Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics for Exodus

GIVING IS JUSTICE IN ACTION…

TORAH PORTION: VA-YAK HEL

VKH-P3Giving charity is for everyone. Tzedakah, the Hebrew word for charity, actually correctly translates as justice. Whether one has a lot or a little, giving is an integral part of a Jewish life. Even the poor are required to give a little charity. Money, food, our time, out-grown clothes, older toys, all can be useful to others in need. A community is only as strong as the willingness of its members to help each other.

This week’s Torah portion, Vayakhel, stresses that every member of the community must participate in contributing to the building of the Mishkan, or Tabernacle. All Jews are called upon to be ‘generous of spirit’ and donate to the Tabernacle construction. All can be generous of spirit even with a small contribution.

We should think of our money, time, and possessions as tools we can use, beyond our own needs, to benefit others. When we are willing to stand up and be counted for a charitable cause or for helping individuals in need, we become ‘generous of spirit’ and display gratitude for what we have.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the importance of helping others and being a part of a strong community.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Why is charity important?
  • How does the giver benefit from giving charity?
  • How can small amounts make a big difference? (Think of a savings account after many years.)
  • Is it necessary to be recognized by others when giving?

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.

REJUVENATE YOURSELF WEEKLY…

TORAH PORTION: KI TISSA

KiTisa1Our lives are full of commitments, responsibilities, school, and work. Often we are caught up in the demands of our lives and easily forget to focus on what is most important to us: our families and our “inner selves”. When the pressure of our daily life takes us over without a break, difficulties often eventually strike.

Thousands of years ago, before the Torah, time was broken only into months by the moon. The Torah introduced the concept of weeks for the first time in history. Not only did the Torah break time into weeks, it also created, for the first time, the concept of a day of rest each week, Shabbat. Shabbat sanctifies time and is the antidote to our busy pressure-filled lives, presenting us with limits that are healthy for us. Shabbat allows us time to express gratitude for our blessings, time to relax and enjoy our family and community.

Celebrating Shabbat is not always easy. It is a worthwhile challenge to cut back a busy pressure-filled life, but it can not be accomplished overnight. Think about celebrating Shabbat as learning a musical instrument. Nobody goes from a beginner to expert immediately. Start with small doable steps like part of the day at first. On Shabbat do things that are different from other days, making your rest special. Your body, soul, and family require rejuvenation. Give them all a break.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the value of having sacred time in their lives each week.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Do you think a day of rest each week is a good idea?
  • How could you begin to bring sacred time each week into your life?
  • What goals would you like to accomplish in special sacred time weekly?

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.

LET EVERYONE SHINE…

TORAH PORTION: TETZAVEH

Tetzevah2We all have talents and abilities, as do our siblings and friends. At times we have difficulty recognizing a sister’s talents; at other times we may be jealous of a sibling’s unique capabilities. We must develop the confidence in our own roles to the point that we can let our brothers and sisters shine.

This week’s Torah portion teaches us about the appointment of Aaron as High Priest and of his descendants as priests forever. This is a permanent and dramatic role that is being granted to Aaron and his family. Moses, who spent his life fighting for the freedom of the Jewish nation, does not receive this honor. The descendants of Moses receive no particular place in the future of the Jewish nation. Yet Moses readily and happily steps aside to allow Aaron to come forth and to shine in his priestly glory.

Families are made up of individuals, but together those individuals form a unit. Just as our bodies have different limbs for different functions, but is still one body, so does a family have different members with different strengths. Allowing each individual’s particular talents to find expression strengthens the entire unit. By acknowledging and celebrating a sibling’s personality, we not only affirm his or her importance as an individual but strengthen ourselves as well. All get their day in the sun – if we let them!

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about how each family member has unique talents and that, like Moses, we all need to know when to step aside and let others shine.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What are some unique strengths your siblings have?
  • What is a unique strength you have?
  • Is it hard to think of or acknowledge the strengths of others?
  • What can you do to help affirm a sibling’s talents?

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.

INSULTS LEAVE A LASTING IMPACT…

TORAH PORTION: MISHPATIM

MISHPATIM2We must carefully value our speech. Words are a powerful tool. They can bring people closer or they can distance them. They can hurt or they can heal. Whether we are speaking to a family member, a friend, a teacher, a neighbor, or a stranger, our words always have an impact. Even if the person we’re speaking to doesn’t seem to care, everyone is affected by our tone and manner of speaking. If we are often insulting or disrespectful, we become a problem both to others and to ourselves.

This week our Torah portion emphasizes that the words we speak to others have definite consequences. In a moment of anger, a person may lash out and say something unacceptable. The Torah is telling us to be very careful and to measure our words, for insults are easy to give but hard to retract. This topic is so very important to Judaism that our prayer services always emphasize the importance of proper speech.

Learning to speak in a thoughtful and considerate way takes repeated practice throughout life. When we are tired, upset, or distracted, a quick insulting remark or response is possible. Speech may insult others not only in what we say, but also in the tone of voice we choose. We all get angry and are easily susceptible to feeling attacked. Therefore, we all need tools to remind us to speak kindly and thoughtfully so that we can learn to avoid verbal damage.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT being aware of the lasting impact insults can have in their speech.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • In what way can speech be used positively?
  • In what way can speech be used negatively?
  • How should one speak if angry or feeling attacked?
  • What’s the best way to react if you’re insulted by someone?

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.

LEARNING FROM EVERYONE…

TORAH PORTION: YITRO

Yitro2Intelligence may be in our genes, but wisdom is certainly not. A person becomes wise when he or she realizes that everything in his or her life is an opportunity to learn something. Everything that happens to us and everyone we know (yes, everyone) can teach us something.

In our portion we find Moses listening carefully to, and implementing, the suggestion of Jethro. Moses was the greatest of all prophets. He communicated directly with G-d and was given the Torah. Not only was Jethro not a prophet, he was Moses’s father-in-law! Yet Moses had the humility and the wisdom to heed Jethro’s advice on how most efficiently to reorganize the courts by appointing a middle level of Judges.

We all excel at something. Some people excel at many things. No matter how accomplished we are, there is always more to learn. The lessons often come in unexpected and surprising ways when people are willing to see life as a learning experience. The people we learn from need not be our peers or superiors in intelligence. Each and every person we interact with can teach something. If we are open to learning the ‘unconventional’ lessons of life, we become wise and inspire those around us to wisdom as well. Let’s turn intelligence into wisdom!

TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT the importance of being open to learning from everyone.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Name something positive you have learned from a friend.
  • Name something you have learned from a sibling.
  • Have you ever learned something important when you were not expecting to?
  • Name something you have learned from a person you did not know before.

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.