Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics for Noah



noah3Snoopy begins each of his stories with the words “It was a dark and stormy night…”  Even if you’re not a beagle living on top of a red doghouse, life can often feel dark and stormy. Where do you go when you’re having a tough day? Whom do you turn to when you’re having a bad night? We often turn to our families to help us through the rough patches in life.

Like Snoopy, Noah had many dark and stormy nights. While it rained and poured for forty days and nights, Noah’s ark protected his family. Though the water raged and flooded the entire world, Noah’s wife and children remained secure. As a family, they made it through the flood safely and were able to start their lives again in peace.

Just as Noah and his family were protected from the flood by their ark, we also have our own arks that guard us from the dark and stormy world. Our families are our arks. We turn to our family when we need protection. Like an ark, our families provide us with shelter and guide us through life. However, in order to make sure that our ark feels safe for each family member, we need to watch how we speak to one another and pay attention to how we handle our differences. Maintaining peace and security in our own families helps us keep the stormy world at bay.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about ways we can make sure that our family feels safe, like an ark, for each family member.


  • How is our family like an ark? How can our family be more like an ark?
  • How can we make sure that our family is a safe space for each family member?
  • How do we maintain peace in our home and in our family?

By Yael Hammerman

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



How-hard-to-disciplineWhen your computer or smartphone misbehaves, often it just needs a reboot to get going again. At times that may be an extreme step. You may lose work or you don’t quite know what will happen on the restart, so you try some more careful attempts at first. When guiding our children, we also need to make the call between extreme measures and more cautious ones.

The account of the Flood is the primary theme of the Torah portion, Noah. Mankind’s behavior had gotten so depraved and immoral that G-d chose the reboot option. Humans were all but obliterated, saving only Noah and his family to resettle and repopulate the land. After the Flood G-d indicated that this was an extreme option that would never be repeated. From this point forward G-d would set forth expectations of Man with clear instructions and commandments on ways to live together properly for the benefit of all.

The very talents and qualities that will make your child a successful adult can be the cause of very challenging behavior while he or she is young. You do not want to quash those characteristics, but obviously you can’t just let kids act however their impulses may dictate. Sometimes the extreme option is called for: change schools, distance a bad friend, or rule out certain activities. At other times, you can be more conservative: setting limits, supervising, and presenting clear expectations to your children in a way that will teach them responsibility. G-d used different approaches at different times and so should we, but we had better make sure to choose an approach that appropriately addresses the concern. Otherwise, we are sending mixed messages to our children, which may be far worse than any behavior they have exhibited.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the need and importance of rules in everyone’s development.


  • You are only allowed X number of hours of television a week because…
  • What would life be like if there were no rules and everyone could do exactly as he or she pleased?
  • Can you think of a rule that you would make if you were a parent?
  • Why do people try to break the rules?
  • What would justify a major change in your life, such as changing schools?

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.



Noah1Most families have to deal with difficult change at some point or another – whether it’s unemployment or illness or loss. When a family navigates these changes, they also have to help their children through the radical changes in their lives.

Noah, the hero of this week’s biblical portion, experienced radical change. He and his family were the sole survivors of a flood that destroyed everything.
They were forced to begin their lives all over again. But Noah, after all, wasn’t perfect. After the flood, one of the first things Noah did was to get drunk. By portraying Noah in this way, the Bible is acknowledging that it couldn’t have been easy for Noah. The world changed radically for him and he was forced to begin a new life. Beginning anew after loss can be arduous and lonely. Many turn to drink or food or drugs to help them through the rough spots, but surely abusing ourselves is not the answer.

Parents need other tools to help their families through change. The challenge is to offer alternatives to destructive behavior. Perhaps Noah didn’t have the resources we might turn to – the support of a friend, a group or a religious community. Acknowledging the difficulty of the moment and giving support can be a good beginning despite the shifting ground beneath one’s feet. Feeling like we are standing on solid ground ourselves is the only way we can begin to help our children deal with what we find so difficult.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about Noah and the flood and the changes people have to undergo at times in their lives.


  • What have been difficult changes in your life?
  • What has helped you deal with these changes?
  • Are we like Noah, who handles his reaction to radical change and feelings of stress by abusing others or ourselves?

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.