Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics for Ekev

CONTROLLING ANGER…

TORAH PORTION: EKEV

ekev2What do you do when you get angry? Slam a door? Yell at someone? Just sulk? Well, if you never get angry, that’s fantastic. However, most of us do struggle with feelings of anger. We are confident that everything should be the way we want it, and when things go awry, we become insecure and angry.

This week’s Torah portion, Ekev, encourages us to disavow idol worship in all its forms, even physically destroy idols. Sometimes though, the ‘idol’ isn’t really an image or sculpture; it is ourselves. Anger is a self-centered indulgence, a modern form of idolatry.

Anger is our reaction to things not going the way we think they should. I’ve put myself and my wants on such a high pedestal that nothing else matters. I’m so sure that things should go my way that, when they don’t, I feel threatened and out of control. I’ll attempt to exercise my control over something else to compensate. I may break an object or yell at someone to regain a feeling of security. All I see is myself. In that case my idol is what looks back at me in the mirror.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the ways they handle feelings of anger.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Talk about a few things that have made you angry.
  • How could you have reacted differently?
  • Is it ever good to get angry?
  • Is it possible to think rationally about anger while you’re getting angry?
  • Does taking a break before responding help to calm you down?

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.

PARENTS ARE POWERFUL TEACHERS…

TORAH PORTION: EKEV

ekev1When we teach our children, we don’t only teach them with our words. We teach them with every act we do; in fact, we teach them with who we are at heart. If we go through life angry or resentful, our children will learn anger and resentment. If we go through life critical and judgmental, our children will learn criticism and judgment. Or, if we go through life with love and joy, our children will learn love and joy.

In our Biblical portion it says that we should teach the words of the Torah “when you stay at home and when you are on your way, when you lie down and when you get up”. In other words, wherever we are, each and every one of our actions is a teaching moment, an educational opportunity. In fact, these words comprise a part of the all-important words of the Shema, the Jewish prayer said twice daily as well as before bedtime and before death.

There are so many teaching moments we probably don’t think about as teaching moments. If we pack to go on a trip at the last minute and we are full of anxiety and pressure, that communicates one lesson. If we, however, pack in advance, and feel relaxed and confident about the journey we are to take, that communicates another. When we are outside our home, if we greet people with joy and an open heart, we are teaching our children to do the same. However, if we pass people by on the street never stopping because we are in a rush, that imparts yet another kind of lesson. If we stop on the street because someone needs help, that imparts a lesson concerning what kind of neighbors we can be in this world. Of course we can’t be perfect, and parents can be stressed for a multitude of reasons. Yet it’s important to keep in mind that every moment is a potential teaching moment and to do our utmost to be the best models we can be.

TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN about what others learn from their actions. They are models for their friends and siblings.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What are some of the things you learn from your parents? How do you learn these lessons?
  • What do you think are some of the most important things you learn from your parents?
  • What do you teach others? What do you teach your friends and your brothers or sisters?
  • What do you learn from your friends and from your brothers or sisters?

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.

EXPRESSING GRATITUDE…

TORAH PORTION: EKEV

ekevWe lead blessed lives. Many of us have so many things to be proud of: our children, our job, the home we live in, and the list goes on. But it is often easy to get caught up in what we don’t have: if only I had received the promotion, if only our house were a little bigger. It is easy to miss the blessings amidst what we feel is lacking. Often we find ourselves demanding, “If only such-and-such were better in my life” or “Why can’t this be easier?” Yes, it is good to be striving, but being aware of our blessings can make our lives even more blessed.

In this week’s Torah portion, Ekev, Moses instructs the Israelites to be grateful for all the blessings in their lives, especially for each meal. We thank our hosts for meals, so why not thank God for making it all possible? Gratitude for what we have is a cornerstone of Judaism. This emotion should be valued by all people, even if they are not at all religious.

It is disconcerting for us to see when people are not grateful for the blessings in their lives. What great blessings in our lives do we overlook because something else has gone wrong? It is easy to overlook good health when one is healthy. It is easy to overlook the blessing of having family close by when they can get on our nerves. It is easy to overlook the blessing of a quiet evening in a busy week.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the value of gratitude in their lives.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Why is it hard to be grateful sometimes?
  • What would make it easier for you to be grateful?
  • How can you help each other notice the blessings in your 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.