Acting Without Thought

Thinking about those we have hurt in the past can help us be more careful in the future.

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Reprinted with permission from Torah Topics for Today.

When we are angry, our vision narrows and we sometimes act in ways that would shock even ourselves in a better moment. It is hard to maintain perspective when someone or something angers or offends us. But, upon reflection we are able to look back on our actions and make changes for the future. We will not be forgiven for our regrettable actions if we do not make changes in our behavior.

In this week's Torah portion, Vayehi, Jacob is on his deathbed and shares parting words with all of his sons. These are not the blessings you might expect from a dying patriarch. Many of them are quite critical. Jacob scolds his sons Reuben, Simeon, and Levi for their reckless behavior from years before, which includes sexual indiscretion and a murderous massacre. Years later, these sons are still dealing with the consequences of their actions, and their father has not forgiven them. In the moment, when the brothers did these things, they surely did not consider these consequences. Imagine how they must have felt when they realized how much their father was still hurting from their actions, so many years later.

Slowly counting to ten can prevent us from yelling or making a mean remark, whether it be towards a loved one or a colleague. Re-reading an impassioned e-mail can help us press "delete" instead of "send." When we do take an action that we later regret, we can reflect on what led us to take that step in order to avoid doing it again. Thinking about those we have hurt in the past can help us be more careful in the future.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about why it is important to control their anger.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

· What do you do when you are angry?

· Can you think of a time when you stopped yourself from expressing anger?  How did it feel?

· How can you communicate anger in a productive way?

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Judith Greenberg was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary. She is now a rabbi and new mother living in Chicago.