Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics for Pinchas

BALANCING OUR PASSIONS…

TORAH PORTION: PINCHAS

pinchas2Life is a series of choices that we make every day. Some choices don’t feel so important. A bagel versus cereal for breakfast probably won’t make much difference to us, but other choices definitively shape the direction of our lives and the impact we make on this world. Some of us are passionate about. The weighty choices are often tied to the things that we are most passionate about and the most invested in, which also makes them the choices in which we stand to lose the most. So it is no surprise that, when we find ourselves confronted with a choice, we use our passion to help us make our decision. But we must strive to find a balance between that passion and practicality.

In this week’s passage, Pinchas sees a fellow Israelite behaving in a way that he believes to be unjust. His passion is fueled and in his desire to right this injustice, he takes the law into his own hands. He did in fact see the man breaking a law, but does that mean that it was acceptable for him to serve as judge and jury?

Our lives would be empty without passion. The things that we care about – the environment, sports, politics, family, learning – add depth to our character, joy to our lives, and reasons to engage with the world. However, passion has to be tempered with reason. We need a balance in our lives. Sometimes our passion can drive us to take action, but sometimes we need to refrain. This balance can be incredibly difficult to achieve, yet there is great wisdom in it.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about how their passions affect their actions.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What activity or interest are you most passionate about?
  • Has there been a time when your passion caused you to act when you should have stood back?
  • What would have happened had you not acted?
  • Have your passions changed as you have grown older?

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

STANDING UP FOR ONESELF…

TORAH PORTION: PINCHAS

pinchas1Standing up for oneself is a difficult feat. It might mean defending oneself before the attacks of others, or it might mean asking for what we need at the right time. Whether it is a raise in salary or a change in job title or something more personal, such as confronting a friend over a perceived hurt, it is putting oneself on the line. Faced with the prospect of standing up for ourselves, we may doubt that we deserve what we are requesting, or we may wonder if we will be penalized just for asking.

In our Torah portion of the week, there are four sisters who have no brothers and do not stand to inherit their father’s property because they are women. They daringly stand before Moses, the priests, the chieftains, and the whole assembly and make their request to inherit the property of their father even though they are daughters. Moses confers with God and then fulfills their radical request.

Children too need to learn to be advocates for themselves from an early age. It can happen on the playground when something is taken from them, or when they are being made fun of, but it might also happen in relationship to their parents. They may yearn for rights they have heretofore been denied, or they may feel that they’ve been treated as if they are younger than they are. Maybe they feel that it’s time to be able to cross the street on their own or start cooking a few simple things. Or maybe a child feels it’s time to choose his own clothes and, within reason, wants to decide what to wear to school. It’s important to give children the latitude they need to make these difficult requests and for parents to consider them seriously. Requests like these will pave the way for an adulthood characterized by standing up for oneself.

TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN about the benefits of standing up for yourself.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Have you ever tried to stand up for yourself? What happened?
  • Were there times that you’ve wanted to stand up for yourself but you didn’t have the courage? What do you think could have helped you stand up for yourself at those times?
  • When do you think it’s important to stand up for yourself and when is it better to retreat?
  • How do you prepare to present your reasons when advocating for yourself?

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.

IS IT FAIR?

TORAH PORTION: PINCHAS

pinchas3“It’s not fair” is a refrain we often hear from children. A child may be jealous of what a friend has or may think he or she should have beenchosen for a position on a sports team. Although most of us eventually stop whining, deep down we do think in terms of what is fair.

In this week’s Torah portion we meet Zelophehad, who died before the Jews arrived in the land of Israel. His four daughters were concerned that his portion of the land would be lost because he had no sons. They objected, saying it’s unfair that women cannot inherit their father’s land. Moses asked God what to do, and God felt the women’s request was fair. Thousands of years ago the entire section of Jewish inheritance law was changed to reflect fairness and dedicated to the daughters of Zelophehad.

Much of our engagement with the world around us arises from our sense of fairness. It is because we believe in fairness that we expect our hard work to translate into success. We often choose to step in to correct something that we believe is wrong, either by getting involved in a charitable cause or in community activism. It’s our sense of fairness telling us that the world can be a better place.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about being open to fairness and how it makes a better world.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Is it fair that some people are tall and some short?
  • What is the difference between fairness and equality?
  • Describe something around you that seems unfair.
  • How does fairness help create a better world?

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.