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Keep Your Cool!

Chukat-Balak (Numbers 19:1-25:9 )

by Nesanel Yoel Safran

We can avoid making mistakes we'll regret if we keep our cool and don't get angry. In this week's Torah portion (Num. 20:10-12), Moses, although a great person, allowed a feeling of anger to cause him to make a costly mistake. We can learn from here not to let anger get in the way of our judgment.

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In our story, a kid discovers how losing anger can help him win a lot.


Greg stepped up to the plate and gripped his aluminum bat tight. With two runners on base, the star slugger for the little league Yankees knew he had a big chance to put his team ahead.

Greg cocked his bat as the pitcher started to wind up.

"Ready, you carrot topped loser?" he heard the pitcher yell. The red-headed Greg felt his cheeks flare in anger. How dare that jerk call me...

"Strike one!" the umpire called out.

What? Greg asked himself. He was so caught up in his thoughts that he'd totally missed the pitch that whizzed right by him! He focused again.

"Guess you can't see through all those freckles, huh?" the pitcher taunted as he threw the next ball. This time the furious Greg, hardly even aiming, swung wildly.

"St...rike two!" shouted the ump.

"Hey, I felt the breeze from your swing all the way from here - but I'm still hot, how about another?" the pitcher laughed.

Greg was livid. This time he'd show that obnoxious guy and hit the ball into the next county. He stomped his foot as he got ready for the next pitch.

"St...rike three - and you're OUT!"

Greg couldn't believe it. Why had he swung for that pitch? It wasn't even close to the plate.

Moping, he stomped back to the dugout.

"I'm gonna really show that pitcher next time." he snarled to his friend, Jack.

"Show him by not showing him," Jack said back.

"Huh? Whaddaya mean?" Greg asked.

"I saw how teed off you were when the pitcher was getting on your case."

"Yeah, I was. So what?"

"That's just what he wanted," Jack said. "He knew you're our best hitter and he also knew that as long as he got you angry, you wouldn't be able to concentrate on your batting, and you'd mess up."

"Nah," Greg waved his hand, "the guy was just a jerk that's all - and I'm gonna show him!"

A couple of innings later, it was Greg's turn to bat again. This time the bases were loaded!

Greg grinned at Jack and said, "Watch! That pitcher's going to pay!"

"Only if you don't pay - pay attention to him, that is," Jack smiled, shaking his finger, as Greg walked past him toward home plate.

Greg stepped up to bat.

"Hey, the carrot's back on the plate!" the pitcher smirked and wound up.

"Strike one!" the umpire called out to the wild-swinging Greg what had by now become an unpleasantly familiar tune.

"You must be dizzy after that swing, bozo!" the pitcher snorted.

"Sti...rike two!" the ump shouted. Greg had been so mad, he hadn't even seen the pitch coming. What's going wrong? Greg asked himself. Usually he could tear the cover off the ball. This pitcher wasn't even that good - after all, the other guys on his team had been getting hits. Could it be Jack was really right? Maybe he really was messing up because he was letting himself get angry.

"Ready to walk back to the dugout?" the pitcher taunted as he wound up to pitch. Greg felt anger welling up in him - but then he took a deep breath. He's just trying to make me blow it, he thought, feeling suddenly calmer.

The pitch sailed in - a fastball straight down the pipe. Greg calmly locked his eyes on it and swung.

Greg's teammates and the crowd went wild as the ball sailed into the bleachers. A grand-slam home run!

After trotting around the bases, Greg tipped his hat at the flabbergasted pitcher.

"You were right - now I am going to walk to the dugout - I just had to take a little detour first" he grinned. "And you were right!" he smiled, slapping his buddy Jack on the back. "My bat got a lot hotter - once I kept my cool."


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Ages 3-5

Q. How did Greg feel at first about the pitcher's taunts?
A. He let them get him angry and cause him to strike out.

Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He kept himself from letting them get him angry - and he did much better.


Ages 6-9

Q. What life-lesson do you think Greg learned that day?
A. He hadn't realized that getting angry could cause him to make mistakes, but once he tried calming down he saw how much better he did.

Q. Why do you think getting angry caused him to make mistakes?
A. When we're angry, we can't concentrate or think straight. In such a state it's easy to make mistakes and hard to succeed.


Ages 10 and Up

Q. Are there ever times when it's beneficial to get angry?
A. While anger can help harness our physical powers and motivate us to act - usually it just makes us mess up. It's best to try to be confident and motivated without slipping into the negative trait of anger.

Q. Our sages compare anger with idol worship. What do you think could be the connection?
A. An idol worshipper has forgotten about God. (Why else would he worship and idol instead of the all-powerful One God?) When a person is angry, he also forgets about God in a way. Because if he remembered God, he'd remember that everything that happens, God has sent him for his ultimate good - so there's no reason to get angry.


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