Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics for Bo

FAMILY STORIES FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION…

TORAH PORTION: BO

FamilyStoriesThere are certain stories we tell our children again and again — stories of our own growing up and how we came to be who we are and do what we do. Stories that our parents taught us, stories that often include immigration and making it in America, as well as how life used to be in the “olden” days, feed our children’s imagination, giving them a sense of who they are in the world as well as resources with which to face their own daily struggles. Those stories are telling (so to speak!) what we want to transmit to our children, and through them, to the following generations.

In our Torah portion this week, the plagues start, and it is a story that is to be told to our children and grandchildren. The story of our liberation from Egypt is our story of origin; it is how we came to be who we are as a people. In fact there are many Jewish rituals performed in the name of remembering that we were slaves in Egypt and were freed by God, including observing the Sabbath and the Passover Seder.

Storytelling is vital in any family, but it is important to be aware that there are different genres of storytelling, all vital in their own way. There are fairytales and myths and stories of what children face as they grow up. There are family stories, and then there are the stories of our people, the foundational stories that make up who we are collectively and are transmitted from generation to generation. Stories, for example, about what the Israelites experienced as slaves in Egypt and how they were delivered from slavery can promote moral development and create a sense that we belong to something larger. These stories remind us that we are an ancient people who have survived to this day to tell the tale.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about some of the foundational stories of your family and of the Jewish people.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What are your favorite stories?
  • What do you like best about your favorite?
  • Which stories do you like to tell?
  • Who are some of your favorite heroes?
  • Why is it important that we continue to tell stories?

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.

A STUBBORN HEART…

TORAH PORTION: BO

StubbornHeartAll of us become stubborn at times.  We don’t want to listen to what others are telling us about ourselves.  It’s hard to change and we resist.  None of us want to listen to difficult truths.

Likewise with Pharoah, the leader of Egypt, in our Biblical portion.  He didn’t want to listen to Moses.  He didn’t want to let the Israelites go.  He hardened his heart, so plague after plague ensued.

When we refuse to listen, life becomes harder.  We become “plagued” with problems.  But we can minimize stubbornness in ourselves and our children.  Gentleness is the key.  The more we push, the more others push back, the more stubbornness we encounter.  On the other hand, going softly might make for less resistance.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about how Pharaoh’s stubbornness caused great harm.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Have you ever wanted to make up with a friend, sibling, or parent, only to find it very difficult to bring yourself to do so?
  • What makes people become stubborn?
  • What can help family members be less stubborn?

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.

DO NOT BE LOCKED IN THE PAST…

TORAH PORTION: BO

BO3-DO NOT BE LOCKED IN THE PAST-483838701

There is a huge difference between living with the past and living in the past. You may have been cheated or verbally abused by someone close. A teacher’s words may have stung or a friend betrayed you. It is easy to be stuck with those memories of pain or hatred, but while we can’t change our past, we can certainly change our future.

G-d tells the Jewish nation that they are soon to leave Egypt, where they have been enslaved for over two hundred years, and He gives a curious instruction. The soon-to-be-free slaves are to approach their Egyptian neighbors – their masters – who will give them valuable gifts. This was not compensation for the years of misery the Jewish nation had endured. Precious gold and silver would not erase their memories, but it would take the sting off.

Receiving these gifts would allow the Jews, with time, to let go of the pain of their exile and move on to build their future. Have you heard the phrase “so-and-so lives in the past”? It’s what happens when one cannot let go of his or her experiences of the past and is unable to move forward. We must remember the past and learn from it without constantly reliving emotions and experiences that have long since passed. Truly great people are those who can retain the memories, yet learn from them and apply their lessons to the future.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about ways to let go of the past in a productive way. (Perhaps you know a Holocaust survivor who was able to build a new life.)

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Why do we like to hold on to feelings of anger or hate?
  • Can you give an example of a time that you held on to a grudge or remained angry for a long time?
  • Could you have learned something from that experience?

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.