Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics for Tetzavah



Tetzevah3Since the Garden of Eden people have been self-conscious about their bodies and exhibited a need for privacy.  How we cover up our bodies with clothing is expressed in infinite variations.  Styles– sophisticated, slinky, funky, professional, fun– send a very personal message to the world.  Clothing reflects how we value ourselves and our bodies.

In our parsha this week, the priests who serve in the sanctuary dress for “adornment and dignity”.  Both those reasons are crucial.  Fulfilling their role with dignity is reflected in the elaborate clothes they wear, complete with sashes, breastpiece and headdress.  But the priests’ clothes are not only about dignity; beauty very much characterizes the kind of clothes they wear.  The priests’ clothes are clothes of bright color – clear blue, purple and crimson – clothes with golden bells and pomegranates, clothes made out of linen and embroidered work.

Reflect on the various ways you dress when you play different roles in the world.  It’s important to communicate to our children the twin values of beauty and dignity when dressing.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the importance of taking care of their bodies and dressing with beauty and dignity.


  • Which are your favorite clothes?  Why?
  • What do your clothes say about you?
  • How do you feel about getting dressed up to go to a special event?
  • Is it important to get dressed up for special events? Why?

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.



Tetzevah2We all have talents and abilities, as do our siblings and friends. At times we have difficulty recognizing a sister’s talents; at other times we may be jealous of a sibling’s unique capabilities. We must develop the confidence in our own roles to the point that we can let our brothers and sisters shine.

This week’s Torah portion teaches us about the appointment of Aaron as High Priest and of his descendants as priests forever. This is a permanent and dramatic role that is being granted to Aaron and his family. Moses, who spent his life fighting for the freedom of the Jewish nation, does not receive this honor. The descendants of Moses receive no particular place in the future of the Jewish nation. Yet Moses readily and happily steps aside to allow Aaron to come forth and to shine in his priestly glory.

Families are made up of individuals, but together those individuals form a unit. Just as our bodies have different limbs for different functions, but is still one body, so does a family have different members with different strengths. Allowing each individual’s particular talents to find expression strengthens the entire unit. By acknowledging and celebrating a sibling’s personality, we not only affirm his or her importance as an individual but strengthen ourselves as well. All get their day in the sun – if we let them!

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about how each family member has unique talents and that, like Moses, we all need to know when to step aside and let others shine.


  • What are some unique strengths your siblings have?
  • What is a unique strength you have?
  • Is it hard to think of or acknowledge the strengths of others?
  • What can you do to help affirm a sibling’s talents?

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.



Tetzevah1Whether from the Book of Ecclesiastes or from the lyrics of Pete Seeger, most of us are familiar with the thought, “to everything there is a season.” This adage is followed with examples such as a “a time to weep and a time to cry; a time to mourn and a time to dance.” One of the later lines reads “a time to keep silence and a time to speak.” Indeed for everything there might be a season, but that doesn’t help us determine when the right moment is. When do we keep silent and when do we speak?

This week’s Torah portion Tetzaveh is one of the many places we see examples of the tension between silence and sound. It includes descriptions of the “priestly garments”, the clothes for Aaron and his sons as they fill their priestly duties. The text explains that the garments have both little bells and yarn tassels. When the priests move, the bells make noise but the tassels do not. On this holy piece of clothing, both are present.

It is important to speak up and share our voices. It is good to participate in conversations in school or at work, sharing our opinions and ideas. We can also actively speak up to share positive feedback with one another, to say hello when we pass each other, and to ask meaningful questions about one another’s days. By using our voices in this way we have the potential to make others feel good about themselves. But our voices can also be hurtful. We should be  not to use our voices to spread gossip or lies and we should be careful with our words so that we do not embarrass someone. Just as our words can bring joy they can also bring pain, and perhaps those are the moments in which we should remain silent. To everything there is a season, a time to keep silence and a time to speak.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about when to speak out and when to keep silent.


  • When was a time you spoke out? Was it the right moment to speak out?
  • Is there a time when you spoke but perhaps should not have? What might you have done differently?
  • When was a time you kept silent? Was it the right moment to be quiet?
  • Is there a time when you kept silent but should not have? What might you have done differently?
  • When you keep silent, are you aware of your body language and facial expressions? Are they “speaking out” for you?

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