Temper Our Temper
We'll do a lot better when we temper our temper. In this week's Torah portion (Gen. 35:25-30), two of Jacob's sons let their temper get the best of them and cause themselves unnecessary problems. We too can save ourselves a lot of grief when we learn how to temper our temper.
In our story, a kid sees that losing his temper can cause him to lose a lot more.
"What? You forgot to bring straws!" Tony exclaimed with a scowl on his face to Ritchie and Dan, his two younger brothers, as they put the tray of pizza slices and drinks down on the restaurant table. "Don't either of you have a single brain in your head?"
"Sorry, Tony," Dan said nervously. Both he and Ritchie knew too well their big brother's even bigger temper. "I really looked, but I couldn't find them. Do you want me to go look for them some more?" he asked.
"Nah!" Tony waved him off. "You'll probably just mess it up again. I'll go get 'em myself."
With that, he got up and slammed his chair into the table as he stormed up to the service area, as if to make a point. The only problem was, he slammed it a little too hard, shaking the table and causing his slice of pizza that was sitting close to the table's edge to do a perfect nose-dive and land - cheese side down - onto the not-so-clean floor.
"Yuck!" said Dan as he picked it up, examining the dust balls and hairs now interspersed between the mushrooms and pepper slices.
"Tony's going to explode at us like a megaton of TNT when he comes back and finds out what happened," Ritchie said.
Tony saw plastic cutlery, napkins, small packets of ketchup and every kind of spice - but no straws. Finally, he went over to the serving person who apologized and told him they had just run out and a new order was on its way in a little while. As Tony headed back to their table he felt kind of bad that he'd yelled at his brothers for no reason, but he wasn't sure if he felt bad enough to tell them that...
BACK AT THE TABLE...
"But it's not our fault it fell!" Dan protested.
"Did that ever stop Tony's temper before?" asked Ritchie. "I'm really afraid what's going to happen when we tell him."
"Me too," Dan said "But ... who said we have to tell him?"
"We'll just quickly pick off the big pieces of dirt, put the slice back on his plate and that's it." He started doing that.
"But that's totally gross - and unhealthy - and who knows what else?" Ritchie said.
"Well, is it more healthy to have our heads blown off by an angry older brother?"
Just as Dan had finished his 'clean-up' job, Tony came back. He was about to just sit down and dig in to his slice of pizza when he shrugged and said, "You guys were right - no straws. Sorry I got so mad before."
The two younger boys looked at each other, shocked but happy.
"Well, Tony," Dan said, now feeling a whole lot safer to tell the truth. "Something kinda happened to your pizza when you walked away. We were afraid to tell you, but..."
When Tony heard the news, his first reaction was to explode, but then he stopped himself and calmly went to buy a new slice. After all, what did his short-fuse temper get him, except almost a mouth full of dirt?
Q. How did Dan and Ritchie feel about telling Tony what happened, at first?
A. They were scared of his temper, so they weren't going to tell him.
Q. How did they feel in the end?
A. They saw he was sorry he got mad before, so they felt safe to tell him the truth.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Tony learned that day?
A. He'd been used to letting his temper fly whenever something didn't go his way. But he saw that by being nicer to people, they would be more likely to help him out when they could.
Q. Why do you think Tony's brothers were going to let him eat filthy pizza?
A. Although they knew it wasn't good for him, they were too intimidated by Tony's temper to say anything. A person who easily loses his temper, usually ends up losing a lot more.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Our sages say that someone who loses their temper is like someone who worships idols. What do you think that means?
A. Worshipping idols (instead of God) essentially means forgetting that God is in control of the universe and our lives. Losing our temper is similar insofar as if we remembered that whatever was happening was from God and for our ultimate best, we would never 'lose it.'
Q. Do you think the brothers would have been justified if they'd let Tony eat the dirty pizza? Why, or why not?
A. Though it would have been insensitive, we can easily understand why they would have. An angry, temper-losing person makes people so afraid that they'd rather let him do self-destructive things than incur his wrath.