Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics for Naso

MISTAKES MAKE GREAT LESSONS…

TORAH PORTION: NASO

Naso2Everyone makes a mistake once in a while. It’s natural to try to run from mistakes, cut losses, hope nobody notices or makes a fuss, and move on. In reality, though, our mistakes are precious opportunities. They give us insight into life and ourselves and allow us to become stronger by learning to avoid the same pitfalls in the future.

In this week’s Torah portion, Naso, we learn about the comeback process after making a big mistake. The verse introduces the topic with the words “And when you shall…”, not “if you shall…”. Mistakes are a built in feature of life and they happen for a very good reason. When they do happen there’s an acknowledgment of error and a process of improvement.

We like to think of ourselves as good people, which we usually are. That doesn’t mean we’re perfect though. Life is a journey of growth and development, and we can only grow if we know where we are deficient. A mistake supplies that piece of the puzzle. Our mistakes teach us what not to do in the future and shine a light on character traits we can improve. Sometimes they can be funny, too!

TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT the how to benefit by learning from mistakes.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Did you ever learn something from a mistake?
  • Have you ever made the same really bad mistake twice?
  • What’s better: avoiding embarrassment for a few minutes by denying a mistake (even if you’re just fooling yourself) or gaining the confidence of having learned something?

By Rabbi Moshe Becker © 2012 Joyce and Fred Claar

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

WHEN THE GREEN-EYED MONSTER VISITS…

TORAH PORTION: NASO

Naso1Jealousy is a powerful force.  Adults and children are both vulnerable to this feeling, but children are especially prone to being jealous of their friends: “He has the more expensive sneakers”, “She has straight hair”, “He’s taller than I am”, “She’s a faster runner”.  The litany continues ad infinitum.

In this week’s Torah portion a husband is jealous about his wife’s suspected infidelity.  The Torah goes to great lengths to set out an elaborate procedure aimed at allaying his jealousy.   In this way the Torah acknowledges what a destructive force jealousy can be.

To address this in our children, we must first become models for them.  Try to refrain from comparing oneself to one’s friends and neighbors.  Ask yourself: do we live within our means or are we trying to keep up with our neighbors?  In this very competitive society that we live in, people not only compare themselves with others, but they often compare their children’s accomplishments to those of their friends’ children.  No wonder that our children compare themselves to others!  If we ourselves refrain from engaging in this comparison game, when our children compare themselves to others, we can encourage them to focus on what they are and have, rather than what others are and have.  Rabbinic wisdom declares “Who is rich?  One who is happy with what he has.”

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the feelings of jealousy and comparing themselves to others.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What makes you jealous?
  • What do you think might help you to be less so?
  • Has jealousy ever prompted you to say or do something that you regret?
  • Have you ever tried to provoke jealousy in others?

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.

PARENTS AS MODELS…

TORAH PORTION: NASO

Naso3When you live with someone, it’s difficult to become a model.  People who live together see one another’s flaws and weaknesses and all their inconsistencies.  Still, even with that reality, parents must be models for their children.  For better or worse, children learn how to be in the world from their parents.  Parents learn that it’s not what we instruct verbally, but what we do ourselves that is the most powerful teacher of all.

In this week’s Torah portion, the laws of a Nazarite are enumerated for someone who voluntarily takes on stringent rules for a defined period of time.  No wine, no cutting of one’s hair, no contact with the dead.  Samson was an example of a Nazarite whose goal was to achieve a higher-than-required level of holiness.

The example of the Nazarite discipline can lead us to reflect on what we can take on voluntarily to become a better model to our children, ethically and spiritually.  For example, we might think of refraining from speaking ill of our neighbors, friends and family, to commit to a greater level of honesty, or volunteer to do social justice work.  It’s important to choose a few specific areas and set achievable goals.  We don’t want to create the illusion that we are perfect.  That can only lead to disappointment and disillusionment.  It’s important to be honest with our children about our weaknesses even as we try to model our strengths.  If we aren’t open about our vulnerabilities, they are sure to notice!

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about areas of ethical behavior they can improve.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Who do you learn from?
  • Who are your heroes and models?
  • What do you learn from them?
  • What areas of your life would you like to improve?

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.