are quite critical. Jacob scolds his sons Reuben, Simeon, and Levi for their reckless behavior from years before, which includes sexual indiscretion and a murderous massacre. Years later, these sons are still dealing with the consequences of their actions, and their father has not forgiven them. In the moment,  when the brothers did these things, they surely did not consider these consequences. Imagine how they must have felt when they realized how much their father was still hurting from their actions, so many years later.

Slowly counting to ten can prevent us from yelling or making a mean remark, whether it be towards a loved one or a colleague. Re-reading an impassioned e-mail can help us press “delete” instead of “send.” When we do take an action that we later regret, we can reflect on what led us to take that step in order to avoid doing it again. Thinking about those we have hurt
in the past can help us be more careful in the future.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about why it is important to control their anger.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What do you do when you are angry?
  • Can you think of a time when you stopped yourself from expressing anger?
  • How did it feel?
  • How can you communicate anger in a productive way?

By Rabbi Judith Greenberg

Values & Ethics: Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.

AVOIDING HURTING WORDS…

TORAH PORTION: VA-YERA

va-yera3We use words to express so many different things: from basic things like “I’m hungry” to deeper things like “I love you.” Words have power to do good, but it is easy to forget how much harm we can do with them. We often think that our words cannot be hurtful if the person we are speaking about is not around. But with the prevalence of e-mail, texting, and twitter, seldom do our words end when we first express them. It is safe to assume that any words we say will be heard again.

In this week’s Torah portion, Va-Yera, Sarah’s words would be hurtful to Abraham. Thinking he cannot hear, she laughs about her aged husband’s ability to father a child in his old age. Imagine how Abraham would feel if he had heard Sarah’s laughter. Later in speaking to Abraham, God rephrases Sarah’s words so as not to hurt Abraham’s feelings. The Torah is teaching us to avoid hurtful speech.

How often do we speak carelessly and hurt those we love? Sarah shows us how easy this is to do. This lesson shows us how to communicate when we are upset. We learn from them that being in a relationship means using our words to heal, not only after we have been hurt but also after we have hurt someone else. Pausing to take a deep breath and counting to ten helps us to rephrase or avoid hurtful words. Shalom bayit, peace in the house, is the responsibility of each family member.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about being careful with their words.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What can you do to avoid speech that hurts others?
  • What are words that you can say after you have hurt someone?
  • What is a good way to express your feelings when you have been hurt by someone else’s words?
  • When is it hard to forgive? What makes it easier?

By Rabbi Judith Greenberg

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.

CONTROLLING ANGER…

TORAH PORTION: EKEV

ekev2What do you do when you get angry? Slam a door? Yell at someone? Just sulk? Well, if you never get angry, that’s fantastic. However, most of us do struggle with feelings of anger. We are confident that everything should be the way we want it, and when things go awry, we become insecure and angry.

This week’s Torah portion, Ekev, encourages us to disavow idol worship in all its forms, even physically destroy idols. Sometimes though, the ‘idol’ isn’t really an image or sculpture; it is ourselves. Anger is a self-centered indulgence, a modern form of idolatry.

Anger is our reaction to things not going the way we think they should. I’ve put myself and my wants on such a high pedestal that nothing else matters. I’m so sure that things should go my way that, when they don’t, I feel threatened and out of control. I’ll attempt to exercise my control over something else to compensate. I may break an object or yell at someone to regain a feeling of security. All I see is myself. In that case my idol is what looks back at me in the mirror.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the ways they handle feelings of anger.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Talk about a few things that have made you angry.
  • How could you have reacted differently?
  • Is it ever good to get angry?
  • Is it possible to think rationally about anger while you’re getting angry?
  • Does taking a break before responding help to calm you down?

By Rabbi Moshe Becker

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.

BULLYING & NAME CALLING…

TORAH PORTION: CHUKAT

chukat2Often children label entire groups as “weird” or “bad” or “uncool”. Sometimes they join cliques or engage in a kind of social warfare at school, with one group pitted against another. The worst example of social warfare becomes violent, such as bullying or joining gangs. Even if their children don’t engage in the worst examples of social warfare, many parents wish their children wouldn’t be so judgmental and would be more socially open to others.

In this week’s Torah portion, Chukat, the Children of Israel are traveling through the desert when their beloved leader, Miriam, dies. Then there is no water for the community. They complain to Moses, saying “Why did you take us from Egypt in order to bring us to this evil place?” God tells Moses to speak to the rock to draw forth water from it. Instead, Moses angrily hits the rock saying: “Listen now, O rebels, shall we bring forth water for you from this rock?” In his anger, Moses uses a destructive label for his people in public.

How can parents teach their children to be more open to others? Showing tolerance and respect for others, despite their shortcomings, can teach children to do the same. Rejecting others, on the other hand, for how they dress, or how they raise their children, to name two examples, can be internalized by children as the way to behave with their friends. Parents can discourage labeling others at home. In this way, children can learn, over time to have a healthy respect for others who are different from them, rather than putting others down in order to raise up their own self-worth.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about social groups and cliques in school and how they can be hurtful.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • How is social life at school organized? Do some kids publicly reject others?
  • Is there ever name-calling at school? Bullying?
  • How should one respond to such behavior?
  • Does picking on others make the doer feel better or worse about himself?

By Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.