Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics about Responsibility

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.

IS FREEDOM FREE?

HOLIDAY: PASSOVER

Passover2Freedom is such an attractive concept to us all. We like the idea of doing what we want, when we want. Often we think that being free of rules, regulations, and requirements are important for us to feel free. Could we be wrong in expecting too much of freedom? What if people did exactly as they pleased, whenever they wanted. Life could get very confusing, complicated, and dangerous.

On Passover, we celebrate our freedom from slavery with a Seder. Interestingly the word Seder means order, and our special celebration of freedom starts with 15 steps to follow. None of our other meals has so many requirements. Why does this special meal require us to follow 15 proscribed steps? First a cup of wine, then washing hands, dipping vegetables, breaking the middle matza, storytelling. . .and that is only 40% of the steps.

The wisdom of our tradition teaches that to be free we need order in our lives. Only within a structure of order and responsibility can we be free to pursue our desires. Imagine if others were free to harm themselves or us. Imagine if everyone was so free and did not have to follow rules; chaos would result. In chaos, none of us could accomplish what we want. There is wisdom in realizing how much our freedom depends on a structure of rules and laws for the benefit of all.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT how rules are important for our safety and our freedom.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What do we like most about freedom?
  • Are there parts of your life in which you feel you do not have freedom?
  • Has there ever been a situation when you wished you did not have so much freedom?

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.

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 hardest for 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.

LYING, STAY FAR AWAY…

TORAH PORTION: MISHPATIM

MISHPATIM1“I cannot tell a lie” are the famous words of our first president. Though it is honorable that Washington chose to tell the truth, he could have avoided lying in a different way. He could have considered the potential trouble he would end up in for chopping down the tree.

Mishpatim, this week’s Torah portion, warns to avoid falsehood. The wording is unlike any other instruction or warning in the Torah. Instead of simply saying, “Don’t lie”, it states “keep far away from falsehood”. The Torah is encouraging us to be mindful of our actions and their potential consequences. Stay far away from lying and deception and avoid actions you may need to lie about. If you cannot tell the truth about it, it is probably wrong.

Suppose a child is approached by a classmate who asks him or her to help cheat on an upcoming test. While it may be difficult for children to resist cheating, they certainly would not want to tell anyone they cheated. However, if caught, they will have to choose between admitting to a misdeed and lying. We can “Keep far away” from the temptation to lie by considering the results of our decisions before we make them!

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about telling the truth AND being a truthful person.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Why is lying wrong?
  • Would you do something bad if you knew you would have to tell someone you did it?
  • Do you trust people that you know tell lies?
  • What about a fraud or deception that doesn’t technically involve a lie?

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.

FREE WILL…

TORAH PORTION: VA-ERA

FreeWillTry telling a teacher, parent, or friend that you just HAD to do something they deem inappropriate. Nine times out of ten, the response will be “That’s ridiculous! Nobody can force you to do something!” We have a deep belief in, and awareness of, our freedom to choose when making decisions.

In Va’era, this week’s Torah portion, God informs Moses that He will harden Pharoah’s heart and Pharoah will refuse to release the Jews from captivity. Pharoah’s heart is ‘artificially’ hardened, but the rest of us are in fact free to choose between right and wrong. The contrast is deliberate.

Throughout life, one encounters decisions. As we grow, the nature of these challenges shift, but what remains constant is our ability to choose our own path. For the adolescent this may take the form of taking school seriously, resisting smoking, or being kind to others. For people facing serious hardships, all they may have left to choose is how to react and set their attitude. There is always a choice to be made. Let’s celebrate the gift of choice!

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about free will and our ability to turn every moment into a victory by making proper choices.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What have friends pressured you to do that you didn’t want to do?
  • Do you have any red lines? Anything you won’t do no matter what?
  • What decisions are you most proud of that were hard to make?

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.