When we lose our temper, we lose a lot. This week's Torah portion includes the famous Ten Commandments. One of the big ten is not to worship idols. While most of us don't have any spare idols lying around, the Oral Torah tells us that when a person loses his temper, he's likely to do things just as foolish as bowing down to an idol. By keeping our temper in check, we'll save ourselves the grief of saying and doing things we'll later wish we hadn't.
In our story, a kid discovers what losing his temper can cause him to lose.
"And this one's for you," Scott's grandmother smiled, handing him the shiny red, white and blue gift-wrapped package. He'd been waiting weeks for her out-of-town visit … and for the gifts he'd be getting.
'We are happy to see grandma and not just her presents, right?" Scott's dad would always be sure to prompt and he'd always nod since it was sort of true - he did like seeing his grandmother, but he LOVED getting her presents.
His older brother, Cal, and sister, Liz, got theirs first as usual and seeing what great stuff they got, Scott was extra pumped to open his.
But his 1,000-watt grin turned into a zero-watt frown as he ripped off the wrapping paper and saw it was the exact same electronic game he'd gotten just a few weeks ago for his birthday!
"Hey, not fair! I already have this!" he said, meeting his grandmother's sweet smile with a sour scowl.
"Scott, I realize you're disappointed, but still, that's not how we speak to grandma," his dad said to him. "First we say 'thank you' and then..."
"No!" Scott cut in angrily. "Not fair!" he shouted, his face red with rage. With the gift still in hand, he stormed up the stairs to his room and slammed the door.
He had waited so long for this present and now it was just some stupid repeat of something he had already! Feeling so angry he thought he'd burst, Scott ripped off the cardboard box and tore it, along with the instructions, into pieces. Next he took apart the packing material and crumbled it into a pile of styrofoam snow. Now all that was left was the stupid game itself. He ripped it out of its clear plastic wrapper and wound up like a pitcher on the mound. He'd show it! He'd show his dad and his grandma and everyone!
If he hadn't been so furious, part of him might have thought about how he was going too far and part of him might have thought about what an expensive game it was. But all those parts were about as far away as Antarctica right now and all Scott could see in front of him was rage-red.
A moment later, he heard a light knock on the door.
His dad's voice suddenly made him remember all those things he'd forgotten to think about before. There was no way he could let his father see the aftermath of his demolition derby!
"Um, yeah, Dad. What's up?" he asked timidly from behind the closed door.
"Please come downstairs. I assume you had enough time to cool down by now and we all want to see you. And bring your new game, too. Cal said if you want, he'll trade you the roller blades grandma gave him for it. And if they don't fit, we'll go to the local branch of the store where grandma got the game and she'll exchange it for something really nice."
Wow! All of that sounded great and his dad was being so nice. Now that he felt less angry, Scott saw clearly that Grandma hadn't done anything bad; she just hadn't known he had the toy already. Why had he gotten so mad?
Then Scott's eyes flashed on the wreckage at his feet and he gulped.
He wasn't going to be getting any roller blades. He wasn't going to be getting any new toy. All he was going to get was into B-I-G trouble … all because of his big temper.
Q. How did Scott feel at first about destroying his toy?
A. He was angry and didn't care what happened to it.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He regretted it and saw how it had made him lose out.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Scott learned that day?
A. When we're angry we can forget about what's right and wrong and act very destructively. Losing out on his gift will likely make Scott think twice before flying into a rage in the future.
Q. What do you think he might have done to control his destructive rampage?
A. He could have tried to think things through better before he acted. Also he could have tried counting to ten or a hundred to calm down. No matter how you look at it, stopping a raging temper is about as easy as stopping an elephant, but if he has enough self-destructive regret experiences like this one, he'll start to get the hang of it.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Our sages compare getting angry to worshipping an idol. How do you think the two things might be similar?
A. Judaism teaches that the One God is able to do anything He wants, is directly involved in every detail of our lives and is constantly placing us in the best possible situation for our ultimate spiritual well-being. Worshipping an idol (or anything else other than God) is so wrong because it denies the above. So too, when we get angry, we are in effect saying that we don't agree with the way God is running our lives at the moment and that we know better than He does.
Q. Is there ever a time that getting angry is a positive thing?
A. When we see injustice or the corruption of values, anger can motivate us to get involved and make a positive change. However, we should never get so angry that we lose control of ourselves.