Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics for Ki Taytzay




Kindness to others in children can begin with kindness to animals. Even though children can be fairly self-centered, exposure to animals can bring out the nurturing side of a child. At times, however,  children can also be cruel to insects or animals. These times provide an important opportunity for a lesson in the feelings of creatures other than human beings and can lead to greater kindness for other people as well.

Our current Torah portion forbids us from plowing with an ox and an ass together. Besides a concern for not mixing species together, plowing with an ox and an ass can be painful for the smaller animal who would suffer in this yoking. In this way the Torah shows humanitarian concern for animals.

Expose your children to animals and teach them how to care for them. Even if you can’t yourself have a pet for a child, you can visit pet stores and zoos and have your child learn about animals. Sometimes families who cannot own a pet can borrow a pet for the weekend. It’s important for children to be given opportunities to show caring for others.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the importance of being kind to animals.


  • What kind of animals do you like the best? The least?
  • Have you or anyone you know ever mistreated an animal?
  • Why do you think people would mistreat an animal?
  • Why do you think it’s important to be kind to animals?

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.



kitaytzay2How can we be sensitive to being influenced by, or influencing, those close to us? The behaviors we model for our children often repeat in their actions. Our expressed beliefs, the stories we tell, and the interests we pursue all have an impact on our children. We all know of families that have generations with the same hobbies, business interests, and views on life.

This week’s Torah portion, Ki Taytzay, introduces this idea of individual responsibility. There is in fact a verse that states that parents shall not be punished for the actions of their children, nor shall children be punished for the actions of their parents. This was a unique idea at the time, a true departure from judging individuals based on the actions of their families.

It can sometimes be difficult for us to step up and take responsibility for the choices that we make because it forces us to take ownership over the decisions. It is much easier for us to say that we made a choice because of what someone else said, what we read, or what we saw. It is true that our choices are shaped by our own experiences, but they are ultimately our choices, and the Torah is telling us that we must take responsibility for our actions.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about understanding that they are responsible for their actions.


  • Can you share a time that you did not take responsibility for your actions? Why didn’t you? What was the result?
  • When is a time that you did take responsibility for your actions although it may have been difficult?
  • What are some of the outside influences that help shape your choices?

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



ki-taytzay“You can run, but you can’t hide”. We all have our demons, the parts of ourselves that we wish were better or wish didn’t exist within us. The best way to deal with them is to acknowledge their reality, confront them, and challenge them. Only then do we stand a chance of working them out of our system.

This week’s Torah portion, Ki Taytzay, contains a wonderful mitzvah. We are instructed to return lost objects that we may find lying in the street. Though I may be appreciative of this when I am the owner who lost the wallet, it’s not always an easy mitzvah to fulfill when I’m the finder. The Torah therefore reminds us, “You shall not be able to ignore it”, a profound reminder of your obligation.

Addicts always lie about their addictions, even when it seems comical to the observer. Denying the reality of the addiction is an inherent part of the disease. When it comes to correcting mistakes or dealing with our issues of anger, bigotry, or even lesser things like a desire to get in shape, the first step is acknowledgment. The issue must be confronted directly. Don’t look for other people or situations to blame, and don’t make excuses for mistakes. Take ownership of the issue and tackle it. You can succeed at overcoming it.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about being not deceiving themselves.


  • Why does the Torah say that you won’t be able to ignore a lost object?
  • Who benefits from my action when I pick up the wallet and return it?
  • Give an example of something that you can choose to blame on a friend but could also take responsibility for.

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.