Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics for Nitzavim

OUR ANCESTORS BEFORE US…

TORAH PORTION: NITZAVIM

Appreciating What We Have Inherited & What We Control

Nitzavim1

Many of us approach parenthood as if we and our children were clean slates. As if, with some coaching from our friends and relatives, and a few good books, we can be exactly the kind of parents we wish to be and our children will turn out exactly how we want them to be. But it doesn’t often, or ever, turn out that way. We are heavily influenced by the way we were brought up, as well as by many factors not totally in our control. Our health, our socioeconomic situation, and the health and character of our children play a large role in our lives and our children’s lives.

In this week’s portion, Nitzavim, Moses declares that God has made a covenant, not only with the current generation, but with generations that came before as well as with future generations. Thus we are part of a long link, connecting us backwards and forwards. It’s not all about us and our own current generation. Rather, our lives depend on those who came before us and bear responsibility to those who come after us.

It’s important to teach our children to think about what they’ve inherited and is largely out of their control, and what is up to them to shape. For example, they may have been born Jewish, but what will they do with that Jewish identity? They may have no choice concerning what family they are born into, but what relationships will they forge to their extended family, their parents, and their siblings? It’s up to us, as usual, to model for our children, navigating with grace what we inherit and what we pass on, what is in our control and what is out of our control.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about what they inherited and what they can control.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What are some of the traits and talents you received from parents and grandparents?
  • How do you plan to take advantage of these gifts you have received?
  • Which of your personality traits and your abilities would you want your children to have?

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.

IT IS NOT BEYOND REACH…

TORAH PORTION: NITZAVIM

nitzavim2It’s not too hard, we tell our children, when they want to do something new. It just takes some effort and practice and sometimes courage to do it. It can be difficult, though, to tolerate seeing our children struggle. If we protect our children from struggle and from learning new skills that they are not immediately good at, they won’t understand that taking on new projects requires patience, effort and perseverance.

In our Torah portion this week it says, “It is not in the heavens”; in other words, what the Torah instructs is not beyond us to accomplish. Although much effort is required, the ethical and spiritual precepts of the Torah are eminently attainable as well as rewarding.

It is important that our children see us taking on new and difficult projects. The new project can be as specific as learning a new instrument, or as amorphous as committing oneself to an ethical precept, such as honesty. They will learn from our modeling that some struggle is inherent in accomplishment, even in adulthood. When appropriate, share with your children your struggles so they know what it’s like to strive for something important.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about some of their dreams for what they would like to accomplish.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What new thing would you like to try?
  • What things, if any, are you afraid to try?
  • What makes it difficult to try?
  • Have you ever found something to be worth the effort even though you could not fully accomplish what you wanted?

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.

CHOOSE LIFE…

TORAH PORTION: NITZAVIM

nitzavimIs smoking good for you? Most sane people will tell you that it’s not, including people who themselves are smokers! Isn’t it strange that we sometimes consciously make choices that are bad for us?

In this week’s Torah portion, we are instructed by Moses to choose life. Why do we need to be instructed to do the obvious? The Torah recognizes that, although we may very well know what is good for us and what is not, we still need to be reminded to make the right choices.

Overeating, drugs, and smoking are all harmful activities. Yet countless people engage in them all the time. It’s not enough for parents and educators to simply convey that smoking or excessive drinking is dangerous. Youngsters cannot always comprehend the long-term consequences of their actions, so we must actively remind children and students to make proper choices. Choosing life isn’t always easy.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about making choices based on long-term good as opposed to short-term pleasure.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What are some reasons we do things that are bad for us?
  • How can we learn to “choose life” when challenged?
  • Talk about the slippery slope: what’s wrong with just one joint, etc.?

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.