Keeping Our Hands to Ourselves
Mishpatim (Exodus 21-24 )
Hitting isn't fitting. This week's Torah portion teaches the penalties for those who hit or physically harm others. Even if we're upset, we should keep our hands to ourselves.
In our story, a kid discovers that there's more than one way to react when you're angry.
HANDS ON TRAINING
Mike smiled as he carried the big box between his arms down his basement steps. His dad said he'd be grounded for a week every time he hits his younger brother, Jay, and this punching bag was going to make sure he doesn't.
Whenever Mike got mad at Jay, he would feel like he just had to hit, but from now on instead of hitting his brother he'd go down the basement and wallop the punching bag.
Following the instructions carefully, Mike set up the big red and blue vinyl punching bag that his dad had agreed to let him buy in the corner of the basement. Now every time his pesky brother bothered him, he'd just run downstairs and punch the bag.
It didn't take long before he had to put his new idea to the test.
"Hey! I called that! I get to sit on the recliner!" Mike called out as the younger boy dashed in front of him and jumped on the comfy, overstuffed chair.
"Too bad!" Jay said with a squealing laugh. Mike pulled his brother off the chair, and was about to give him a good smack for good measure to remind him not to do it again, when he remembered his dad's warning - and the punching bag.
He ran downstairs and gave the bag a good whack, then another. It felt pretty good and a couple of minutes later he came back upstairs and calmly climbed onto the recliner.
It happened a few more times that day and although Mike's fists were getting pretty sore from pounding the hard, sand-filled punching bag, he hadn't hit his brother even once.
The next day started out the same way: Each time Jay would annoy him and get him 'hitting mad,' he'd go and beat up the punching bag, even though Mike's hands were really starting to hurt.
Feeling thirsty from all of his 'workouts,' Mike went into the kitchen to take some orange juice. He started to pour when the cup tipped over and made a spill.
"Ha, ha! Now you have to clean it up!" his brother, Jay, teased.
Mike was about to smack the kid for making fun of him - then remembered the punching bag. He started to go down to the basement, when the thought of getting his already sore hands even more sore just did not seem appealing. Who said I have to hit anything just because I feel mad?
With a shrug, Mike turned around, cleaned up the mess and ignored his brother's obnoxiousness. The same thing happened the rest of the day. Then it was bedtime.
"Mike," his dad said to him, "I'm really happy to see how you've been able to control yourself and not hit your brother. I guess your punching bag idea worked. I suppose you're really giving it a workout?"
"I guess you could say it gave me a workout," the boy smiled. "That is, helped me work things out - without it."
Q. How did Mike feel about hitting at first?
A. He felt that when he got mad, he just had to hit.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He felt like he didn't have to hit.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Mike learned from what happened?
A. He'd felt compelled to hit his brother when he got angry. But then, because of everything that happened, he realized that even if he felt angry he didn't have to hit anyone, or anything - at all.
Q. Do you thing Mike's punching bag idea was a good one?
A. It was good because he realized he couldn't control his feeling to hit, so he found a way - in the meantime - to hit without doing harm.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Do you think it is ever justified to hit or use physical violence?
A. While nearly always it is not, there are rare times, such as legitimate self-defense or to protect someone innocent, that it may be justified.
Q. What options other than hitting do you think someone in Mike's circumstances would have?
A. He could try to reason with his little brother. Many times when people are talked to with respect, they act more reasonably, too. Also, he could ask his parents to intervene and help him and his brother find a solution to their problem.