Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics about Self-Care – Page 2

MASKS AND IDENTITY…

HOLIDAY: PURIM

PurimFrom the time we are born, our identities begin to evolve.  In certain instances however, our identities become fixed over time, especially as they are formed in relationship to siblings. “She’s the smart one”, we think to ourselves. “He’s the one good at sports”.  “She’s the one with the special needs; I’m the perfect one”.  We often define ourselves in relation to another sibling, especially if parental expectations solidify those identities.  Overstressed parents, who may have a child with problems or special needs, might expect another child to be “perfect” or at least more self-sustaining.  Such expectations might influence how the child will behave at home, not wanting to further stress his/her overtaxed parents.

Purim is the time on the Jewish calendar to play with identities.  We wear masks and costumes and raucously celebrate the story of Esther and Mordechai, where everyone becomes their opposite.  It is a wonderful tale of a Queen who, by overcoming her fear of rejection, or punishment, saves the Jewish people with the help of her cousin Mordechai, a tale that mixes humor and solemnity, danger, and drunkenness.

While Purim is a holiday of pure fun, more serious themes underlie all the celebration.  Themes of having courage in the face of potential annihilation and changing one’s identity are some of the more serious ideas underlying a holiday that is perfectly made for the imagination of children.  The holiday reminds us that whoever we think we are, we can change, especially in the service of a higher purpose, like helping other people.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the way we sometimes change our identity or “mask” depending on the social situation.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Are we different at school or with friends than at home?
  • How are you and your brother and/or sister different?  How are you similar?
  • Are there things your brother and/or sister excel at that you don’t try because you think of it as “their thing”?
  • What, if any, defined roles do you and each of your siblings play in the family dynamic?

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.

WHAT IS INSIDE US IS MOST IMPORTANT…

TORAH PORTION: TERUMAH

TERUMAH2As we grow, we are trying to develop ourselves. We spend time on how we look, the styles we like, and how we wear our hair. Often we spend more time on what is outside us than what is inside.

This week’s Torah portion Trumah deals with building the sanctuary in the desert. Instructions are clear that the outside should be plain, orderly, neat, and clean but not showy. The inside is clearly the more important place where it is permissible to exhibit the most beautiful decorations and objects. Our bodies are our own sanctuary. Clearly, in Judaism how we develop our inside, the inner us, is most important.

Of course, it is important for people to feel good about how they look on the outside. Judaism is saying that you should look good on the outside but never
forget to focus especially on your inner development. As parents, we can help our kids develop their inner qualities. Peers have a large amount of influence over the way our kids like to look. Parents have the opportunity to be teachers to help their children develop beautiful and meaningful values that they can always carry around inside themselves.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the importance of developing inner values and ethics.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What are the best qualities inside you?
  • What other qualities would you like to possess inside?
  • How could you develop other good qualities inside?

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.

THE HOLINESS OF OUR BODIES…

TORAH PORTION: KEDOSHIM

Acharay4It is difficult in our society to have a sense of respect and acceptance for our own bodies with all their inherent differences.  Women especially are often held to impossible standards when it comes to body weight.  Eating disorders abound, mostly for girls, but also amongst boys.  Boys and girls, men and women, become obsessive about weight and appearance, and the importance of bodily appearance can, unfortunately, overshadow other life interests and relationships.

In this Torah portion there is a law against making gashes in one’s flesh and also against tattooing oneself.  We are commanded to be holy, and one of the ways to become so is through treating the body as sacred, not permanently marring it in anyway.  No matter what its size, shape or appearance, the body, just as it is, is considered holy.

When raising children  we can counteract some of society’s messages, which place so much emphasis on the body as object.  Using the Torah’s concept of the body as holy, we can present an important alternative to children.   By placing emphasis on caring for one’s body through healthful eating, bathing, and dressing in clean and attractive clothes, we can teach that a sense of bodily sanctity can be nurtured.  We can communicate to girls or boys struggling with body image issues that they are acceptable, even holy, just as they are.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the Torah’s concept of their body as being holy.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What are the best ways to take care of your body?
  • How does bathing contribute to your sense of the holiness of our bodies?
  • How do healthy food choices contribute to your sense of the body’s holiness?
  • What are the best ways to take care of your body?

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.

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT…

TORAH PORTION:  SHEMINI

Shemini1We all eat and need to feed our families.  But how we do so involves many small decisions.  Think about being in a supermarket.  We all make many decisions there concerning the food we buy.  We are inundated by products and need to make decisions based on various factors such as healthfulness or what’s appealing to our family.

In this week’s Torah portion we are told very specifically that we can not eat whatever we want whenever we want.  Discipline, in Judaism, is an important part of eating.  According to the Torah, following the discipline of what we can eat and what we can’t eat makes us holy.  Making these choices teaches us that food and eating are sacred matters.

While some of us may choose to keep kosher and some might not, it’s important to keep in mind that making wise choices about the food we eat elevates the act of eating.  We want to teach our children that they just can’t eat anything any time and any way that they want.  Families eating healthful food together are involved in a sacred activity – taking in the bounty of the earth.  Consider what would elevate your family’s eating experience into one that consciously acknowledged the blessings that are abundant at our dining room or kitchen table.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about how important food choices are to their physical and spiritual health.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What kinds of foods do you like to eat?
  • Do you know where these foods come from?
  • Which kinds of foods makes you feel good when you eat them?
  • Why is it important to eat together with your family?
  • What is the value of applying discipline to what we eat?

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.

RITUALS…ANCHORS FOR OUR LIVES

TORAH PORTION: VA-YIKRA

vayikra1We all live with rituals.  Whether it’s the time and place we brush our teeth in the morning or singing our children good night songs, rituals provide the infrastructure by which we live our lives.  Without rituals, without certain daily repetitions of consistent behavior, our lives would be unbearably chaotic.

This week we begin the book of Leviticus. This portion and in fact much of the book of Leviticus is full of details about ritual, especially those related to how and when to bring sacrifices for worship.  While prayer long ago replaced sacrifice in Jewish tradition, sacrifices were the expression of ancient religions. Those sacrifices were brought on many occasions: for example, when one was guilty of sin, whether intentionally or unintentionally, when one was grateful, or when one was celebrating.  Ritual in Leviticus provided a concrete manner for people to express a wide range of emotions and states of being.

While everyone has some kind of rituals in their lives, these rituals can be performed unconsciously, without much significance.  They can also be opportunities.  Rituals can be used to signify something deeper about the moment; they can be used as teaching moments. What kind of songs are sung at bedtime?  What kind of rituals do you introduce to your children around getting dressed in the morning?  Can there be a ritual instituted so that family members show gratitude for having sufficient food on the table?

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about ways your family creates value in their lives through rituals.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What song or story do you like to hear the most before bedtime?
  • What new rituals might appeal to you?
  • How do rituals enhance your feeling of well-being?
  • What is your favorite weekly family ritual?

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.