Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics about Leadership – Page 2



kitaytzay2How can we be sensitive to being influenced by, or influencing, those close to us? The behaviors we model for our children often repeat in their actions. Our expressed beliefs, the stories we tell, and the interests we pursue all have an impact on our children. We all know of families that have generations with the same hobbies, business interests, and views on life.

This week’s Torah portion, Ki Taytzay, introduces this idea of individual responsibility. There is in fact a verse that states that parents shall not be punished for the actions of their children, nor shall children be punished for the actions of their parents. This was a unique idea at the time, a true departure from judging individuals based on the actions of their families.

It can sometimes be difficult for us to step up and take responsibility for the choices that we make because it forces us to take ownership over the decisions. It is much easier for us to say that we made a choice because of what someone else said, what we read, or what we saw. It is true that our choices are shaped by our own experiences, but they are ultimately our choices, and the Torah is telling us that we must take responsibility for our actions.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about understanding that they are responsible for their actions.


  • Can you share a time that you did not take responsibility for your actions? Why didn’t you? What was the result?
  • When is a time that you did take responsibility for your actions although it may have been difficult?
  • What are some of the outside influences that help shape your choices?

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



ekev1When we teach our children, we don’t only teach them with our words. We teach them with every act we do; in fact, we teach them with who we are at heart. If we go through life angry or resentful, our children will learn anger and resentment. If we go through life critical and judgmental, our children will learn criticism and judgment. Or, if we go through life with love and joy, our children will learn love and joy.

In our Biblical portion it says that we should teach the words of the Torah “when you stay at home and when you are on your way, when you lie down and when you get up”. In other words, wherever we are, each and every one of our actions is a teaching moment, an educational opportunity. In fact, these words comprise a part of the all-important words of the Shema, the Jewish prayer said twice daily as well as before bedtime and before death.

There are so many teaching moments we probably don’t think about as teaching moments. If we pack to go on a trip at the last minute and we are full of anxiety and pressure, that communicates one lesson. If we, however, pack in advance, and feel relaxed and confident about the journey we are to take, that communicates another. When we are outside our home, if we greet people with joy and an open heart, we are teaching our children to do the same. However, if we pass people by on the street never stopping because we are in a rush, that imparts yet another kind of lesson. If we stop on the street because someone needs help, that imparts a lesson concerning what kind of neighbors we can be in this world. Of course we can’t be perfect, and parents can be stressed for a multitude of reasons. Yet it’s important to keep in mind that every moment is a potential teaching moment and to do our utmost to be the best models we can be.

TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN about what others learn from their actions. They are models for their friends and siblings.


  • What are some of the things you learn from your parents? How do you learn these lessons?
  • What do you think are some of the most important things you learn from your parents?
  • What do you teach others? What do you teach your friends and your brothers or sisters?
  • What do you learn from your friends and from your brothers or sisters?

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.



Beha1Being a good leader at work and at home is a difficult task.  But being a good leader does not mean necessarily that we are in control.  It may mean being the one who promotes the strengths of others.  The problem is that often, when we see the strengths of others, we are threatened. Somehow, we think, their strengths mean the diminishment of our own.  It’s either “they have the power” or “I have the power.” Sharing leadership is a real challenge for anyone.

In our Torah portion this week it is reported to Moses that two men are prophesying in the camp. Instead of being threatened, Moses welcomes them.  He says “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets!”  Moses, supreme prophet and leader that he is, recognizes that sharing power is the best kind of leadership.  A leader should encourage and facilitate leadership in others.

Teaching this kind of leadership to children is difficult.  There are always battles for control between parents and children.  However, a good model of parenting is one in which parents see their children as partners in the enterprise of raising a family.  As the child grows, he or she can take on more and more of the leadership in the home.  In this way the child learns that the best kind of leaders are those that promote leadership in others.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about Moses as a model of a good leader.


  • What qualities make the best kind of leader?
  • When and how do you act like a leader?
  • Is it harder to be a leader or a follower?

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.



v-zot2We take pictures at happy occasions and we make yearbooks. These are ways in which we try to remember events or experiences. Something in our psyche intuits that there is significance beyond the present moment. It’s this drive that leads us to think about the mark we want to make in this world. Is it one of being selfish or one of fairness and kindness to all?

Torah portion V-zot Habrachah contains Moses’s parting words, his last wishes to the Jewish nation. He gives blessings, instructions, and direction. He reminds them of their individual roles as tribes along with their collective mission as a nation. His job as a leader never ends, and near his death he continues to inspire.

Think about the messages you would like to be known by. What instructions would you have for yourself, your family, and friends? How do you want to be known? Will your words be uplifting and motivating to yourself and others? We all keep developing, and we can have a profound impact on our world. How is that we want to be known?

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about how they could improve in their relationships.


  • Could you be nicer to your brother or sister?/li>
  • Could you be a better member of your classroom?
  • Do you treat your friends the way you would like to be treated?
  • Do you act respectfully to your parents and grandparents?
  • How does it feel to tell someone you are sorry for the way you may have treated him/her?

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.



devarim2We often jump to conclusions.  A child walks into a new class and quickly decides who is ‘cool’ and who is not.  We may witness an interaction between spouses or a parent and child and immediately decide that someone is being abusive or disrespectful, even though we lack any knowledge of the context. Sometimes our judgment calls are on target and sometimes they aren’t.

 In Devarim, this week’s Torah portion, Moses recounts the instructions he gave to the first group of judges he appointed. These instructions are repeated to remind us of their importance and timelessness.  Moses emphasizes the importance of listening – paying close attention and patiently listening to all sides. The judge must ignore external factors and do his best to learn as much as he can about the litigants and their arguments. Only then is he qualified to judge. If he can’t accomplish this, he must consult with a higher ranking judge.

We are all judges. We are hard-wired to make quick decisions about things happening around us. This is a crucial capacity when one is in danger, but this ability can be a handicap in one’s relationships. When it comes to other people, we must be careful to learn as much as we can about them and their circumstances before forming opinions. The not-cool kid in the class may very well become your closest friend!

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the uniqueness of every individual and the complexity of every situation.  Listen, evaluate, consider.


  • Have you ever had your opinion of someone change after getting to know the person  better?
  • Have you ever felt that others jumped to conclusions about you?
  • Think of a situation that would look bad if a person watching doesn’t know the facts.

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.