Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics about Sharing

RENEWING A RELATIONSHIP…

TORAH PORTION: KORACH

korachWhat happens when you find yourself in a disagreement with someone?  There are times when a distance grows between you that must be bridged in order to save the relationship.  When that moment arrives, who will be the person who reaches out and extends the olive branch?  Is reaching out to the other person first a sign of strength or a sign of weakness?  On one hand, it takes a lot of character to attempt to reconcile with someone when the relationship is not going well.   On the other hand, it might be seen as “giving in” or not holding strong to your point of view if you are the first to reach out.

In this week’s Torah portion, Korach, we see Moses model the first approach.  Korach and some followers rebel against Moses when he appoints men from another family to positions of leadership.  As things get heated in the community, Moses decides to reach out to some of the rebels in order to open lines of communication and asks them to meet with him.

Does it matter whether they came or not?  In this case they did not.  However, that should have no effect on the initial decision to reach out.  For that step to reopen communication says much more about the one who asks than it does about the person who receives the request.  One could think of it as giving in.  However, it can also be seen as brave because if no one reaches out there is no chance to communicate, to work things out, or to move forward.  Reaching out is a risk that comes with a big potential reward, the renewing of a relationship.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about having the courage to reach out to reconcile.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Do you think that reaching out is a sign of strength or weakness?
  • When was a time that you reached out to someone?
  • When was a time that someone reached out to you?
  • What do you do when you reach out and the other person does not respond?

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

COURAGE TO THINK DIFFERENTLY…

TORAH PORTION: SHELACH LECHA

shelach3Most likely you have found yourself in a group situation where your opinion simply does not match the group consensus? Do you speak your mind, or do you keep silent? If you choose to share your opinion, how do you go about introducing it? And if you remain quiet, do you think of it as being for the “good of the group”?

In this week’s Torah portion, Shelach Lecha, a group of scouts is sent out to report back on what lies ahead for the Israelites. When ten of the twelve scouts return, ten paint a dire picture that Caleb and Joshua do not agree with. They speak out positively against the report of the ten.

It can be difficult when we find ourselves with a different point of view from that of the larger group. Our tradition teaches us that the majority opinion is not the only one that matters. In fact, in the Talmud when there are lengthy debates that finally resolve, the text goes to great length to document the dissenting parties and their minority opinions as well. It can take a lot of strength to stand up for what you believe in, but it is important not to simply follow the trend. In fact, you are likely to find that if you share a differing opinion, others might start to speak up as well. It is a diversity of thought that leads to interesting conversations, creative solutions, and new possibilities.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT holding and sharing different opinions.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • When was a time that you held a different opinion from the group?
  • Did you share it? Why or why not?
  • How do you feel when someone in a group introduces a new perspective?
  • Do we have to follow people with whom we disagree?

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

PARENTS AS MODELS…

TORAH PORTION: NASO

Naso3When you live with someone, it’s difficult to become a model.  People who live together see one another’s flaws and weaknesses and all their inconsistencies.  Still, even with that reality, parents must be models for their children.  For better or worse, children learn how to be in the world from their parents.  Parents learn that it’s not what we instruct verbally, but what we do ourselves that is the most powerful teacher of all.

In this week’s Torah portion, the laws of a Nazarite are enumerated for someone who voluntarily takes on stringent rules for a defined period of time.  No wine, no cutting of one’s hair, no contact with the dead.  Samson was an example of a Nazarite whose goal was to achieve a higher-than-required level of holiness.

The example of the Nazarite discipline can lead us to reflect on what we can take on voluntarily to become a better model to our children, ethically and spiritually.  For example, we might think of refraining from speaking ill of our neighbors, friends and family, to commit to a greater level of honesty, or volunteer to do social justice work.  It’s important to choose a few specific areas and set achievable goals.  We don’t want to create the illusion that we are perfect.  That can only lead to disappointment and disillusionment.  It’s important to be honest with our children about our weaknesses even as we try to model our strengths.  If we aren’t open about our vulnerabilities, they are sure to notice!

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about areas of ethical behavior they can improve.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Who do you learn from?
  • Who are your heroes and models?
  • What do you learn from them?
  • What areas of your life would you like to improve?

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.

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.

CONSTANTLY FEEDING OUR INTERNAL SPARK…

TORAH PORTION: TZAV

tzav3Jewish learning is a continuous process of discovering the richness and relevance of our tradition.  Many people think learning can stop when school stops.  Stopping Jewish studies after 13 is all too common.

This week’s Torah portion, Tzav, instructs that a small fire must burn permanently on the Altar represent the desire within each of us to connect to something bigger and higher, just as a fire always reaches upwards.  This small flame also reminds each of us that we have a spark to learn and improve within us.  It is our responsibility to nurture our spark by feeding it through continued learning.

The smallest commitment today to Jewish learning and knowledge can feed a blaze for generations.  Our books, texts, and traditions bring new meaning to us at different stages of our life.  An easy way to re-start our Jewish journey is to visit www.myjewishlearning.com and explore its rich treasures of information.  Consider signing up for one or more of their special interest weekly emails.  Let’s show our children why exploring our traditions is important by displaying our own passion for constant learning.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the value of being life-long learners.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Did you know that the brilliance and wisdom of the Torah’s values/ethics are available to everyone, disbeliever or believer?
  • Did you know that our Torah is a great collection of wisdom that has positively affected other religions and even the founding fathers of America?
  • Did you know that Jewish wisdom is relevant to EVERONE’S life today?  (A small example is “a day of rest each week”.  Before our Torah, nobody divided time into weeks.  All time was in months based on the moon.)

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.