We always lose when we lose our temper. In this week's Torah portion, Bilaam makes a fool of himself when he loses his temper at his donkey. If we can stay calm and in control, even in frustrating situations, we'll be glad that we did.
In our story, a kid loses his temper ... and a lot more.
Brad and Greg happily jumped off their bikes and jogged to the local playground baseball diamond for their weekly Sunday morning neighborhood league game. But when they got there they were met with a surprise; even though it was several minutes before the game was supposed to start, their teams had already taken to the field and standing in their two usual positions, were a couple of kids they didn't recognize.
"Hey, what's going on?" Brad called out to Mike, the pitcher and captain of their team.
The older boy gave a shrug, "My two cousins are visiting for the weekend, so I decided to let them play."
"But what about us?" Brad protested. "We're part of the starting lineup every week - it's not fair!"
"Tough," Mike snorted. "You guys can go change into your uniforms, and maybe later in the game you'll get to come off the bench and play." With that, Mike turned his back on them and the game continued to play.
"I can't believe this!" Brad said to Greg as the two of them moped their way down the locker-room stairs.
Greg nodded his head. "Yeah, it's really frustrating," he agreed, "and after we biked all the way out here. But there's nothing we can really do about it - except either wait or leave. Since I'm here already, I guess I'll stay." Greg sat down on a bench to start changing into his uniform but soon jumped up, as a tremendous 'BOOM!' rang through the tiny room.
"Whoa!" Greg said, looking at Brad, whose face was as red as their team's baseball caps. "What are you doing?"
"I'm doing what I want to do to that idiot, Mike!" he yelled as he punched the locker a second time.
"Cut it out," Greg said to his wild-eyed friend, as his ears rang from the noise. "What's the point of doing that?"
"The point is - I'm mad!" With that, Brad, drew his clenched fist back and took a third mighty swing at the locker door in front of him. "Owwww!!!" he yelped out in pain, so loud that neither kid heard the footsteps coming down behind them.
"Good news guys," said the grinning Mike. "My cousins just got a phone call saying they've gotta go home early. So you guys can play after all. Greg, you can take over at first base ... and Brad, since I have to take my cousins home - guess what? - you get to take my place as pitcher."
"Great!" Greg said, quickly changing into his uniform as Mike walked back up the locker room stairs. "See Brad," he smiled, "things worked out after all. We're back in the lineup and you even get to pitch!"
He expected Brad to smile back, but the kid looked even unhappier than before.
"Uh, uh." Brad shook his head, holding his swollen, limp-looking hand in front of him. "I just creamed my pitching hand on the locker. I can't even hold a baseball now. Have a good game. I'm going home ... maybe to a doctor for x-rays. Who knew how much I'd be losing - when I lost my temper..."
Q. How did Brad feel at first, when he found out he couldn't play?
A. He was so frustrated and angry that he lost his temper.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He regretted losing his temper when he saw how much it had cost him.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Brad learned that day?
A. When something happened he didn't like, he'd let his temper take control of him and ended up causing himself even more grief. It's always worth it to try to stay calm even in the face of frustration.
Q. Is there anything a person can do to prevent himself from losing his temper?
A. It's not easy, but if we combine trying to stay calm and trying to keep things in perspective, we can often succeed.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Our sages say that losing one's temper is equivalent to forgetting about God. What's the connection?
A. God is very involved with all of our lives. He constantly sends us the situations we need in order to reach the maximum spiritual and personal growth, which is for our ultimate good. If we can remember that - and Him - even in the midst of life's challenges, while we may at times feel frustrated, angry, or hurt, we are very unlikely to 'lose it.'
Q. Is it healthy for a person to 'blow off steam' by losing his or her temper?
A. It might sometimes provide a feeling of temporary relief, but in the long run it always ends up damaging our health, character and the people around us.