Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics about Fighting

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.

SPEAKING SOFTLY…

TORAH PORTION: VA-YIGASH

SpeakingSoftlyYoung children are impulsive. They can’t really help it. They feel so intensely they blurt out whatever is on their minds, sometimes with love and sometimes in rage. It’s our job as parents to help them translate the intensity of their feelings into appropriate behavior. They might be angry, but they can’t mistreat their brother or sister, friend or parent. They need to find the right words to express what they are going through. They might want something belonging to a friend or sibling, but they can’t just grab it; they must ask for it respectfully.

In this week’s Torah Portion, Vayigash, Joseph, unrecognizable to his brothers dressed as Egyptian royalty, tests his brothers for having thrown him into a pit and selling him into slavery. He plants his silver goblet in his beloved younger brother Benjamin’s sack, and once it’s discovered declares that Benjamin will be his slave. Judah, an older brother, approaches Joseph with gentleness and softly speaks: “Please, my lord, let your servant speak a word to my lord. Do not be angry with your servant, though you are equal to Pharaoh himself”. Doing so, Judah diffuses the tension in the situation. In response, Joseph breaks down and reveals his real identity to his brothers.

By speaking softly at home we can teach children that shouting is not the most effective way. Gentleness can often be more productive than harsh yelling. The more we curb our own compulsions, the more we can show our children that kindness can be more effective in the world.

TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN about what it means to treat someone with loving kindness.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • How do you like to be treated?
  • How do you feel when you are treated with less than kindness?
  • How do you feel inside when you are mean to others?
  • What are the results of raising your voice and increasing tensions?

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.

MANAGING OUR ANGER…

TORAH PORTION: EMOR

Emor2Everyone gets angry at one time or another.  But the difference between purposeful,  productive anger and destructive anger is vast.  Appropriate anger can be used to make a point passionately, but in measured terms.  However, when we are out of control, anger can be counterproductive, making us incapable of communicating effectively.  Furthermore, it can hurt those around us and be especially hurtful and frightening to children.

In our Torah portion this week there is a story of two men fighting with one another.  One is so angry that he curses the other, using God’s name in vain.  The Torah makes clear that cursing, even when one does so in the course of anger, is not permissible.  Anger doesn’t excuse destructive behavior.

We might commit many destructive acts when we are angry.  We might throw things, slam doors, or curse.  However, when possible, controlling anger in a measured and purposeful way is the best way to model good communication. The best way to control anger is to think about what the point of the anger is before acting.   We can then make a conscious decision concerning whether getting angry is the best course of action for the situation at hand.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the destructive things people sometimes do when they get angry.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What makes you angry?
  • What do you do when you get angry?
  • How do you feel when someone else gets angry?
  • What are the best ways to manage your anger?
  • Have you ever accomplished anything lasting in anger?

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.

GROWTH THROUGH FORGIVENESS – RECONCILIATION, NOT REVENGE…

TORAH PORTION: MI-KETZ

GrowthThroughForgivenessAll families experience strife at one point or another. There might be a distancing of siblings, a child angry at a parent, or a parent angry at a child. It’s important that we move past this angry distancing toward reconciliation.

In this Torah portion Joseph takes revenge on his brothers for throwing him into a pit and selling him into slavery. No wonder. His pain was sufficient to make anyone want to take revenge. When his brothers travel to Egypt to obtain grain for their family in the face of a famine, the brothers have no idea that the powerful man who stands before them dispensing grain is none other than Joseph himself. Joseph takes advantage of his secret identity and throws Judah into jail and then threatens to enslave Benjamin. Judah, however, in our next portion, courageously approaches Joseph. He makes it clear that, if he and his brothers don’t return home with Benjamin his father will be grievously hurt. Joseph is overcome with emotion. “I am your brother Joseph” he says, “he whom you sold into Egypt”. With that Joseph and his brothers have an emotional reconciliation—Joseph weeps and embraces his brothers.

Judah’s courage in approaching Joseph allowed Joseph to move away from revenge toward reconciliation. That powerful but simple caring gesture reached underneath Joseph’s rage and led him to reveal his identity. We like Judah can approach the other, and like Joseph we can forgive when our anger has cooled down.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about Joseph’s forgiveness of his brothers, overcoming his hurt and anger.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Is it hard to approach another family member after a fight?
  • What could make it easier?
  • Why do you think it’s important to forgive?

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.

CARING FOR ONE ANOTHER…BUILDING AN ETERNAL BOND

TORAH PORTION: VA-YESHEV

Building an Eternal Bond Sometimes brothers and sisters act in a caring manner and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they tell on one another, and sometimes they defend one another. In order for there to be peace in a household, parents must constantly foster a family culture where brothers and sisters care deeply about one another.

In this week’s Torah parsha there is tremendous strife between Joseph and his brothers. Jacob, their father, clearly plays favorites and gives Joseph a multi-colored coat to signify his love for Joseph. Joseph fuels the tension created by this favoritism by telling on his brothers.

Sometimes it’s difficult for children not to feel that their parents favor one child over another, especially if one child is effortlessly successful while other siblings might have a more difficult time achieving in their own lives. We can create an environment where each child flourishes and feels loved by focusing on a child’s uniqueness and achievements, given his capacities. While siblings cannot help but compare themselves to one another, the more they feel loved for who they are, the more they will thrive and be able to care genuinely for their siblings, no matter how successful.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about Joseph and his problems with sibling rivalry.

Connect to their lives:

  • What do you like best about your brother or sister?
  • What do you like least?
  • What helps you get along with your brothers and sisters?
  • Do we work at appreciating the special qualities of ALL in our family?

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.