Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics about Attitude – Page 2

KEEPING THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE…

TORAH PORTION: SHELACH LECHA

shelach2Mishaps can happen to anyone. Whether it’s stubbing your toe as you get out of bed in the morning, or something more serious like forgetting your lunch at home, we all have our share of annoyances and challenges. The trick is to make sure we stay in charge of our reactions and not let a small mishap escalate to a full-blown crisis.

Our Torah portion, Shelach Lecha, recounts the story of the scouts sent by the Jews to check out the Land of Israel as they drew closer. The spies’ report was very unfavorable. In fact, they seemed to have perceived everything they saw negatively. This attitude rubbed off on the nation; instead of making a realistic evaluation of the report and planning accordingly, they mourned and lamented the fate they were sure awaited them. Their reaction brought about the tragic result of unnecessarily lengthening their stay in the desert by 39 years.

We all “mess up” occasionally. Sometimes we say the wrong word to someone at the wrong time and offend him or her. We can dig in deeper and get upset at the other person’s reaction or we can take control of the situation and apologize properly. Perhaps a spouse left the steaks on for a minute too long. True, I may really enjoy my meat better if it’s rare, but does it really warrant an argument or criticism? Mistakes and mishaps can happen, but we are responsible for our reactions and can ensure that a small mishap remains nothing more than a small bump along the journey of life.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT how well they keep life’s challenges in proper perspective.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Give an example of a minor annoyance or mishap.
  • Give an example of a major crisis or tragedy.
  • In what way should your reaction be different in the two situations?
  • Why is it bad to “make a mountain out of a molehill”?

By Rabbi Moshe Becker

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.

GROWTH THROUGH DISCOMFORT…

TORAH PORTION: VAYELECH

vayelechYou probably don’t enjoy pain. Most people don’t. You probably don’t enjoy uncomfortable confrontations or difficult tasks either. It’s easy enough to take a pill to alleviate pain, but we shouldn’t be running from every tough spot. Instead, challenging situations should be seen for what they are: valuable growth opportunities.

Moses nears the end of his life. He is old and frail, but this does not stop him from making the most of his days. He uses his time to speak to his people and impart final words of guidance and wisdom. It isn’t easy for him, but it is his last chance at fulfillment.

Society has conditioned us to identify happiness in extreme comfort and the satisfaction of our material desires. Nobody likes pain, and we should certainly enjoy the world in which we live. But there’s much more to life than comfort. To accomplish our goals takes effort. We must be willing to put ourselves out there when others shy away, when someone needs help, and when confronting those who we upset or who upset us. Challenges give us the opportunity to flex our “muscles” and take another step towards becoming the person we want to be.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about applying themselves to reach their goals.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What makes you happy?
  • What are some of your goals in life?
  • Do you have role models who you know have pushed themselves through difficult situations?
  • How does accomplishing your goal feel after working hard?

By Rabbi Moshe Becker

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.

ATTITUDE SHOWS WHAT IS HAPPENING INSIDE…

TORAH PORTION: METZORA

TAZRIA3Attitude is crucial to living well. For both children and adults, the attitude we have has a lot to do with how we experience our life as well as how we experience one another. For example, how we approach our required tasks each day signifies a great deal about how we live our lives. If we approach them with dread and resentment as opposed to acceptance and relative good cheer, we communicate negatively to our children about how to get through life and its obligations. To teach our children well about tasks and responsibility means living well ourselves.

Our Parsha this week is about leprosy. Some commentators see leprosy as a result of spiritual illness– it is an external growth that signifies what is amiss inside. It is kind of a “Picture of Dorian Gray” phenomenon– what you look like reflects who you are.

Today, people don’t really suffer from leprosy. Nor do people in our culture generally believe that our appearances are afflicted when we suffer from spiritual illness. But perhaps attitude, as opposed to our appearance, is the external signifier of what’s happening inside. Reflecting on our approach to life and our daily attitude is one way to begin exploring the state of our spiritual health.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT the way their attitude affects how they approach their life.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What are the things you have to do every day?
  • Make a list of which things you like most, which least, and why.
  • How would you describe your attitude towards the things you have to do?
  • What can you do in your daily life to make the tasks that you like least more enjoyable?

By Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.

IS IT FAIR?

TORAH PORTION: PINCHAS

pinchas3“It’s not fair” is a refrain we often hear from children. A child may be jealous of what a friend has or may think he or she should have beenchosen for a position on a sports team. Although most of us eventually stop whining, deep down we do think in terms of what is fair.

In this week’s Torah portion we meet Zelophehad, who died before the Jews arrived in the land of Israel. His four daughters were concerned that his portion of the land would be lost because he had no sons. They objected, saying it’s unfair that women cannot inherit their father’s land. Moses asked God what to do, and God felt the women’s request was fair. Thousands of years ago the entire section of Jewish inheritance law was changed to reflect fairness and dedicated to the daughters of Zelophehad.

Much of our engagement with the world around us arises from our sense of fairness. It is because we believe in fairness that we expect our hard work to translate into success. We often choose to step in to correct something that we believe is wrong, either by getting involved in a charitable cause or in community activism. It’s our sense of fairness telling us that the world can be a better place.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about being open to fairness and how it makes a better world.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Is it fair that some people are tall and some short?
  • What is the difference between fairness and equality?
  • Describe something around you that seems unfair.
  • How does fairness help create a better world?

By Rabbi Moshe Becker

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.

WORDS CAN HURT…

TORAH PORTION: CHUKAT
chukat“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Every child knows this popular aphorism, but the sad truth is that words do matter and they can hurt. When we feel stressed, angry and frustrated, many of us speak without thinking first.  Words can become daggers that wound others as well as ourselves.

In this week’s Torah portion, Chukat, Moses is asked to provide water for the Israelites.  Just before the water flows from a rock, Moses, apparently worn out by the demands of leadership, loses his temper.  Moses calls his people, “You rebels”, and in exasperation, strikes the rock twice. In light of this shocking behavior, God immediately decides that new leadership is needed to bring the people into the Land of Israel.

This painful biblical episode shows how all people need to be careful with their words, especially when they occupy a position of authority. Harsh words can cut a little deeper and last a little longer when they come from someone we respect, trust, and love.  That is precisely why adults need to see themselves as role models in not just what they do, but also what they say. Just as words can push people apart, so too can they bring us closer.  By taking the time to think before we speak, we have a better chance of finding the right words in every situation.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the effect of their words on others.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What can we do to make sure that we think before we speak?
  •  How do we respond when someone hurts our feelings with words?
  • When has someone’s words of encouragement helped you?
  • Water can keep us alive or drown us, and fire can warm us or destroy us.  How are words similar to water and fire?

By Rabbi Charles E. Savenor

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.