Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics about Anger

RENEWING A RELATIONSHIP…

TORAH PORTION: KORACH

korachWhat happens when you find yourself in a disagreement with someone?  There are times when a distance grows between you that must be bridged in order to save the relationship.  When that moment arrives, who will be the person who reaches out and extends the olive branch?  Is reaching out to the other person first a sign of strength or a sign of weakness?  On one hand, it takes a lot of character to attempt to reconcile with someone when the relationship is not going well.   On the other hand, it might be seen as “giving in” or not holding strong to your point of view if you are the first to reach out.

In this week’s Torah portion, Korach, we see Moses model the first approach.  Korach and some followers rebel against Moses when he appoints men from another family to positions of leadership.  As things get heated in the community, Moses decides to reach out to some of the rebels in order to open lines of communication and asks them to meet with him.

Does it matter whether they came or not?  In this case they did not.  However, that should have no effect on the initial decision to reach out.  For that step to reopen communication says much more about the one who asks than it does about the person who receives the request.  One could think of it as giving in.  However, it can also be seen as brave because if no one reaches out there is no chance to communicate, to work things out, or to move forward.  Reaching out is a risk that comes with a big potential reward, the renewing of a relationship.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about having the courage to reach out to reconcile.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Do you think that reaching out is a sign of strength or weakness?
  • When was a time that you reached out to someone?
  • When was a time that someone reached out to you?
  • What do you do when you reach out and the other person does not respond?

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

REASON IS LOST IN ANGER…

TORAH PORTION: SHEMINI

Shemini3We all become rash when we are angry.  We are quick to condemn others.  Anger clouds our reason, and we can accuse others without thinking clearly.    When we become angry we should ask ourselves: what good motivation might this person have for his or her action that I can’t see?  What am I missing that this person sees?  Though we may have reason to be upset, often our own reactions are clouded by emotion, blinding us from seeing the true situation before us.

In this week’s parashah, Moses gets angry with Eliezer and Itamar, two of his brother Aaron’s sons.  He thinks that they have done something wrong, and he loudly scolds them, saying that they really ought to have listened to him.  But Aaron interrupts Moses and gently explains how his sons have not actually done anything wrong.  Their way of doing things was acceptable, too.  In his anger, Moses had lost his reason and knowledge of the law.  In the end, he is humbled and gladly relents to his brother.

Moses’ anger clouds his reason, and his nephews suffer from this.  How many times have we exploded at someone, missing their good intentions because of our anger?  We miss reasonable explanations because we are angry.  We are not alone in our effort to see through our anger.  Like Moses and Aaron, we can rely on our friends and loved ones to help us calm down when we are upset and not lose our rational selves to anger.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about how it feels to be angry.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Why is it so hard to give others the benefit of the doubt when you are angry?
  • When you look back at a time you had an angry outburst, how do you feel?  Would react differently now?
  • How can you help someone calm down when he or she is angry?

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.

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.