Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics about Sharing – Page 2

SHARING WHAT WE HAVE…

TORAH PORTION: KI TAVO

kitavo1Many of us in this country have an overabundance of goodness in our lives. But sometimes in our society, with its saturation of goods and services, it is difficult to be aware of this abundance. If we have enough to eat, a place to sleep, and clothes to wear, we already have more than many people in the world. Becoming aware of how much we have, we naturally begin to think about what it means to give back to this world from which we’ve so plentifully received.

In this Torah portion we are required to take a tenth of our yield and give it to those who are needy: the stranger, the orphan and the widow. The Torah ensures that those who are needy are taken care of by their community.

Teaching children to give from what they have is also important. Can they give some of their toys and books and clothes to those needier than they are? Can they share what they have? Do you have a tzedakah (charity) box in your home and put aside something every week from allowance or income? It’s important to model giving from what we have to those who need it so that children can grow up having a sense of the importance of sharing what they have.

TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN about the importance of giving to others less fortunate.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Why do you think some people have more than others?
  • What are some of the ways you can give to others who are needy?
  • How do you feel when you give to others?

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.

GIVING TO THE NEEDY…

TORAH PORTION: RE-EH

re-eh1Caring about others and giving to the needy are important lessons for children to learn. Children, however, tend to be caught up in their own worlds, with their own needs for toys and games and other material wants. Their immediate wants and needs and keeping up with their friends makes it difficult to impart a lesson to children regarding giving to others.

The Torah is sensitive to the needs of those who have less than others and issues a mandate to help these persons. In this week’s Torah portion it says that we should not harden our hearts or shut our hands in response to the needy. Charity, tzedakah, is not just a matter of feeling philanthropic, but an act of justice in our world.

There are plenty of volunteer opportunities in our society that children can participate in — whether it’s building homes for the homeless, volunteering in a shelter, working in a soup kitchen, or taking part in a bake sale for earthquake relief. They can also accompany their parents when they give blood. The more you give, whether it’s through volunteer activities or through giving money, the more your children will witness the model of giving.

TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN about Tzedakah, the Jewish obligation to give to the needy.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Do you see poor people around you? How do you think we can help them?
  • What of your things might you share with those children who don’t have toys or games?
  • Have you ever volunteered to help the poor? What was that like for you?

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.

REMEMBER WHEN…

TORAH PORTION: MASEI

matot3Parents enjoy remembering the different stages of a child’s life. Taking pictures and putting together photo albums is a favorite activity of a parent with young children. Remembering, however, is more than just the fun of looking at enjoyable times and the cute faces of our children. Memories tell us where we come from, what we stand for, and how far we have come; they tell us which values are abiding over time.

In this week’s Torah portion Moses keeps a written record of the progress of the Israelites wandering through the desert. Each stage of their journey is written down. In this way the Israelites could always see where they came from and how far they still had to go. They literally “knew where they stood”.

It’s important to talk to your kids about your own memories of growing up and what you’ve learned along the way. At the same time, help them develop their memories by listening to them carefully when they start a sentence, “Remember when…”. It’s interesting to note what they remember and why. Memory is an important tool in the journey of childhood on the way to adulthood, a gauge of our lives telling us where we come from and who we are along the way.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about memories you have of growing up, in particular what you were like at their age and what you’ve learned from your parents and grandparents.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What are your earliest memories?
  • What is the importance of memories?
  • Whom do you want to remember?
  • What have you learned from family stories you have heard?

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.

SHARING THE WEALTH…

TORAH PORTION: BECHUKOTAI

Behar2Most Americans have warm homes and enough to eat.  Their children have many toys to play with.  And yet, there are many people here in America and around the world who don’t have enough.  Some of those people we pass on the street each day.  Others are living in the margins in substandard housing or shelters.  Children notice the discrepancies between those who have enough and those who don’t and try to make sense of it.  Early on in their lives children can learn what it means to try to help those who don’t have enough.

In this week’s Torah portion we learn about tithing.  Tithing is a sensible way to give to those who don’t have enough.  It means that you give a tenth of whatever you have to others who are needy.  Another manner of giving described is leaving the corners of one’s field un-harvested, so that the poor can come and glean with dignity.  While the Torah mandates giving, it mandates an amount that is reasonable to give away– one that leaves us with more than enough– so that we are more likely to fulfill the command of giving to the needy.

Children can learn early what it means to give. They can share toys and clothes they no longer wear.  They can sell lemonade outside or have bake sales and give part of the proceeds to charity.  Children can also give by volunteering their time in a soup kitchen or helping kids younger than themselves in a shelter or a literacy program.  It’s important to develop a life-long habit of giving.  Early on, children can learn a deep sense of responsibility to others, especially when one has more than required to live.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about giving charity and why it’s important.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What do you think our responsibilities are to those who have less than we do?
  • How can you give?  Which of your things could you share?
  • How does it make you feel when you help out someone else?

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.