Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics about Fighting – Page 2



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.


  • 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.



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.


  • 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.



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.



WhenSiblingsFight2Sibling rivalry occurs in all families with more than one child.  It can, in many cases, be an insidious problem, and many parents are at a loss at how to deal with it.

In our Torah portion, sibling rivalry becomes a lethal drama, with parents who – instead of putting a stop to the dynamic — actually participate in the competition to advance their favorite child. Esau, as the eldest son of Isaac and Rebekah, stands to obtain the preferred blessing of the eldest.  However, Jacob, with his mother’s help, presents himself to his dim-eyed father pretending to be Esau. Isaac gives Jacob the blessing reserved for the eldest, believing he is Esau.  When Esau discovers this terrible deception, he cries a heart rending cry and says, “Do you have but one blessing, my father”?  Isaac at first refuses this request, saying that the blessing has already been spent on Jacob, but then relents and blesses Esau also.  Yet Esau seethes with resentment at his brother.  Jacob runs away from home to escape his brother’s wrath, never to see his parents alive again.

Most sibling problems do not reach these mythic proportions.  Yet even on a more limited scale, they can be pretty intense.  Maybe there is something we can learn from the rather extreme example the Torah offers us. The key is in Esau’s words, “Do you have but one blessing, my father?”  The answer, in fact, for parents is “no”.  Each of us, has many blessings to offer, and each child needs different kinds of blessing from his parents.  Focusing on what each child needs rather than on distributing our attentions fairly can sometimes take the edge off the competition between siblings.  We as parents might be better off starting from the realization that the love that we have to give is not a limited commodity which we divide equally, but rather an endless blessing that is received differently by each of our children.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the problem of sibling rivalry.


  • Do you ever feel that things are unfair between you and your brother and sister?
  • Do you feel that your place in the family birth order (first, middle, last) put you at   a disadvantage?
  • Do you feel your gender has put you at a disadvantage?

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.



korachWhat happens when you find yourself in a disagreement with someone?  There are times when a distance grows between you that must be bridged in order to save the relationship.  When that moment arrives, who will be the person who reaches out and extends the olive branch?  Is reaching out to the other person first a sign of strength or a sign of weakness?  On one hand, it takes a lot of character to attempt to reconcile with someone when the relationship is not going well.   On the other hand, it might be seen as “giving in” or not holding strong to your point of view if you are the first to reach out.

In this week’s Torah portion, Korach, we see Moses model the first approach.  Korach and some followers rebel against Moses when he appoints men from another family to positions of leadership.  As things get heated in the community, Moses decides to reach out to some of the rebels in order to open lines of communication and asks them to meet with him.

Does it matter whether they came or not?  In this case they did not.  However, that should have no effect on the initial decision to reach out.  For that step to reopen communication says much more about the one who asks than it does about the person who receives the request.  One could think of it as giving in.  However, it can also be seen as brave because if no one reaches out there is no chance to communicate, to work things out, or to move forward.  Reaching out is a risk that comes with a big potential reward, the renewing of a relationship.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about having the courage to reach out to reconcile.


  • Do you think that reaching out is a sign of strength or weakness?
  • When was a time that you reached out to someone?
  • When was a time that someone reached out to you?
  • What do you do when you reach out and the other person does not respond?

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