Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics about Anger

INSULTS LEAVE A LASTING IMPACT…

TORAH PORTION: MISHPATIM

MISHPATIM2We must carefully value our speech. Words are a powerful tool. They can bring people closer or they can distance them. They can hurt or they can heal. Whether we are speaking to a family member, a friend, a teacher, a neighbor, or a stranger, our words always have an impact. Even if the person we’re speaking to doesn’t seem to care, everyone is affected by our tone and manner of speaking. If we are often insulting or disrespectful, we become a problem both to others and to ourselves.

This week our Torah portion emphasizes that the words we speak to others have definite consequences. In a moment of anger, a person may lash out and say something unacceptable. The Torah is telling us to be very careful and to measure our words, for insults are easy to give but hard to retract. This topic is so very important to Judaism that our prayer services always emphasize the importance of proper speech.

Learning to speak in a thoughtful and considerate way takes repeated practice throughout life. When we are tired, upset, or distracted, a quick insulting remark or response is possible. Speech may insult others not only in what we say, but also in the tone of voice we choose. We all get angry and are easily susceptible to feeling attacked. Therefore, we all need tools to remind us to speak kindly and thoughtfully so that we can learn to avoid verbal damage.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT being aware of the lasting impact insults can have in their speech.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • In what way can speech be used positively?
  • In what way can speech be used negatively?
  • How should one speak if angry or feeling attacked?
  • What’s the best way to react if you’re insulted by someone?

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.

FAMILY FORGIVENESS…

TORAH PORTION: VAYECHI

FamilyForgivenessWe’ve all been offended at one time or another by the words or actions of a family member. Parents, children, spouses and siblings do end up hurting each other, willfully or unintentionally. It is never too early to begin to learn to forgive. By taking ourselves less seriously, it becomes easier to forgive another. When it comes to family, the ability to forgive is crucial. Family is permanent, and having the strength to forgive is rewarding for all.

This week’s Torah portion gives a very clear message on the importance of family forgiveness. In the portion we are reminded that, years earlier, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and told their father that Joseph had been killed. Jacob, Joseph’s father, was devastated, and Joseph became a slave in Egypt before ultimately rising to extreme power. Wisely, and exceptionally, Joseph does forgive all his brothers for their malicious act, realizing that he and his brothers share a common identity and future that should not be jeopardized by grudges, even if they seem justified. Jacob also forgives all his sons for their cruel deception. This is a powerful Torah story with a very relevant message for life today.

The need to forgive and, if possible, forget, is vitally important. Calmly confront wrongdoers and explain what they have done as a step toward reconciliation, not increased hostility. Parents easily forgive their children for slights given intentionally or by accident. How parents treat their extended family members also gives important messages. Parental modeling of forgiveness is an important learning tool for children. Forgiveness is an ability that is within our power, especially in family situations.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the importance of family relationships in their lives forever.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What sometimes makes us angry at each other?
  • Why is holding a grudge ultimately useless?
  • Why is family very important to each of us?
  • What tools can we learn to reduce our pain at family hurts and insults?

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.

SPEAKING SOFTLY…

TORAH PORTION: VA-YIGASH

SpeakingSoftlyYoung children are impulsive. They can’t really help it. They feel so intensely they blurt out whatever is on their minds, sometimes with love and sometimes in rage. It’s our job as parents to help them translate the intensity of their feelings into appropriate behavior. They might be angry, but they can’t mistreat their brother or sister, friend or parent. They need to find the right words to express what they are going through. They might want something belonging to a friend or sibling, but they can’t just grab it; they must ask for it respectfully.

In this week’s Torah Portion, Vayigash, Joseph, unrecognizable to his brothers dressed as Egyptian royalty, tests his brothers for having thrown him into a pit and selling him into slavery. He plants his silver goblet in his beloved younger brother Benjamin’s sack, and once it’s discovered declares that Benjamin will be his slave. Judah, an older brother, approaches Joseph with gentleness and softly speaks: “Please, my lord, let your servant speak a word to my lord. Do not be angry with your servant, though you are equal to Pharaoh himself”. Doing so, Judah diffuses the tension in the situation. In response, Joseph breaks down and reveals his real identity to his brothers.

By speaking softly at home we can teach children that shouting is not the most effective way. Gentleness can often be more productive than harsh yelling. The more we curb our own compulsions, the more we can show our children that kindness can be more effective in the world.

TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN about what it means to treat someone with loving kindness.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • How do you like to be treated?
  • How do you feel when you are treated with less than kindness?
  • How do you feel inside when you are mean to others?
  • What are the results of raising your voice and increasing tensions?

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.

GROWTH THROUGH DISCOMFORT…

TORAH PORTION: VAYELECH

vayelechYou probably don’t enjoy pain. Most people don’t. You probably don’t enjoy uncomfortable confrontations or difficult tasks either. It’s easy enough to take a pill to alleviate pain, but we shouldn’t be running from every tough spot. Instead, challenging situations should be seen for what they are: valuable growth opportunities.

Moses nears the end of his life. He is old and frail, but this does not stop him from making the most of his days. He uses his time to speak to his people and impart final words of guidance and wisdom. It isn’t easy for him, but it is his last chance at fulfillment.

Society has conditioned us to identify happiness in extreme comfort and the satisfaction of our material desires. Nobody likes pain, and we should certainly enjoy the world in which we live. But there’s much more to life than comfort. To accomplish our goals takes effort. We must be willing to put ourselves out there when others shy away, when someone needs help, and when confronting those who we upset or who upset us. Challenges give us the opportunity to flex our “muscles” and take another step towards becoming the person we want to be.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about applying themselves to reach their goals.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What makes you happy?
  • What are some of your goals in life?
  • Do you have role models who you know have pushed themselves through difficult situations?
  • How does accomplishing your goal feel after working hard?

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.

WHEN WE LOSE CONTROL…

TORAH PORTION: CHUKAT

chukat1People lose control.  We may get excessively angry or behave impulsively or destructively. We may scream at a child, eat too much, or drink.  The reasons for such behavior are many. Sometimes there is a sense that something is missing in our lives, a hole we don’t know how to fill, or a difficult issue we don’t know how to address.  That darkness lurks behind some of our behavior, and then suddenly, when we least expect it, erupts into unwanted behavior.

In this week’s Torah portion, Moses loses control.  Moses’ people are complaining yet again, this time for lack of water in the desert.  God tells Moses specifically to speak to a rock in order to draw water from it. Instead Moses hits the rock in anger.  He loses patience with his people who are constantly complaining. But there is also a backdrop of loss to Moses’ behavior.  His beloved sister Miriam has just died. Moses’ grief causes him to be short on the patience he normally exhibits with the people he is leading through the desert to the Promised Land.

It is important not to lose control especially with our children.  We don’t want to explode at them for minor infractions.  We also don’t want to set up models of destructive behavior for our children, whether it concerns behavior such as overeating, smoking, or drinking excessively.  Therefore, parents must address the origins of such behavior.  We might be dealing with ongoing frustrations at work, a loss of someone close to us, financial worries, or sources of tension in our marriage.  Whatever the issue is, better to address the deeper issue than for us to lose control, especially when children are concerned.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about how Moses lost his temper in the desert and hit the rock with his stick out of frustration.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What kind of situations might lead you to lose your temper?
  • What happens when you lose your temper?  Do people around you get hurt?
  • How else do you handle difficult problems in school or at home?
  • Did losing your temper ever accomplish anything worthwhile?

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.