Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics about Home

THE VALUE OF REST…

TORAH PORTION: VA-YAK HEL / PEKUDEI

VKH-P2Families lead busy lives.  Life is filled with work, homework, sports, lessons, running a household, etc.  Often it seems there isn’t a moment to breathe.  A moment to just stop and say “I’m here” and that’s enough.

In this Torah portion Moses tells the people that they are commanded to set aside the seventh day as a day of complete rest.  It is a day in which no productive labor is allowed,  a day in which the emphasis is put on “being” instead of “becoming” or “having”.

Think about your own life.  Is there enough time and room for simply stopping and being with one another?  Stop now and take a breath.  See how that feels.  Think about ways to incorporate rest into the busy life of your family.  Some families choose to put aside a day of the week and celebrate the Sabbath as a day of rest.  Others pay attention to the principle of the day and figure out where to find the resting moments in life.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the concept of purposeful resting every seventh day, emphasizing “just being” over “doing”.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Do you find time to rest and relax?
  • What does it mean to you to rest? Does it mean spending time with family or friends? Does it mean playing a game or reading a book?
  • Which activities best put you at ease after a day or week of busyness?
  • What is one thing your family could do to promote “rest” each week?

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.

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME…

TORAH PORTION: TERUMAH

Terumah1The old adage says there’s no place like home.  And it’s true, that there’s no place like home to come to at an end of a tiring work day, a business trip, or a vacation.  When children have had strange and sometimes frightening experiences or an exhausting day, it’s so comforting to come home to mom and dad and snuggle up in one’s very own bed.

This week’s parsha is about building a sanctuary, a home for God.  A sanctuary is a holy place where God will meet with human beings.  God’s home is a beautiful place, made with precious materials of gold, precious stones and wood.  There is a certain place within this beautiful home, between two cherubim specifically, that God says will be a meeting point between the divine and the human.

As we design our homes for ourselves and our children, it is important to think about how our meeting places are organized.  Are they organized around a computer or a television, or are they set up so that family members will have eye contact and conversation is facilitated?  An interesting exercise would be to scan one’s home in one’s mind eye to note how many places are focused around isolated activities and how many around simply being together with family and/or visitors.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about organizing your home to improve the quality and quantity of family time spent together.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What do you like best about being home?
  • What is your favorite part of your home?
  • What is your least favorite part of your home?

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.

WELCOMING GUESTS INTO YOUR HOME…

TORAH PORTION VA-YERA

VA-YERA1 copyHospitality is a powerful way to model kindness. Opening one’s home to others is a way for people to share with one another the uniqueness of who they are and the blessings they have.

Abraham in our Torah portion shows what an essential value hospitality is in the Bible. Even though he is in the midst of a conversation with God, he surprisingly interrupts it to welcome three strangers he sees from afar. He begs them to stay awhile and have a morsel of bread and some water. Meanwhile, he and Sarah prepare a sumptuous meal for them. Abraham promises little but delivers much. He is a humble yet generous host.

Being humble and grateful for your blessings can make a guest feel comfortable in your home. Helping someone feel at home can go a long way toward forming and deepening friendships. Just as Abraham modeled exceptional behavior for us to learn from and to follow, so too parents have an enormous impact on their children’s development. By modeling kindness and generosity of spirit through hospitality, these attributes will become engrained in children.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about how Abraham and Sarah graciously welcomed people into their tent.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • When your friends are in your home, what are some of the special ways you should treat them?
  • Why do you think it’s important to treat guests well?
  • Are you quick to offer your home to family and to friends traveling or in need?

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.

HOSPITALITY…

TORAH PORTION: EMOR

Emor3A great blessing one can have is the ability to give to others.  Hosting guests and taking care of them is an important way to express this.  Guests care much more about your attitude towards them than the expense or beauty of the surroundings.

This week’s Torah portion, Emor, discusses Jewish holidays. We are called upon to celebrate these holidays joyously and always instructed to make sure we are sharing the joy with others – our families as well as guests we can bring into our home.  In fact, we are taught that taking care of a guest’s needs takes precedence over one’s relationship with G-d.

We have so many great gifts, and we should enjoy them fully.  Our gift of the ability to make others happy and to give to them allows us, briefly, to be “G-d like”.  Our own enjoyment of the world is incomplete if we cannot share it with others.  Make the effort to have an open home and bring others into your world.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about making small sacrifices to have guests, such as sharing your room or possessions with a visitor.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Have you ever felt uncomfortable in another’s home?
  • What makes you comfortable in any home, no matter how humble?
  • Discuss the difference between entertaining and hosting – my party vs. the guest’s needs.
  • What sacrifices are you willing to make to have a guest and what are you not willing to do?

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.

CHORES AND “A WILLING HEART”…

TORAH PORTION: TERUMAH

Terumah3Children often complain about homework and chores. Too much of the time they do these things unwillingly, grudgingly. Parents need to coax, chide and threaten before their child’s responsibilities are complete. Moaning and groaning ensue. In the end, most parents see to it that children learn to be responsible, but they are baffled about how to encourage a better attitude in them.

In this week’s Torah portion, the Israelites offer materials and skills to build the sanctuary. However, not everyone has to give, only “everyone whose heart makes him willing”. The people of Israel ultimately give freely and generously with an open heart, each contributing what they can in order to build the sacred sanctuary. In the end, there is more than enough.

In an ideal world, children would fulfill their responsibilities with a “willing heart” instead of whining and complaining their way through their chores. But parents have enough on their plates to see to it that children do what they have to do. No one can really force someone else to have a better attitude. The best that parents can do to is to reason with their children and to model how they themselves fulfill responsibilities. Do they do so with a heavy heart, with complaints, or do what they have to do, gladly and willingly? The more open-hearted and willing parents are, the more they can show their children how to live willingly, even joyfully, amidst the serious obligations of life.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the way they feel about their chores and obligations.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

    • Which chores are hardestfor you? Why?
    • Which parts of your homework are hardest for you? Why? What would
      help you get through it?
    • Why are chores and obligations important to do?
    • Could resisting chores be a habit? Could you develop a better attitude if you wanted?

     

 
By Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses

Values & Ethics: Through a Jewish Lens is created to bring values/ethics of Judaism into family discussions.