Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics about Communication – Page 2

HUMILITY VS INSECURITY…

TORAH PORTION: TZAV

Tzav1Humility is a difficult trait to teach and to acquire. We must understand the difference between humility and insecurity. Insecurity is the lack of confidence in our abilities. Humility is achieved when we have the confidence in ourselves along with awareness that our abilities are in fact gifts with responsibilities.

This week’s Torah portion contains a reminder to the Priests that they are there to serve with humility. Priests perform their Temple rituals in magnificent dress, but they must regularly perform very menial tasks such as cleaning the Altar in ordinary worker’s clothes. The Priests, the
most noble and sacred group in the nation, are thus constantly aware that they are to serve with humility.

There’s a perpetual tension between fostering a strong sense of self in our children and ensuring that they don’t become self-centered and egotistical. We must remember and model to our children that we are all part of a larger picture. The larger picture is our family, our community, our country, our nation, and our universe. As we grow, so should our appreciation of the vast contributions others have made to our well-being and develop our sense of awe and humility.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the difficulty and importance of developing a healthy humility.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What is humility?
  • Can you be very good at something and humble at the same time?
  • Is there something very good or wrong with a High Priest taking out the garbage?
  • Can a healthy sense of humility contribute to self-confidence?

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.

WHY ALL THOSE RITUALS?

TORAH PORTION: VA-YIKRA

vayikra2Living our lives can get messy at times. Relationships do not always go smoothly. Even when we do not mean to, we can annoy others by accident. Miscommunications can strain relationships. Life is a beautiful adventure, but it can also be a little difficult to navigate.

This week’s Torah portion spells out many religious rituals. Why are there so many to perform? Turns out those routines are much easier to perform correctly than acting properly in real life. Lighting Shabbat candles on Friday night is much easier to do once instructed, than properly managing many aspects of our lives. The feelings created by prayer during rituals are much more meaningful to us than our words. Prayer gives us a chance to focus on our lives and to be consciously grateful for the blessings and gifts we often take for granted. Prayer also gives us a chance to focus privately on strengthening our weaknesses, which we all have. The more we reinforce and rededicate ourselves to change, the better chance our weaknesses will become smoothly integrated assets in our lives.

Rituals are very much a part of all our lives. Daily we perform the routines of brushing our teeth, showering, reading, and exercising because we know the benefits these bring. Many rituals infuse physical, mental, or spiritual growth into our lives. Are we open to new routines? Parents can guide children in what areas of their lives need improvement and in developing rituals to help reach goals. Rituals that lead to growth are much easier to perform properly than taking on life’s challenges unrehearsed.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about being open to expanding routines in their lives.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Which rituals that you perform are the easiest to complete?
  • Which routines in your life are most meaningful to you?
  • What areas in your life are most in need of changing?
  • Can you think of any routines that could help you master your challenges?

By Fred Claar

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

INSULTS LEAVE A LASTING IMPACT…

TORAH PORTION: MISHPATIM

MISHPATIM2We must carefully value our speech. Words are a powerful tool. They can bring people closer or they can distance them. They can hurt or they can heal. Whether we are speaking to a family member, a friend, a teacher, a neighbor, or a stranger, our words always have an impact. Even if the person we’re speaking to doesn’t seem to care, everyone is affected by our tone and manner of speaking. If we are often insulting or disrespectful, we become a problem both to others and to ourselves.

This week our Torah portion emphasizes that the words we speak to others have definite consequences. In a moment of anger, a person may lash out and say something unacceptable. The Torah is telling us to be very careful and to measure our words, for insults are easy to give but hard to retract. This topic is so very important to Judaism that our prayer services always emphasize the importance of proper speech.

Learning to speak in a thoughtful and considerate way takes repeated practice throughout life. When we are tired, upset, or distracted, a quick insulting remark or response is possible. Speech may insult others not only in what we say, but also in the tone of voice we choose. We all get angry and are easily susceptible to feeling attacked. Therefore, we all need tools to remind us to speak kindly and thoughtfully so that we can learn to avoid verbal damage.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT being aware of the lasting impact insults can have in their speech.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • In what way can speech be used positively?
  • In what way can speech be used negatively?
  • How should one speak if angry or feeling attacked?
  • What’s the best way to react if you’re insulted by someone?

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.

LEARNING FROM EVERYONE…

TORAH PORTION: YITRO

Yitro2Intelligence may be in our genes, but wisdom is certainly not. A person becomes wise when he or she realizes that everything in his or her life is an opportunity to learn something. Everything that happens to us and everyone we know (yes, everyone) can teach us something.

In our portion we find Moses listening carefully to, and implementing, the suggestion of Jethro. Moses was the greatest of all prophets. He communicated directly with G-d and was given the Torah. Not only was Jethro not a prophet, he was Moses’s father-in-law! Yet Moses had the humility and the wisdom to heed Jethro’s advice on how most efficiently to reorganize the courts by appointing a middle level of Judges.

We all excel at something. Some people excel at many things. No matter how accomplished we are, there is always more to learn. The lessons often come in unexpected and surprising ways when people are willing to see life as a learning experience. The people we learn from need not be our peers or superiors in intelligence. Each and every person we interact with can teach something. If we are open to learning the ‘unconventional’ lessons of life, we become wise and inspire those around us to wisdom as well. Let’s turn intelligence into wisdom!

TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT the importance of being open to learning from everyone.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Name something positive you have learned from a friend.
  • Name something you have learned from a sibling.
  • Have you ever learned something important when you were not expecting to?
  • Name something you have learned from a person you did not know before.

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.

FAMILY STORIES FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION…

TORAH PORTION: BO

FamilyStoriesThere are certain stories we tell our children again and again — stories of our own growing up and how we came to be who we are and do what we do. Stories that our parents taught us, stories that often include immigration and making it in America, as well as how life used to be in the “olden” days, feed our children’s imagination, giving them a sense of who they are in the world as well as resources with which to face their own daily struggles. Those stories are telling (so to speak!) what we want to transmit to our children, and through them, to the following generations.

In our Torah portion this week, the plagues start, and it is a story that is to be told to our children and grandchildren. The story of our liberation from Egypt is our story of origin; it is how we came to be who we are as a people. In fact there are many Jewish rituals performed in the name of remembering that we were slaves in Egypt and were freed by God, including observing the Sabbath and the Passover Seder.

Storytelling is vital in any family, but it is important to be aware that there are different genres of storytelling, all vital in their own way. There are fairytales and myths and stories of what children face as they grow up. There are family stories, and then there are the stories of our people, the foundational stories that make up who we are collectively and are transmitted from generation to generation. Stories, for example, about what the Israelites experienced as slaves in Egypt and how they were delivered from slavery can promote moral development and create a sense that we belong to something larger. These stories remind us that we are an ancient people who have survived to this day to tell the tale.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about some of the foundational stories of your family and of the Jewish people.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What are your favorite stories?
  • What do you like best about your favorite?
  • Which stories do you like to tell?
  • Who are some of your favorite heroes?
  • Why is it important that we continue to tell stories?

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.