Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics for Shemini

ACTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES…

TORAH PORTION: SHEMINI

Shemini2In the 1600’s, Sir Isaac Newton taught us that for every action in the physical world, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For example, if you press a button with your finger, your finger is also pressed by that button. (Try it!) Newton’s principle not only applies to the physical world; it applies to many areas of our own lives as well. Every action we take produces a reaction. Our actions have consequences.

Centuries before Newton discovered his laws of motion, Aaron’s sons learned this lesson the hard way in this week’s Torah portion. They acted poorly and strangely and were instantly very severely punished. The Torah portion is teaching us that our actions can have important and immediate consequences.

Life brings both good and bad consequences depending on our actions. Sometimes we can predict what the consequences may be. For example, if we hit our baby sister, she will probably cry. Buy our mother flowers, and she will probably give us a big hug and kiss. Do not study, and we will probably not do well on the test. Sometimes, though, we cannot tell what the consequences of our actions will be. We just have to trust that, if we make the right choices, good consequences will follow.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about understanding that their actions have consequences which they did not consider before they acted.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Has there been a time in your life when you have done something without first thinking about the consequences for yourself or for others?
  • Can you think of a time when your actions have had negative, or positive, consequences? How did it make you feel? What did you learn from the experience?
  • Have you ever predicted the consequences of your actions and been surprised by a different outcome?

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.

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT…

TORAH PORTION:  SHEMINI

Shemini1We all eat and need to feed our families.  But how we do so involves many small decisions.  Think about being in a supermarket.  We all make many decisions there concerning the food we buy.  We are inundated by products and need to make decisions based on various factors such as healthfulness or what’s appealing to our family.

In this week’s Torah portion we are told very specifically that we can not eat whatever we want whenever we want.  Discipline, in Judaism, is an important part of eating.  According to the Torah, following the discipline of what we can eat and what we can’t eat makes us holy.  Making these choices teaches us that food and eating are sacred matters.

While some of us may choose to keep kosher and some might not, it’s important to keep in mind that making wise choices about the food we eat elevates the act of eating.  We want to teach our children that they just can’t eat anything any time and any way that they want.  Families eating healthful food together are involved in a sacred activity – taking in the bounty of the earth.  Consider what would elevate your family’s eating experience into one that consciously acknowledged the blessings that are abundant at our dining room or kitchen table.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about how important food choices are to their physical and spiritual health.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What kinds of foods do you like to eat?
  • Do you know where these foods come from?
  • Which kinds of foods makes you feel good when you eat them?
  • Why is it important to eat together with your family?
  • What is the value of applying discipline to what we eat?

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.

REASON IS LOST IN ANGER…

TORAH PORTION: SHEMINI

Shemini3We all become rash when we are angry.  We are quick to condemn others.  Anger clouds our reason, and we can accuse others without thinking clearly.    When we become angry we should ask ourselves: what good motivation might this person have for his or her action that I can’t see?  What am I missing that this person sees?  Though we may have reason to be upset, often our own reactions are clouded by emotion, blinding us from seeing the true situation before us.

In this week’s parashah, Moses gets angry with Eliezer and Itamar, two of his brother Aaron’s sons.  He thinks that they have done something wrong, and he loudly scolds them, saying that they really ought to have listened to him.  But Aaron interrupts Moses and gently explains how his sons have not actually done anything wrong.  Their way of doing things was acceptable, too.  In his anger, Moses had lost his reason and knowledge of the law.  In the end, he is humbled and gladly relents to his brother.

Moses’ anger clouds his reason, and his nephews suffer from this.  How many times have we exploded at someone, missing their good intentions because of our anger?  We miss reasonable explanations because we are angry.  We are not alone in our effort to see through our anger.  Like Moses and Aaron, we can rely on our friends and loved ones to help us calm down when we are upset and not lose our rational selves to anger.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about how it feels to be angry.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Why is it so hard to give others the benefit of the doubt when you are angry?
  • When you look back at a time you had an angry outburst, how do you feel?  Would react differently now?
  • How can you help someone calm down when he or she is angry?

By Rabbi Judith Greenberg

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