Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics about Patience

SPEAKING SOFTLY…

TORAH PORTION: VA-YIGASH

SpeakingSoftlyYoung children are impulsive. They can’t really help it. They feel so intensely they blurt out whatever is on their minds, sometimes with love and sometimes in rage. It’s our job as parents to help them translate the intensity of their feelings into appropriate behavior. They might be angry, but they can’t mistreat their brother or sister, friend or parent. They need to find the right words to express what they are going through. They might want something belonging to a friend or sibling, but they can’t just grab it; they must ask for it respectfully.

In this week’s Torah Portion, Vayigash, Joseph, unrecognizable to his brothers dressed as Egyptian royalty, tests his brothers for having thrown him into a pit and selling him into slavery. He plants his silver goblet in his beloved younger brother Benjamin’s sack, and once it’s discovered declares that Benjamin will be his slave. Judah, an older brother, approaches Joseph with gentleness and softly speaks: “Please, my lord, let your servant speak a word to my lord. Do not be angry with your servant, though you are equal to Pharaoh himself”. Doing so, Judah diffuses the tension in the situation. In response, Joseph breaks down and reveals his real identity to his brothers.

By speaking softly at home we can teach children that shouting is not the most effective way. Gentleness can often be more productive than harsh yelling. The more we curb our own compulsions, the more we can show our children that kindness can be more effective in the world.

TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN about what it means to treat someone with loving kindness.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • How do you like to be treated?
  • How do you feel when you are treated with less than kindness?
  • How do you feel inside when you are mean to others?
  • What are the results of raising your voice and increasing tensions?

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.

THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL…

TORAH PORTION: VA-YESHEV

va-yeshev2Have you been pushed to go to an event that you did not want to attend, and then had a great time? Ever start out disliking a very demanding teacher who later in the year becomes appreciated for making you a much better student? In life many times “things might not be what they seem at first”.

This week’s Torah portion, Va-yeshev, contains what might be one of the most famous examples of the idea that things which start off badly might come to a good end. Joseph, the favored youngest son of Jacob, is sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. He seems destined for a life of enslavement in Egypt when a turn of fortune brings him into good graces with the Pharoah. Joseph’s life quickly changes as he rises to the top of Egyptian society, gaining fame, security and fortune. This is a very positive end to a dreadful beginning.

Sometimes we simply need to look a little harder to find the good in what feels bad. Often we just need patience to wait for changes. It can be hard to hold out hope when things feel as though they are not going your way, but a positive outlook on the world can go a long way towards making situations feel more manageable. Being able to look forward and see a “light at the end of the tunnel” can help make the journey there much easier.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about some positive unexpected outcomes in their life and in yours.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • When was a time in your life that you had an unexpected outcome?
  • How does it make you feel when events don’t turn out the way you expect?
  • How do you manage when things don’t feel like they are going your way?

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

WAITING FOR THE COOKIE TO COOL…

TORAH PORTION: TOLDOT

toldot2The sweet scent of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies wafts through the kitchen. Your mouth waters and your tummy rumbles as you pull the hot tray out of the oven. The cookies look moist and delicious as the chocolate bubbles and melts. The recipe tells you to let the cookies cool for thirty minutes before eating them. But how can you wait thirty whole minutes when the cookies are calling your name right now?! You try to pick up just one cookie, but it crumbles and you burn your finger. You put the crumbs in your mouth and burn your tongue as well. So much for the perfect chocolate chip cookie… The chocolate chip cookie incident, with which many of us are all too familiar, teaches us that we can’t always get what we want right when we want it. Often, we will appreciate the cookie even more if we wait until it cools. So too there are many things and experiences in life that are well worth waiting for.

In this week’s Torah reading, Toldot, Esau came in from the field starving and begged Jacob for some lentil stew. Jacob agreed to give Esau the stew, but only after Esau promised to sell his younger twin brother Jacob his birthright. Esau traded the significant material benefits of his inheritance for one meager meal of stew because he thought with his stomach and acted on his animal instincts. If Esau had been more thoughtful and patient, he most likely would have made a different decision despite his growling belly.

