Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics for Re-eh

FREE WILL & DISCIPLINE…

TORAH PORTION: RE-EH

re-eh2All parents try to discipline their children. They have different methods, but generally parents are trying to influence their children to be moral and to behave appropriately. Imposing any kind of discipline rests on the assumption that children have free will. They can choose what is good and reap rewards, or choose what is bad and suffer the consequences.

In this week’s Torah portion, Re-eh, Moses tells his people: “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse”. The people have a choice: they can obey the commandments and reap blessings, or they can fail to listen to the commandments and suffer. It is assumed by the Torah that people have freedom to choose and direct their own actions even when it is difficult to control their impulses.

Children have very powerful impulses. They want to have fun, they want to test limits, they want to feel that they are in control. They aren’t particularly interested in self-control. That is why a system of rewards and consequences is particularly important to shape children’s behavior over time. But how can parents figure out the right amount of discipline and the most effective methods? It’s important to find a balance between being overly strict and too permissive. Teach children to take responsibility for their own actions. Allow them to problem solve with you.

Be consistent in your responses to them. And, most importantly, allow them the freedom to make their own mistakes, the freedom that allows them to discover that their own actions lead them to reward or consequence. As they get older, their sense of self-discipline will grow, and hopefully they won’t need an external system of reward and punishment.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about what it means to have free will.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What kinds of choices are hard for you?
  • What have you learned from making a poor choice?
  • What helps you to make the best choices?
  • How do you respond when consequences do not fit the deed?

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.

GIVING TO THE NEEDY…

TORAH PORTION: RE-EH

re-eh1Caring about others and giving to the needy are important lessons for children to learn. Children, however, tend to be caught up in their own worlds, with their own needs for toys and games and other material wants. Their immediate wants and needs and keeping up with their friends makes it difficult to impart a lesson to children regarding giving to others.

The Torah is sensitive to the needs of those who have less than others and issues a mandate to help these persons. In this week’s Torah portion it says that we should not harden our hearts or shut our hands in response to the needy. Charity, tzedakah, is not just a matter of feeling philanthropic, but an act of justice in our world.

There are plenty of volunteer opportunities in our society that children can participate in — whether it’s building homes for the homeless, volunteering in a shelter, working in a soup kitchen, or taking part in a bake sale for earthquake relief. They can also accompany their parents when they give blood. The more you give, whether it’s through volunteer activities or through giving money, the more your children will witness the model of giving.

TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN about Tzedakah, the Jewish obligation to give to the needy.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Do you see poor people around you? How do you think we can help them?
  • What of your things might you share with those children who don’t have toys or games?
  • Have you ever volunteered to help the poor? What was that like for you?

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.

GIVING OF OURSELVES…

TORAH PORTION: RE-EH

re-ehWhat are we willing to give to help those in need? Judaism’s word for giving, tzedakhah, translates most accurately as justice, not charity.

This week’s Torah portion Re-eh offers some guidelines for giving in the Jewish tradition and introduces the idea of tithing. Tithing is giving 10 percent of your income in money, time, or products. Even though we are encouraged to be generous in our giving, the text indicates that we should not give more than 20 percent. The tradition is trying to model a balance between taking care of others and taking care of ourselves.

There are many ways to give and countless opportunities to make a difference. We can give money to causes or institutions that align with our values. We can work in advocacy, raising awareness and trying to promote change. We can donate food, clothing or household goods. We can teach and educate those around us. We can be the heads of organizations working for good in the world, and we can be involved on the most grassroots level as helpers. We can make a difference at home in private, and we can make a difference publicly in our communities. What is important is not how much we give, but that we do give graciously in relation to our means.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about giving of themselves to those in need.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • How can you make a positive difference in this world?
  • What can you give in money, time, or items?
  • What is keeping you from giving in this way?
  • How does it feel to help people in need?
  • How do you avoid embarrassing someone you are trying to help?

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