Ki Tisa(Exodus 30:11-34:35)
A short fuse makes a person lose. In this week's Torah portion (Ex. 34:6) we learn that God is extremely patient with us and is slow to get angry at someone even if he deserves it. We can learn from here to become more Godly ourselves by doing our best to be patient with others and not get angry.
In our story, a kid struggles to keep his cool when he's red-hot.
Jon bulldozed his way through the crowded school hallway. The recess bell had just rung and he had just 20 minutes to complete a crucial task - to get to the market across the street where the students were allowed to go, buy a bar of his favorite crispie-crunch chocolate and get back in time to eat it.
"Hey, why'd you push me like that?" a kid whom Jon had just stiff-armed out of his way called out at him.
"'Cuz the world has enough turtles and I can't wait all day for one like you to decide to move!" Jon spat back and shoved further ahead.
In the schoolyard, there were a couple of younger kids making a snowman near the exit gate. Someone else might have walked around them. Someone else might have said 'excuse me, can I go by?' But Jon just saw something blocking his way and angrily stomped straight ahead, knocking the snowman flat.
Now just to cross the street and get to the store, he thought, trying to ignore what he knew was the sound of the little kids crying over their snowman turned into snow-mush.
In the store, things went pretty smoothly. He found the crispie-crunch bar in seconds flat - though it did take him another moment to decide which flavor he was most in the mood for - 'peanut paradise,' 'mint chill' or 'caramel crescendo.' Having decided, Jon bolted for the checkout. Great - only a couple of people ahead of him at the express line. I'll be done in no time!
Jon waited impatiently for the first woman in line to pack up her three tomatoes and carton of skim milk. Then the 'next' light flashed over the register, signaling the next customer to come through. Jon expected the older man at the head of the line to move forward, but he just stood there like a stone. The light flashed a couple of more times and the man still didn't move. Jon started to get red in the face.
What was wrong with this guy? he thought. Jon stomped up to the man and was about to angrily call out 'Come on mister, what are you - blind?' when he had a second thought. The sobs of the little kids he'd gotten mad at earlier still rang in his ears. Maybe he could try to control himself this one time.
He cleared his throat and as patiently as he could manage said, "Excuse me, the light's flashing. I think it's your turn."
"Thank you, son," the man turned to him. Why was he wearing sunglasses on a winter day? What was that cane? Jon asked himself and then gulped. He really can't see! Boy, I would have made a fool out of myself if I had yelled at him - and really hurt the man's feelings, too.
"Thanks for the heads up," the man smiled and went to make his purchases.
"Sure," Jon nodded, grateful that because he'd been able to control his big temper he didn't have to hold his head down. Maybe I'll even help those kids rebuild their snowman.
Q. How did Jon feel at first about acting angry and impatient?
A. He didn't care. He just wanted people to get out of his way.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He was glad he'd been able to control his anger.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Jon learned that day?
A. He had been acting with a lot of anger and impatience, caring only about his own wants. When he almost got angry in a very inappropriate way, he realized that his impatience was hurting people and committed to change.
Q. How can someone learn to be more patient and less angry?
A. A lot of times it helps to stop and think before we do or say something in anger. Also it's practical to try to give ourselves enough time that we're not in a rush.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. What, if anything, is the relationship between anger and selfishness?
A. Anger is generally aroused by a feeling that 'I want things to be different.' If we are able to focus less on our selfish wants and more on the needs of others, we will find that a good deal of anger will just disappear.
Q. Aren't there some people who deserve our being angry at them?
A. Perhaps. But nevertheless we hardly ever accomplish anything positive with them - or for ourselves - by letting ourselves get angry.