The story of Esau and the lentil stew teaches us the importance of delayed gratification. While it may not feel good to put a few dollars of your allowance in your piggy bank each week, it feels great when you have finally saved enough money to buy a new bike. It might be painful to run sprints each morning or do endless sets of soccer drills, but it feels glorious when you cross the finish line or score the winning goal.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about appreciating the benefits of delayed gratification.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Have you ever let your stomach make a decision for you, which you later regretted?
  • Have you ever acted on an impulse, instead of thinking through a decision more carefully?
  • Can you think of a time when you didn’t get what you wanted right when you wanted it?
  • Have you ever worked really hard to achieve a goal? How did it feel when you  accomplished the goal?
  • What are the benefits of delayed gratification?

By Yael Hammerman

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

WHEN WE LOSE CONTROL…

TORAH PORTION: CHUKAT

chukat1People lose control.  We may get excessively angry or behave impulsively or destructively. We may scream at a child, eat too much, or drink.  The reasons for such behavior are many. Sometimes there is a sense that something is missing in our lives, a hole we don’t know how to fill, or a difficult issue we don’t know how to address.  That darkness lurks behind some of our behavior, and then suddenly, when we least expect it, erupts into unwanted behavior.

In this week’s Torah portion, Moses loses control.  Moses’ people are complaining yet again, this time for lack of water in the desert.  God tells Moses specifically to speak to a rock in order to draw water from it. Instead Moses hits the rock in anger.  He loses patience with his people who are constantly complaining. But there is also a backdrop of loss to Moses’ behavior.  His beloved sister Miriam has just died. Moses’ grief causes him to be short on the patience he normally exhibits with the people he is leading through the desert to the Promised Land.

It is important not to lose control especially with our children.  We don’t want to explode at them for minor infractions.  We also don’t want to set up models of destructive behavior for our children, whether it concerns behavior such as overeating, smoking, or drinking excessively.  Therefore, parents must address the origins of such behavior.  We might be dealing with ongoing frustrations at work, a loss of someone close to us, financial worries, or sources of tension in our marriage.  Whatever the issue is, better to address the deeper issue than for us to lose control, especially when children are concerned.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about how Moses lost his temper in the desert and hit the rock with his stick out of frustration.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What kind of situations might lead you to lose your temper?
  • What happens when you lose your temper?  Do people around you get hurt?
  • How else do you handle difficult problems in school or at home?
  • Did losing your temper ever accomplish anything worthwhile?

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.

WHEN YOUR CHILD REBELS…

TORAH PORTION: KORACH

korach1Children inevitably rebel. This can cause parents to react immediately and angrily to their recalcitrant children.  Parents and children might be involved in a reflexive pattern of action and reaction, without any reflection on the part of the parents as to the deeper reasons for their child’s behavior. Perhaps a child is testing limits or feels that the limits placed on him are no longer appropriate for his age.

The Book of Numbers, the fourth book of the Bible, can be thought of as the book of rebellion. First, the Israelites repeatedly complain about being in the desert and not having enough to eat. Here in our Torah portion, a group of men is rebelling against the leadership of Moses and Aaron:  Why are they in charge?  Isn’t everyone sufficiently holy to lead this congregation through the desert?  Moses’ first reaction is an interesting one. He does not immediately defend himself and Aaron. Rather he takes a few minutes to reflect before responding.  How many of us can stop and take a moment to figure out how to respond before just reacting?

Next time your children act out, try to stop for just a moment. This could productively interrupt what might be a habitual chain reaction: a child disobeys, a parent gets angry. Rather, think about what is really going on here and what specific response might be called for.  Might it be a discussion regarding appropriate limits and what they are for?  Is it time for compromise or for exploring what’s going on with your child?  Like Moses, stop to consider your best response, and perhaps your children will model this positive action as well in the future.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about rules and what they are for.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Which rules are hardest for you? Why?
  • Which rules don’t make sense to you?
  • What do you think is the purpose of rules?
  • When you are feeling very angry about something, how can counting to 10 before talking be helpful?

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.