Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics for Bamidbar

ORDER VS. DISORDER…

TORAH PORTION: BAMIDBAR

Bambidar2There are so many ways that we can make sure that we get the most out of our actions. Our lives are busy and, in our rush to get things done, we risk expending lots of unnecessary energy. When there is little time, what can we do to make sure that we are still creating meaningful moments and maximizing our potential? One way to do that is to create order and build rituals into our everyday lives.

In this week’s Torah portion, Bamidbar, the Israelites do just that. When traveling in the desert they need to set up their camps. This is no small feat since they must organize so many different things, among them the people, the tents and the ark itself. They manage this by creating a ritual for setting up the camp. This is not a religious ritual, but rather a system put in place to help manage day-to-day events.

Ritual is important in our lives. Whether setting aside time to have dinner as a family, implementing a system to manage the morning rush, or knowing that Wednesday night dinner is spaghetti – when we build order into our lives, we begin to manage the seemingly overwhelming tasks and take comfort in knowing that there are some things that will remain constant in our hurried lives. Sometimes rituals can ground us, adding a sense of calm, and sometimes they can push us, giving us a structure to help us manage all that we take on.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the rituals your family has created.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What is a family ritual that helps you?
  • Is there a family ritual you would like to create?
  • Do you have individual rituals that get you through the week?
  • Where is one place in your life being more organized would help you
    to succeed?

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

BOOOORING…

TORAH PORTION: BAMIDBAR

Bambidar1Kids hate whatever they think is boring.  However, as it turns out, much of what’s important in life is not fun-filled and exciting.  While much of a child’s school day can be interesting (one hopes!), memorizing facts is simply rote.  While family life can be fun, chores around the home are not.  There are plenty of highs and lows in life, but most of life falls right in between.

The Torah parsha this week, Bamidbar, begins the tale of the Israelites wandering through the wilderness.  They have already been through the excitement of escaping from Egypt and receiving the Torah at Sinai.  Now, they are simply traipsing through the desert, as they will be for the next forty years.  But the Israelite journey through the desert is more than just wandering.  It is a time for testing limits, for growth and renewal.  It is a time for consolidating their identity as a nation and their relationship with God.

It’s important to teach kids to appreciate the “boring” moments of life.  In working through the boredom there is much to learn: patience and fortitude, to name two important character traits.  When they complain of being bored, we, as parents, should be wary of solving their “boredom” for them.  Instead, let them work out for themselves the “problem” of boredom.  In this way they can learn to tolerate boredom, or at least work through it by themselves and see their way to what’s valuable in the less exciting moments of life.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the wandering of the Israelites through the wilderness on their way to the promised land, and what this journey might signify for their lives today.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What do you find boring?
  • What do you do when you are bored?  Does whining or complaining help?
  • Why might it be important to be bored sometimes?

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.

LEARNING FROM ADVERSITY…

TORAH PORTION: BAMIDBAR

Bambidar3A mother hovers over her young son climbing on monkey bars.  A thirteen year-old girl’s parents won’t let her walk alone to the school bus stop two blocks away.  Another parent decides what her children wear to school each day.  Parents of course have the job of protecting their kids, but the question is how much should they protect.  Should parents always step in when the homework is rough?  Should parents call another child’s parent when their son or daughter is having a conflict with that child? Keeping children in a hothouse for all of childhood, not allowing them to venture out on their own and face challenges, stunts emotional growth.

This week’s Torah portion begins the fourth book of the Bible, Bamidbar.  While the English name for the book is Numbers, the Hebrew name is translated as “wilderness”.  The children of Israel wander around the wilderness for 40 years, a journey to the promised land which should have taken them several weeks.  But the children of Israel had been slaves for 400 years, and they needed to grow out of their slave consciousness in order to have the maturity to create an ethical society in the land of Canaan.  They needed to face the obstacles and challenges of the desert.  At times they had no food or water.  They lost confidence in their leader.  They faced battles.  They didn’t believe they would survive in the promised land.  They were terrified.  They often yearned to go back to Egypt where they had the security of knowing what came next.  But before they were ready to fulfill their dreams, they needed to face themselves in the wilderness and grow up as a people.

Parents too need to let their children face themselves.  We are not responsible to fill up every minute of our child’s day.  At times they should be left alone to fend for themselves.  We can help, but in the end we need to make clear that children can and should make decisions about how to spend their free time.  We can talk to them about conflicts at school and friends, but unless the situation is dangerous or abusive, it’s optimal if we let them figure out how to respond to their issues.  Of course we should listen and encourage.  But for the sake of their own development, we need to let them venture out on their own, sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about what they are ready to do more independently.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What do you think you can do for yourself and when do you need a parent’s help?
  • How have you dealt with obstacles or failures in the past?  What might help you in the future?
  • What makes you feel stronger inside?

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.