Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics about Gratitude

APPRECIATING WHAT YOU HAVE…

TORAH PORTION: BEHA’ALOTCHA

Beha2No matter how blessed we may be, it is always easy to see someone who has more, is richer, has achieved a lot, or has something that we want. In a world where very little is still private, there are TV shows that give tours of people’s huge estates, newspapers and magazines report annual salaries, and various social networking sites give us lengthy lists of others’ accomplishments. It can be hard to live without looking over one’s shoulder to see who has more than we do. However, it is just as important to look over your other
shoulder and see those who have less.

In this week’s Torah portion, the Israelites are hungry in the desert for meat and they complain that the manna, which was tasty and sustaining, was not enough. They had to learn to be thankful for what they had.

In this world there will always be those who have more than we do and there will always be those who have less. The challenge is to be happy with our portion, to be thankful for what we do have. An important part of being content is to stop comparing ourselves to others. This does not mean that we cannot be ambitious or work hard to achieve, but our work must be done thoughtfully and with gratitude for what we already have.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about being thankful for what they have.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Do you ever wish for something you don’t have? What is it and why do you want it?
  • What are some of the things in your life that you are thankful for?
  • How do you show your gratitude?

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

GIVING IS JUSTICE IN ACTION…

TORAH PORTION: VA-YAK HEL

VKH-P3Giving charity is for everyone. Tzedakah, the Hebrew word for charity, actually correctly translates as justice. Whether one has a lot or a little, giving is an integral part of a Jewish life. Even the poor are required to give a little charity. Money, food, our time, out-grown clothes, older toys, all can be useful to others in need. A community is only as strong as the willingness of its members to help each other.

This week’s Torah portion, Vayakhel, stresses that every member of the community must participate in contributing to the building of the Mishkan, or Tabernacle. All Jews are called upon to be ‘generous of spirit’ and donate to the Tabernacle construction. All can be generous of spirit even with a small contribution.

We should think of our money, time, and possessions as tools we can use, beyond our own needs, to benefit others. When we are willing to stand up and be counted for a charitable cause or for helping individuals in need, we become ‘generous of spirit’ and display gratitude for what we have.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the importance of helping others and being a part of a strong community.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Why is charity important?
  • How does the giver benefit from giving charity?
  • How can small amounts make a big difference? (Think of a savings account after many years.)
  • Is it necessary to be recognized by others when giving?

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.

LET EVERYONE SHINE…

TORAH PORTION: TETZAVEH

Tetzevah2We all have talents and abilities, as do our siblings and friends. At times we have difficulty recognizing a sister’s talents; at other times we may be jealous of a sibling’s unique capabilities. We must develop the confidence in our own roles to the point that we can let our brothers and sisters shine.

This week’s Torah portion teaches us about the appointment of Aaron as High Priest and of his descendants as priests forever. This is a permanent and dramatic role that is being granted to Aaron and his family. Moses, who spent his life fighting for the freedom of the Jewish nation, does not receive this honor. The descendants of Moses receive no particular place in the future of the Jewish nation. Yet Moses readily and happily steps aside to allow Aaron to come forth and to shine in his priestly glory.

Families are made up of individuals, but together those individuals form a unit. Just as our bodies have different limbs for different functions, but is still one body, so does a family have different members with different strengths. Allowing each individual’s particular talents to find expression strengthens the entire unit. By acknowledging and celebrating a sibling’s personality, we not only affirm his or her importance as an individual but strengthen ourselves as well. All get their day in the sun – if we let them!

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about how each family member has unique talents and that, like Moses, we all need to know when to step aside and let others shine.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What are some unique strengths your siblings have?
  • What is a unique strength you have?
  • Is it hard to think of or acknowledge the strengths of others?
  • What can you do to help affirm a sibling’s talents?

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.

WHAT IS INSIDE US IS MOST IMPORTANT…

TORAH PORTION: TERUMAH

TERUMAH2As we grow, we are trying to develop ourselves. We spend time on how we look, the styles we like, and how we wear our hair. Often we spend more time on what is outside us than what is inside.

This week’s Torah portion Trumah deals with building the sanctuary in the desert. Instructions are clear that the outside should be plain, orderly, neat, and clean but not showy. The inside is clearly the more important place where it is permissible to exhibit the most beautiful decorations and objects. Our bodies are our own sanctuary. Clearly, in Judaism how we develop our inside, the inner us, is most important.

Of course, it is important for people to feel good about how they look on the outside. Judaism is saying that you should look good on the outside but never
forget to focus especially on your inner development. As parents, we can help our kids develop their inner qualities. Peers have a large amount of influence over the way our kids like to look. Parents have the opportunity to be teachers to help their children develop beautiful and meaningful values that they can always carry around inside themselves.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the importance of developing inner values and ethics.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What are the best qualities inside you?
  • What other qualities would you like to possess inside?
  • How could you develop other good qualities inside?

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.

TREES ENHANCE OUR LIVES…

HOLIDAY: TU B’SHEVAT

TUBSHEVATOn our daily journeys we pass by so much of value that we barely notice. For instance: trees. Our very lives depend on trees. They provide us with fruit, shade, paper, often the homes we live in, and much of our furniture and other objects that we use on a daily basis. They are also a source of beauty and respite. Despite their importance, they tend to become the backdrop for our lives– easy to pass by with barely a thought or a glance.

Jewish tradition celebrates the New Year of the trees. It is called Tu B’Shevat, the fifteenth of the Hebrew month of Shevat. On Tu B’Shevat trees are planted and rituals of eating fruits and nuts and drinking wine are observed. It is a kind of birthday of the trees, and in Israel it is the time when the first fruit-bearing trees
awaken from their winter sleep and begin their cycles.

Judaism teaches that we should plant and protect trees. We should plant trees, no matter how old we are, so that future generations can enjoy their beauty, shade, and usefulness. We should protect trees, especially those that bear fruit, for the benefit of all society. Tu B’Shevat can be observed traditionally in a kind of seder with plates of dried fruits and nuts, fresh fruit, grape juice, or wine. Or it can simply be a special day for you and your children to notice the value and beauty of trees in your lives. Even at the coldest time of year, we can have faith that spring and renewal will come soon again.

TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN about trees and all that they give us.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Which kinds of trees do you like and why?
  • What are some of the wooden objects you use in your everyday lives?
  • Why plant a tree that takes so long to grow and mature?
  • How do our lives depend upon trees?

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.