Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics about Patience – Page 2



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.


  • 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.



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.


  • 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.



Bambidar1Kids hate whatever they think is boring.  However, as it turns out, much of what’s important in life is not fun-filled and exciting.  While much of a child’s school day can be interesting (one hopes!), memorizing facts is simply rote.  While family life can be fun, chores around the home are not.  There are plenty of highs and lows in life, but most of life falls right in between.

The Torah parsha this week, Bamidbar, begins the tale of the Israelites wandering through the wilderness.  They have already been through the excitement of escaping from Egypt and receiving the Torah at Sinai.  Now, they are simply traipsing through the desert, as they will be for the next forty years.  But the Israelite journey through the desert is more than just wandering.  It is a time for testing limits, for growth and renewal.  It is a time for consolidating their identity as a nation and their relationship with God.

It’s important to teach kids to appreciate the “boring” moments of life.  In working through the boredom there is much to learn: patience and fortitude, to name two important character traits.  When they complain of being bored, we, as parents, should be wary of solving their “boredom” for them.  Instead, let them work out for themselves the “problem” of boredom.  In this way they can learn to tolerate boredom, or at least work through it by themselves and see their way to what’s valuable in the less exciting moments of life.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the wandering of the Israelites through the wilderness on their way to the promised land, and what this journey might signify for their lives today.


  • What do you find boring?
  • What do you do when you are bored?  Does whining or complaining help?
  • Why might it be important to be bored sometimes?

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.



KiTisa2Waiting is difficult.  When a child waits, for instance, for a parent to come home, the time can feel excruciatingly long.  Patience comes, hopefully with age, and even then it’s a hard-earned attribute.

In our Torah portion the children of Israel wait forty days and forty nights for Moses to come down the mountain with the Torah.  They are anxious that Moses will never return to them, frightened that they will have no leader to lead them to the promised land.  They are so scared that they build themselves an idol, a golden calf to accompany them through the desert.  Descending from Mount Sinai, Moses witnesses his people worshipping the Golden Calf.  He becomes so angry that he hurls the  Ten Commandments he just received from God, to the ground and the stone tablets shatter into fragments.

For adults, being able to wait requires developing self-control.  Patience is an acquired skill.  How can we teach children to have patience?  It can be done little by little.  For example, a parent can leave a child with a new babysitter for a short amount of time and then lengthen the period over time.  A parent can work with a child to have patience in play as well, building more elaborate structures with blocks, for instance, as time goes on.  When a child becomes too frustrated, parents can scale back their expectations, making adjustments for the capacity of the child at that moment.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about how the children of Israel were unable to wait for Moses and built a golden calf in his absence.


  • When is it hardest to wait?
  • When do you become frustrated?
  • What helps you when you are waiting?
  • Why is patience important?

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.



Tetzevah1Whether from the Book of Ecclesiastes or from the lyrics of Pete Seeger, most of us are familiar with the thought, “to everything there is a season.” This adage is followed with examples such as a “a time to weep and a time to cry; a time to mourn and a time to dance.” One of the later lines reads “a time to keep silence and a time to speak.” Indeed for everything there might be a season, but that doesn’t help us determine when the right moment is. When do we keep silent and when do we speak?

This week’s Torah portion Tetzaveh is one of the many places we see examples of the tension between silence and sound. It includes descriptions of the “priestly garments”, the clothes for Aaron and his sons as they fill their priestly duties. The text explains that the garments have both little bells and yarn tassels. When the priests move, the bells make noise but the tassels do not. On this holy piece of clothing, both are present.

It is important to speak up and share our voices. It is good to participate in conversations in school or at work, sharing our opinions and ideas. We can also actively speak up to share positive feedback with one another, to say hello when we pass each other, and to ask meaningful questions about one another’s days. By using our voices in this way we have the potential to make others feel good about themselves. But our voices can also be hurtful. We should be  not to use our voices to spread gossip or lies and we should be careful with our words so that we do not embarrass someone. Just as our words can bring joy they can also bring pain, and perhaps those are the moments in which we should remain silent. To everything there is a season, a time to keep silence and a time to speak.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about when to speak out and when to keep silent.


  • When was a time you spoke out? Was it the right moment to speak out?
  • Is there a time when you spoke but perhaps should not have? What might you have done differently?
  • When was a time you kept silent? Was it the right moment to be quiet?
  • Is there a time when you kept silent but should not have? What might you have done differently?
  • When you keep silent, are you aware of your body language and facial expressions? Are they “speaking out” for you?

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