Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics for Bereshit

SIBLING RIVALRY…

TORAH PORTION: BERESHIT

bereshit1Family tensions are easily created between siblings. Feeling overshadowed because of the accomplishments of our brother or sister, or feeling overlooked by parents, are frequent causes. How can we avoid these common family dilemmas?

This week’s Torah portion, Bereshit, includes the story of Cain and Abel and man’s first violent act: a lashing out of brother against brother based on family tension, jealousy and perceived favoritism. When Cain is asked, after he killed Abel, where his brother is, he answers, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The Torah is clearly teaching that the answer is definitely YES to Cain’s question.

What can we do in our families to reduce tensions, manage jealousies, and create positive family dynamics? Recognize the special qualities of each child. Let children know how much each is appreciated by the whole family for his or her uniqueness. Parents need to be careful about expressing favoritism by balancing praise with sensitivity to the feelings of their other children. When kids know that their parents appreciate and love them for who they are, they have a better chance of dealing with the inequities they  will face in the outside world without directing anger at their siblings. Children should be taught by parents to value their brothers and sisters as family forever and life-long friends.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about ways to create healthy family dynamics.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What are some of the things you like about the way your family functions?
  • What are some things that you would like to change?
  • How do you discuss things when there are problems?
  • Do you feel heard and appreciated in your family?
  • How can you and your family all work together to respect each other?

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.

WHEN RULES ARE BROKEN…

TORAH PORTION: BERESHIT

bereshit1All families have rules. There comes a time in every person’s life when he or she breaks a rule. How we deal with infractions is essential. As parents we need to think about whether consequences are enforced and if we’re consistent.

The first portion of the Torah, Genesis, has much to teach us about rule breaking. One of the first things God tells Adam is not to eat from the tree of knowledge. Yet the first story about Adam and Eve together is a story about their breaking this rule. Rule breaking seems to be simply part of who we are, part of what it means to be human.

Each time we break a rule presents an opportunity. A parent can help a child transform a broken rule into an opportunity for taking responsibility. Besides setting appropriate consequences for actions, discussions can help this process. Talking about what children did wrong, why they did it, and if they are able to tell the truth about their actions are important discussions to have. Mutual understanding is a key to moral development. Parental discipline ultimately becomes self-discipline.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about Adam and Eve and their first rule. Discuss why they might have broken it.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Which rules are the hardest for you to keep? Why?
  • What do you think rules are for?
  • What can we learn about self-control to help us resist the temptation to break rules?
  • What do you do if you think a rule is unfair or needs changing?
  • What are the consequences of losing control and giving in to temptation?

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.

SAYING NO TO TEMPTATIONS…

TORAH PORTION: BERESHIT

bereshit2We are surrounded by things that tempt us. Unhealthy foods, video games, and gossip are just a few of the things enticing us. It’s hard to make the decision to eat healthily. Or to not play “just one more round!” Or to keep from spreading a juicy piece of news.  When confronted with a temptation, we know what the right decision is, but in the moment, it can be so hard to stay connected to our values, be they healthful eating, productive use of time, or not engaging in lashon hara or gossip.

In this week’s Torah portion we have one of the most famous – and fateful –examples of someone giving in to a temptation. In the Garden of Eden, God told Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and bad. But the snake tempts Eve, and she eats from the tree. Eve was tempted because she forgot about consequences and saw that the tree was appetizing and a source of wisdom. Shortsighted, Eve fell to temptation because she thought only of immediate gratification.

When we give in to small temptations, our consequences might not be as grave as Eve’s, but they also take a toll on us. When we know that something is important to us, but continually give in to temptation, we stop valuing that thing. We lose the long-term value in place of instant gratification. Not giving in to temptations helps us to clarify our values and stick to our convictions.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about how to stay “No” to temptations.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What are some things that tempt you?
  • What are temptations that you should say “No” to?
  • How can you try to avoid or overcome some of your temptations?
  • Does thinking long-range help us to handle temptations in our lives?

By Rabbi Judith Greenberg

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