Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics for Shelach Lecha

KEEPING THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE…

TORAH PORTION: SHELACH LECHA

shelach2Mishaps can happen to anyone. Whether it’s stubbing your toe as you get out of bed in the morning, or something more serious like forgetting your lunch at home, we all have our share of annoyances and challenges. The trick is to make sure we stay in charge of our reactions and not let a small mishap escalate to a full-blown crisis.

Our Torah portion, Shelach Lecha, recounts the story of the scouts sent by the Jews to check out the Land of Israel as they drew closer. The spies’ report was very unfavorable. In fact, they seemed to have perceived everything they saw negatively. This attitude rubbed off on the nation; instead of making a realistic evaluation of the report and planning accordingly, they mourned and lamented the fate they were sure awaited them. Their reaction brought about the tragic result of unnecessarily lengthening their stay in the desert by 39 years.

We all “mess up” occasionally. Sometimes we say the wrong word to someone at the wrong time and offend him or her. We can dig in deeper and get upset at the other person’s reaction or we can take control of the situation and apologize properly. Perhaps a spouse left the steaks on for a minute too long. True, I may really enjoy my meat better if it’s rare, but does it really warrant an argument or criticism? Mistakes and mishaps can happen, but we are responsible for our reactions and can ensure that a small mishap remains nothing more than a small bump along the journey of life.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT how well they keep life’s challenges in proper perspective.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Give an example of a minor annoyance or mishap.
  • Give an example of a major crisis or tragedy.
  • In what way should your reaction be different in the two situations?
  • Why is it bad to “make a mountain out of a molehill”?

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.

SELF-CONFIDENCE MAKES COURAGE POSSIBLE…

TORAH PORTION: SHELACH LECHA

shelachCourage is necessary to get through certain moments in each of our lives.  For some it takes courage to meet new people or walk alone into a party.  For others it’s a job interview or moving to a new place.  There are those who have an abundance of courage and those who have it in short supply.  But what makes courage possible is self-confidence — a positive self-image and a belief that things will turn out all right.

In this week’s Torah portion, Moses chooses twelve men to go to the Promised Land to see whether it is conquerable and inhabitable. Ten of the men come back saying that it’s not possible to conquer the land because they perceive that giants live there. Two of the men, Joshua and Caleb, come back saying, “We can do it”. They are ready to fight.  The ten men who lack courage see themselves as very small, saying they are as “grasshoppers” in the eyes of the inhabitants of the land, and in their own eyes as well. They lack the self-confidence it takes to do what is required.

To enable our children to have a positive self-image and to develop a sense of the courage to live through frightening moments, we need to encourage (en-courage!) their efforts at trying new things and meeting new people.  This doesn’t mean approving of everything they do. But it does mean cheering them on as they try on their own wings of independence and go forth into their own world. Whether it is the first day at a new school or skiing for the first time, it will require courage and a positive self-image to get through frightening moments.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about courage and their self-image.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Where do you think courage comes from?
  • Are there times you can think of when you wish you had more courage?
  • Where do you think self-confidence comes from?
  • Is there a difference between courage and self-confidence? What is it?

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.

COURAGE TO THINK DIFFERENTLY…

TORAH PORTION: SHELACH LECHA

shelach3Most likely you have found yourself in a group situation where your opinion simply does not match the group consensus? Do you speak your mind, or do you keep silent? If you choose to share your opinion, how do you go about introducing it? And if you remain quiet, do you think of it as being for the “good of the group”?

In this week’s Torah portion, Shelach Lecha, a group of scouts is sent out to report back on what lies ahead for the Israelites. When ten of the twelve scouts return, ten paint a dire picture that Caleb and Joshua do not agree with. They speak out positively against the report of the ten.

It can be difficult when we find ourselves with a different point of view from that of the larger group. Our tradition teaches us that the majority opinion is not the only one that matters. In fact, in the Talmud when there are lengthy debates that finally resolve, the text goes to great length to document the dissenting parties and their minority opinions as well. It can take a lot of strength to stand up for what you believe in, but it is important not to simply follow the trend. In fact, you are likely to find that if you share a differing opinion, others might start to speak up as well. It is a diversity of thought that leads to interesting conversations, creative solutions, and new possibilities.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT holding and sharing different opinions.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • When was a time that you held a different opinion from the group?
  • Did you share it? Why or why not?
  • How do you feel when someone in a group introduces a new perspective?
  • Do we have to follow people with whom we disagree?

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