Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics for Balak

TEMPTATIONS…

TORAH PORTION: BALAK

balak2It is hard to resist temptation. In order to do so, one must have a strong sense of right and wrong and be able to assess the situation rationally. Temptation exists everywhere in our world in varying degrees. Sometimes it comes in the question of an extra piece of dessert. Sometimes it is a less than honest way to get a better grade, and sometimes it takes even a more serious form. But there is always a price when we give in to temptation, and that price is transgressing one of our own values or ethics. In the case of the candy, it might be a promise to oneself to eat healthier, and in the case of the grades it is honesty.

In this week’s Torah portion, Balak, the Israelites are camped in the desert near the Midianites. The Israelites find themselves tempted in many ways by this foreign culture. They are drawn to their foreign food, their foreign gods, and their foreign women. They indulge their temptations, and it causes havoc in the community.

Our tradition and our lives are full of stories of temptation. People weaken for financial gain, or we become so absorbed in ourselves that we ignore people we care about. Whatever temptation lies on one end of the scale, there is a value that we hold dear on the other. It is important that we know what our values are so that we can make sure that they outweigh the temptations we encounter.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about using their values to avoid temptation.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What are some things that tempt you?
  • What do you do to resist those temptations?
  • Are their temptations that you give in to?
  • How do you decide which temptations are “OK” and which are not?

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

JEALOUSY…

TORAH PORTION: BALAK

balakHow do you react when your friend wins a prize or gets a promotion? A common reaction is jealousy. You may feel deficient when you see your neighbor or friend with something that you don’t have. It’s sometimes difficult to remember that all of us have our own set of circumstances that we need to acknowledge and accept. You may be jealous of her new car, while she is jealous that you can stay home all day.

In this week’s portion, Balak, the Moabite king hired a non-Jewish prophet named Balaam to curse the Jewish nation. Balaam understood that in order to curse the Jewish people he would need to see them. Seeing them he hoped would allow him to find something that would arouse the feelings of jealousy and anger he was looking for.

Jealousy is what results when we spend too much energy looking at what others have. Instead, we should be looking at ourselves and what we have, appreciating our blessings and aspiring for growth in all areas. Jealousy can paralyze us and force us to define ourselves by another person’s successes. We each have unique capabilities, physically and spiritually. We need to focus on what our true potential is and work towards that, instead of trying to get what someone else has.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about their unique strengths, abilities, and opportunities.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What are some things you wish you had?
  • Why do you want those things?
  • What mind set do you need to be genuinely happy for another’s success

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.