Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics for Beshalach

WHAT’S THE USE OF COMPLAINING?

TORAH PORTION: BESHALACH

WhatsTheUseOfComplaining“This is boring!” “When are we going to get there?”  “He has more toys than I do!” Children can get into the habit of complaining and whining again and again.  They often seem not to notice their many gifts and blessings and simply complain as if they live a life of hardship and deprivation, despite how much they have.

In this week’s Torah portion, the children of Israel do likewise. After passing through the Red Sea and arriving safely in the wilderness, the first thing they do is whine. “We don’t have any food or water!” “We’re going to die in the desert!” Though they are granted sweet water to drink and manna falls down from the sky, they continue to complain throughout their time in the wilderness. Their life in Egypt was a period of terrible hardship and enslavement, yet once in the wilderness, they recall it as a time when they had everything they needed.

How can parents help their children feel gratitude for the blessings in their lives, rather than focusing on what they don’t have or what is difficult? Perhaps parents can do a favor for their children by not responding to each complaint. Parents can also shift their own mindset to a sense of gratitude for all the good in their lives when there is an impulse to complain. Doing something as prosaic as keeping a gratitude journal or list makes us more attuned to what we do have than to what may be missing or in short supply. Even if hardship or illness has visited us or those we love, we can still be grateful for the many blessings we have. Stressing the positive aspects of our lives for our children, rather than reinforcing perceived negatives, can be a powerful role model.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the importance of focusing on their many blessings in life and not on what may be missing.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • For what things in your life are you grateful?
  • What do you wish was different in your life and why?
  • Does complaining get results or just release tension?
  • Do you admire people in ill health or in difficult situations who rarely complain?

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.

THE FAITH TO GO FORWARD…

TORAH PORTION: BESHALACH

FaithToGoForward

Woody Allen has said that 90% of life is showing up.  Maybe his number is too high but being willing to get involved, to step out, to show up, to make the phone call, to make the appointment, to introduce yourself, can bring outsized results.  Taking the initiative can give you momentum to carry you to your goals.

In our parsha this week the Israelites left Egypt and were cornered at the sea by on-rushing Egyptians. The Israelites were terrified and about to give up hope.  The only one who had the courage to walk into the sea and follow Moses’s instructions was a man named Nachshon.  As the story goes, he walked in past his ankles, past his knees, past his waist, and kept on going even though it didn’t seem that the water would ever recede.  Only when it was past his neck did the Red Sea open up, and because of him the children of Israel were able to pass through on dry land.

There are times when life is really difficult.  Issues can hit us from all sides. Whether it’s financial, academic or social or even of a more serious nature like disability, illness or loss, it can feel as if we are drowning in a sea of difficult problems.  But the way forward can be as simple as just going forward even though it may feel that one is walking straight into impossibility.  This takes faith that something will open up if one has the courage to go forward, to keep on going until something becomes just a little bit easier and a path becomes visible.

TALK TO YOU KIDS about the courage it takes to be like Nachshon, the first to walk into the Sea of Reeds.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Do you ever go first? Is it scary? What makes it so?
  • When do you think it is important to go first even when it is scary?
  • How many times have you missed opportunities because you did not show up or did not put yourself forward?
  • What issues in your life hold you back?
  • What are the best ways to address these issues?

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.

HUMILITY…

TORAH PORTION: BESHALACH

HumilityWhat gives us our sense of value? Is it our own accomplishments or others recognizing that we’ve achieved success? Is it possible to be humble and self-confident at the same time?

We can learn an important message from Moses. In this week’s portion, his authority was challenged by disgruntled members of the Jewish nation. Moses was well aware of his special relationship with God and the responsibility he carried as leader of the nation. Nonetheless, he truly did not view those achievements as reason for arrogance. Moses was a confident leader but a humble man, recognizing that everything he has is a gift and not an entitlement.

We all need to find this balance. We have innate talents and successes we’ve attained through hard work, but we can still be humble, but not with false or crippling humility that does not allow us to acknowledge our strengths. Humility is living with the understanding that we are simply doing our part by making a unique contribution to the world using the tools and strengths that God has given us. We all have those unique capabilities, so let’s respect ourselves and each other while remaining humble.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about how to take their own abilities seriously while not insisting that others also take them seriously.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What are you are good at, either naturally or through hard work?
  • If you’re confident about your strengths, does it matter if others don’t know?
  • Can you laugh at yourself?
  • Can making yourself small help you feel big inside?

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.