Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics for Ki Tissa

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.

WAITING…PATIENCE IS A COMPANION OF WISDOM

TORAH PORTION: KI TISSA

KiTisa2Waiting is difficult.  When a child waits, for instance, for a parent to come home, the time can feel excruciatingly long.  Patience comes, hopefully with age, and even then it’s a hard-earned attribute.

In our Torah portion the children of Israel wait forty days and forty nights for Moses to come down the mountain with the Torah.  They are anxious that Moses will never return to them, frightened that they will have no leader to lead them to the promised land.  They are so scared that they build themselves an idol, a golden calf to accompany them through the desert.  Descending from Mount Sinai, Moses witnesses his people worshipping the Golden Calf.  He becomes so angry that he hurls the  Ten Commandments he just received from God, to the ground and the stone tablets shatter into fragments.

For adults, being able to wait requires developing self-control.  Patience is an acquired skill.  How can we teach children to have patience?  It can be done little by little.  For example, a parent can leave a child with a new babysitter for a short amount of time and then lengthen the period over time.  A parent can work with a child to have patience in play as well, building more elaborate structures with blocks, for instance, as time goes on.  When a child becomes too frustrated, parents can scale back their expectations, making adjustments for the capacity of the child at that moment.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about how the children of Israel were unable to wait for Moses and built a golden calf in his absence.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • When is it hardest to wait?
  • When do you become frustrated?
  • What helps you when you are waiting?
  • Why is patience important?

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.

CHERISHING WHAT IS BROKEN…

TORAH PORTION: KI TISSA

ki-tissa3We are each our own harshest critics. It is very easy to see our own flaws and what we could do better. We dwell on things in ourselves that others don’t even notice. But this does not prevent us also from seeing flaws in those around us. Often it is easy to focus on what is not as we would like. But these flaws, like veins in a beautiful gem, are what remind us that we are each unique creations. Imagine how boring the world would be if we were all perfect and no butterfly were brighter or duller than another.

Furious because the Children of Israel had built the Golden Calf in his absence, Moses threw the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments to the ground nearly immediately after receiving them. They shattered into a million pieces. What happened to the shattered tablets? The obvious thing to do would have been to throw them away. But they were swept up and collected. They were kept and cherished alongside the new tablets that God commanded Moses to make.

In the parashah, when the tablets were broken, we picked them up and valued the pieces. So too, with ourselves, we ought to cherish these broken pieces, these pieces that we maybe wish weren’t there. The broken pieces of tablets are a metaphor for the parts of ourselves that are less than perfect. These parts are sacred and we need to “pick them up”, with honor, in our life’s journey.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about why they might have kept the broken tablets.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Have you ever kept a toy even though it was broken? Why?
  • What is one thing about yourself that you could try to like more?
  • How can we learn to be more patient with ourselves and each other?

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.