Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics for Mi-Ketz

SELF-ESTEEM…

TORAH PORTION: MIKETZ

Self-EsteemWe naturally want to make life good for our children. We may be uncomfortable seeing them struggle with homework, and we give them a little more help than we should. Deep down we know that, when they complete the task themselves, they’ll feel much better about themselves and will have learned a lot more about the material and their abilities.

Joseph was abducted and sold by his brothers into slavery. Years later in this week’s Torah portion, when he has become viceroy to the King of Egypt and wields tremendous power, his brothers come to Egypt from Canaan to buy food for their families. As they enter to be interviewed by Joseph, he immediately recognizes his brothers, but they do not know him. Instead of immediately revealing himself or punishing them, he puts them through a series of tests. He gives them the opportunity to show that they had learned to look out for each other and put differences aside. He allows them to redeem themselves in his own eyes and in the eyes of their father Jacob.

The most important thing we give our children is life. The second most important gift we can give them is a healthy self-esteem to enable them to make the most of the life we gave them. Joseph chose the long route, the one that allowed the brothers to look at him, at their father, and at themselves once again. Sometimes we have to be willing to guide our children through a slow process instead of jumping in and fixing things for them, even if it’s difficult for us to watch. Perhaps that means pushing children to complete projects they have chosen or encouraging them to resolve a spat on their own. Give them opportunities to view themselves as successes.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the empowerment of knowing one’s abilities.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Give an example of something you think you are good at doing.
  • Give an example of something you know you could become better at doing.
  • What is the difference between self-esteem and inflated ego?
  • How do self-esteem and humbleness relate?

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.

GROWTH THROUGH FORGIVENESS – RECONCILIATION, NOT REVENGE…

TORAH PORTION: MI-KETZ

GrowthThroughForgivenessAll families experience strife at one point or another. There might be a distancing of siblings, a child angry at a parent, or a parent angry at a child. It’s important that we move past this angry distancing toward reconciliation.

In this Torah portion Joseph takes revenge on his brothers for throwing him into a pit and selling him into slavery. No wonder. His pain was sufficient to make anyone want to take revenge. When his brothers travel to Egypt to obtain grain for their family in the face of a famine, the brothers have no idea that the powerful man who stands before them dispensing grain is none other than Joseph himself. Joseph takes advantage of his secret identity and throws Judah into jail and then threatens to enslave Benjamin. Judah, however, in our next portion, courageously approaches Joseph. He makes it clear that, if he and his brothers don’t return home with Benjamin his father will be grievously hurt. Joseph is overcome with emotion. “I am your brother Joseph” he says, “he whom you sold into Egypt”. With that Joseph and his brothers have an emotional reconciliation—Joseph weeps and embraces his brothers.

Judah’s courage in approaching Joseph allowed Joseph to move away from revenge toward reconciliation. That powerful but simple caring gesture reached underneath Joseph’s rage and led him to reveal his identity. We like Judah can approach the other, and like Joseph we can forgive when our anger has cooled down.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about Joseph’s forgiveness of his brothers, overcoming his hurt and anger.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Is it hard to approach another family member after a fight?
  • What could make it easier?
  • Why do you think it’s important to forgive?

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.

MOVING BEYOND DENIAL…

TORAH PORTION: MI-KETZ

MovingBeyondDenialSometimes the truth is sitting right in front of us. Sometimes the solution to our problems is the palm of our hands, but we just can’t see it. Luckily, we don’t move through this world alone. We have friends, family, and teachers who can help us gain perspective on our own lives. We just need to learn to listen.

In this week’s Torah portion, Mi-Ketz, Joseph’s brothers are blinded by denial. They have come down to Egypt in search of food due to the famine in their own land. None of the eleven brothers can see that the Egyptian official in front of them is their brother, Joseph, whom they sold into slavery years ago, telling their father that he had died. They probably even convinced themselves that he had died. Joseph tries to give them a hint by seating them in age order, an order only a family member would know. But they are unable to notice this. It is not until Joseph, giving up on all subtleties, says to them,: “I am your brother Joseph,” that they realize who he is.

It took the shock of finding their long lost brother to open their eyes to reality. Do we miss important clues in our own lives? Do we hold back from new challenges because we are in denial about our abilities to handle the new challenge? All of us can break out of denial into reality, but it is hard to do alone. We each have people in our own lives who can help us break from unrealistic denial. Parents, teachers, brothers, and sisters are often able to help us see our own world properly. We just need to be open to them.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about what clues to their abilities they may be denying.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • When have you learned a lesson about yourself from a friend?
  • What makes it hard to listen when someone is giving you advice?
  • How can we learn to be more open?

By Rabbi Judith GreenbergTorah

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