Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics about Family – Page 2

FAMILY FORGIVENESS…

TORAH PORTION: VAYECHI

FamilyForgivenessWe’ve all been offended at one time or another by the words or actions of a family member. Parents, children, spouses and siblings do end up hurting each other, willfully or unintentionally. It is never too early to begin to learn to forgive. By taking ourselves less seriously, it becomes easier to forgive another. When it comes to family, the ability to forgive is crucial. Family is permanent, and having the strength to forgive is rewarding for all.

This week’s Torah portion gives a very clear message on the importance of family forgiveness. In the portion we are reminded that, years earlier, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and told their father that Joseph had been killed. Jacob, Joseph’s father, was devastated, and Joseph became a slave in Egypt before ultimately rising to extreme power. Wisely, and exceptionally, Joseph does forgive all his brothers for their malicious act, realizing that he and his brothers share a common identity and future that should not be jeopardized by grudges, even if they seem justified. Jacob also forgives all his sons for their cruel deception. This is a powerful Torah story with a very relevant message for life today.

The need to forgive and, if possible, forget, is vitally important. Calmly confront wrongdoers and explain what they have done as a step toward reconciliation, not increased hostility. Parents easily forgive their children for slights given intentionally or by accident. How parents treat their extended family members also gives important messages. Parental modeling of forgiveness is an important learning tool for children. Forgiveness is an ability that is within our power, especially in family situations.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the importance of family relationships in their lives forever.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What sometimes makes us angry at each other?
  • Why is holding a grudge ultimately useless?
  • Why is family very important to each of us?
  • What tools can we learn to reduce our pain at family hurts and insults?

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.

HONORING PARENTS…

TORAH PORTION: CHAYE SARAH

chaye-sarah3In all likelihood, as children we were told to honor our parents. It’s one of those things that parents like, and by now we know why. As parents, we expect our children to listen to and do everything we want them to. In truth, though, honoring parents should not entail giving up one’s own life and dreams.

In this week’s Torah portion Abraham’s trusted servant Eliezer approached Rebecca’s father, asking for permission to bring her back as a wife for Abraham’s son Isaac. Laban, Rebecca’s brother, in utter disrespect of his father, jumped up and responded before his father could.

Ten Commandments says to “Honor your Parents”. It does not command “love” your parents. The Torah is very free with the word love in love the stranger, love your neighbor, and love God; however, it had the brilliance to recognize possible difficulties some may have with parents. At the very least, the Torah states that parents are always to be honored. Whether we agree or disagree, we must do so with deference and respect. We must look out for their needs with the same sense of responsibility they had when they cared for us. We must teach our children how to honor parents properly. Encourage them to express their opinions in a respectful way, whether or not they agree with you. And of course, model the same behavior in your own interactions with your parents. They will learn the most from that.

Talk to your kids about how honoring parents is a form of gratitude.

Connect to their lives:

  • Why honor your parents?
  • Can you name some opportunities to show honor to your parents?
  • When we are angry with our parents, how should we behave towards them?

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.

HOW HARD TO DISCIPLINE…

TORAH PORTION: NOAH

How-hard-to-disciplineWhen your computer or smartphone misbehaves, often it just needs a reboot to get going again. At times that may be an extreme step. You may lose work or you don’t quite know what will happen on the restart, so you try some more careful attempts at first. When guiding our children, we also need to make the call between extreme measures and more cautious ones.

The account of the Flood is the primary theme of the Torah portion, Noah. Mankind’s behavior had gotten so depraved and immoral that G-d chose the reboot option. Humans were all but obliterated, saving only Noah and his family to resettle and repopulate the land. After the Flood G-d indicated that this was an extreme option that would never be repeated. From this point forward G-d would set forth expectations of Man with clear instructions and commandments on ways to live together properly for the benefit of all.

The very talents and qualities that will make your child a successful adult can be the cause of very challenging behavior while he or she is young. You do not want to quash those characteristics, but obviously you can’t just let kids act however their impulses may dictate. Sometimes the extreme option is called for: change schools, distance a bad friend, or rule out certain activities. At other times, you can be more conservative: setting limits, supervising, and presenting clear expectations to your children in a way that will teach them responsibility. G-d used different approaches at different times and so should we, but we had better make sure to choose an approach that appropriately addresses the concern. Otherwise, we are sending mixed messages to our children, which may be far worse than any behavior they have exhibited.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the need and importance of rules in everyone’s development.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • You are only allowed X number of hours of television a week because…
  • What would life be like if there were no rules and everyone could do exactly as he or she pleased?
  • Can you think of a rule that you would make if you were a parent?
  • Why do people try to break the rules?
  • What would justify a major change in your life, such as changing schools?

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.

SIBLING RIVALRY…

TORAH PORTION: BERESHIT

bereshit1Family tensions are easily created between siblings. Feeling overshadowed because of the accomplishments of our brother or sister, or feeling overlooked by parents, are frequent causes. How can we avoid these common family dilemmas?

This week’s Torah portion, Bereshit, includes the story of Cain and Abel and man’s first violent act: a lashing out of brother against brother based on family tension, jealousy and perceived favoritism. When Cain is asked, after he killed Abel, where his brother is, he answers, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The Torah is clearly teaching that the answer is definitely YES to Cain’s question.

What can we do in our families to reduce tensions, manage jealousies, and create positive family dynamics? Recognize the special qualities of each child. Let children know how much each is appreciated by the whole family for his or her uniqueness. Parents need to be careful about expressing favoritism by balancing praise with sensitivity to the feelings of their other children. When kids know that their parents appreciate and love them for who they are, they have a better chance of dealing with the inequities they  will face in the outside world without directing anger at their siblings. Children should be taught by parents to value their brothers and sisters as family forever and life-long friends.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about ways to create healthy family dynamics.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What are some of the things you like about the way your family functions?
  • What are some things that you would like to change?
  • How do you discuss things when there are problems?
  • Do you feel heard and appreciated in your family?
  • How can you and your family all work together to respect each other?

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.

AN OPPORTUNITY FOR PERSONAL GROWTH…

HOLIDAY: ROSH HASHANAH

rosh-hashanahRosh Hashanah is perceived as the Jewish New Year, but it is so much more than that. It is time to reflect on the quality of relationships with friends and family and compare yourself to the way you were a year ago. Rosh Hashanah, according to the tradition, gives you a time to make amends to family and friends.

Use the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah to go through a process of introspection and evaluation with your family, thinking and talking about habitual problems and conflicts that are difficult to change. Seeing other family members, regardless of age, struggle with their problems provides children with a measure of comfort and a dose of reality.

Give your children specific examples to think about as they make their own moral inventory of transgressions. Maybe they didn’t treat a sibling well or didn’t share. Perhaps they lied to a friend or didn’t act with respect toward an elder.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT how they could improve in their relationships.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Could you be nicer to your brother or sister?
  • Could you be a better member of your classroom?
  • Do you treat your friends the way you would like to be treated?
  • Do you act respectfully to your parents and grandparents?
  • How does it feel to tell someone you are sorry for the way you may have treated him/her?

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.