Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics about Humility

MOVING BEYOND DENIAL…

TORAH PORTION: MI-KETZ

MovingBeyondDenialSometimes the truth is sitting right in front of us. Sometimes the solution to our problems is the palm of our hands, but we just can’t see it. Luckily, we don’t move through this world alone. We have friends, family, and teachers who can help us gain perspective on our own lives. We just need to learn to listen.

In this week’s Torah portion, Mi-Ketz, Joseph’s brothers are blinded by denial. They have come down to Egypt in search of food due to the famine in their own land. None of the eleven brothers can see that the Egyptian official in front of them is their brother, Joseph, whom they sold into slavery years ago, telling their father that he had died. They probably even convinced themselves that he had died. Joseph tries to give them a hint by seating them in age order, an order only a family member would know. But they are unable to notice this. It is not until Joseph, giving up on all subtleties, says to them,: “I am your brother Joseph,” that they realize who he is.

It took the shock of finding their long lost brother to open their eyes to reality. Do we miss important clues in our own lives? Do we hold back from new challenges because we are in denial about our abilities to handle the new challenge? All of us can break out of denial into reality, but it is hard to do alone. We each have people in our own lives who can help us break from unrealistic denial. Parents, teachers, brothers, and sisters are often able to help us see our own world properly. We just need to be open to them.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about what clues to their abilities they may be denying.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • When have you learned a lesson about yourself from a friend?
  • What makes it hard to listen when someone is giving you advice?
  • How can we learn to be more open?

By Rabbi Judith GreenbergTorah

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

ISRAEL = TO STRUGGLE WITH GOD…

TORAH PORTION: VA-YISHLAH

va-yishlach3Many people hold back on religion in their lives because they are uncomfortable with the concept of God. Does God exist?How could bad things happen to good people? Why does evil exist? These are all questions that people have addressed throughout time. Many sophisticated discussions and answers are imbedded in Jewish texts for adults to encounter and wrestle with personally.

In this week’s Torah portion, Va-Yishlah, Jacob wrestles all night with a mysterious angel representing God. Because Jacob successfully survives this encounter, his name is changed to Israel. The translation of Israel is “to struggle with God”. The Torah is saying that to struggle with God is common. Most people require inquiry and study, as adults, to come to terms with their personal encounter. Jews are not asked to accept complete faith blindly. Jews are encouraged intellectually to encounter God within themselves after studying the wrestling our sages encountered in their journeys to God. It is possible to be a good Jew and have questions about God. In Judaism, actions are more important than faith.

In thinking about God, we can pick up clues all around us, perhaps left for us to find, like the design perfection of the human body and nature’s beauty. Just because we can’t see or touch something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. We can’t see oxygen, but we would die without it. Infinity is beyond comprehension yet an integral part of modern science. Love is a powerful feeling that cannot be proven, but it may be a gift of God. Conscience, that little voice inside us, may also be one of God’s gifts. Religion is not about who God is but about what God helps us do.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about God from your personal view and struggles.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Do you see clues in life to God’s existence?
  • Do you have unanswered questions about how God operates?
  • Do you hold back from religion because of your unanswered questions?
  • How might you begin your personal journey to wrestle with God?
  • How could a journey in life be more important than the destination?

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.

JEALOUSY MAKES US FOOLISH…

TORAH PORTION: KORACH

korach2Jealousy is resentment against another’s success or advantage. There is almost always a deeper, inner insecurity that is causing the jealousy. Someone’s success or advantage does not automatically cause another to feel jealous. Rather, it somehow triggers something deep inside that, in turn, causes the jealousy.

In this week’s Torah portion, Korach, there is dissension amongst the ranks while the Israelites are wandering in the desert. The source of the tension is the way one group of men sees Moses and Aaron. The men believe that Moses and Aaron have taken too much of the leadership upon themselves. But if we keep in mind the fact that Moses and Aaron’s actions must have triggered something in the men themselves, then we must ask: What was truly behind the men’s feelings? And we find our answer just a little further in the text. The men ask if everyone is holy, then why are Moses and Aaron singled out amongst them.

The answer does not really matter to them, because their jealousy clouds their ability to think rationally, and no amount of explanation calms their emotions. It is easy to get worked up about things that seem unfair, especially if they are highlighting dissatisfactions in your own life. If we allow our emotions to take over and we lose rational thought, then our actions can spin out of control. On the other hand, if we are able to identify these feelings in ourselves we can tap into them in a thoughtful way and try to handle things calmly and logically.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about managing jealousy and maintaining rational thought.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What events or circumstances make you jealous?
  • What are those things triggering inside you?
  • What are some ways you can manage those feelings?
  • Can you think of a time jealousy kept you from being rational?

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

MISTAKES MAKE GREAT LESSONS…

TORAH PORTION: NASO

Naso2Everyone makes a mistake once in a while. It’s natural to try to run from mistakes, cut losses, hope nobody notices or makes a fuss, and move on. In reality, though, our mistakes are precious opportunities. They give us insight into life and ourselves and allow us to become stronger by learning to avoid the same pitfalls in the future.

In this week’s Torah portion, Naso, we learn about the comeback process after making a big mistake. The verse introduces the topic with the words “And when you shall…”, not “if you shall…”. Mistakes are a built in feature of life and they happen for a very good reason. When they do happen there’s an acknowledgment of error and a process of improvement.

We like to think of ourselves as good people, which we usually are. That doesn’t mean we’re perfect though. Life is a journey of growth and development, and we can only grow if we know where we are deficient. A mistake supplies that piece of the puzzle. Our mistakes teach us what not to do in the future and shine a light on character traits we can improve. Sometimes they can be funny, too!

TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT the how to benefit by learning from mistakes.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Did you ever learn something from a mistake?
  • Have you ever made the same really bad mistake twice?
  • What’s better: avoiding embarrassment for a few minutes by denying a mistake (even if you’re just fooling yourself) or gaining the confidence of having learned something?

By Rabbi Moshe Becker © 2012 Joyce and Fred Claar

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

HUMILITY VS INSECURITY…

TORAH PORTION: TZAV

Tzav1Humility is a difficult trait to teach and to acquire. We must understand the difference between humility and insecurity. Insecurity is the lack of confidence in our abilities. Humility is achieved when we have the confidence in ourselves along with awareness that our abilities are in fact gifts with responsibilities.

This week’s Torah portion contains a reminder to the Priests that they are there to serve with humility. Priests perform their Temple rituals in magnificent dress, but they must regularly perform very menial tasks such as cleaning the Altar in ordinary worker’s clothes. The Priests, the
most noble and sacred group in the nation, are thus constantly aware that they are to serve with humility.

There’s a perpetual tension between fostering a strong sense of self in our children and ensuring that they don’t become self-centered and egotistical. We must remember and model to our children that we are all part of a larger picture. The larger picture is our family, our community, our country, our nation, and our universe. As we grow, so should our appreciation of the vast contributions others have made to our well-being and develop our sense of awe and humility.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the difficulty and importance of developing a healthy humility.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What is humility?
  • Can you be very good at something and humble at the same time?
  • Is there something very good or wrong with a High Priest taking out the garbage?
  • Can a healthy sense of humility contribute to self-confidence?

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.