Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics for Va-Etchanan

TAKING CARE OF OUR BODIES…

TORAH PORTION: VA-ETCHANAN

vaechinan2Do we exercise enough? Getting enough rest, staying clean, not smoking, and using alcohol in moderation are all important ways to respecting our bodies. Unfortunately, some people take better care of their fine jewelry, putting it away in velvet, than they do in caring for themselves. Our bodies do wonderful things for us. They enjoy our indulgences and provide us with pleasure, but they are also the tools we use to realize our dreams and aspirations. Without the energy to articulate or implement our ideas and creativity, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish much.

This week’s Torah portion, Va-Etchanan, begs us to protect and take good care of ourselves. We have so much potential within us that can only be accessed if our bodies are functioning properly. The Torah regards our bodies as ‘holy’ objects because they are tools for doing great things.

As we journey through life, we overcome challenges. Each step along the way provides opportunities for success and spiritual growth. Our job is the make sure that we have the required emotional and spiritual reserves to meet each challenge and to take advantage of the opportunities. Caring for our bodies establishes a platform for us to shine and excel.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about how well they treat their own bodies.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What things must we do to care for our bodies? What happens if we don’t?
  • Discuss how our bodies are important to our performance in life?
  • What can you do as a family to improve overall health for all of you?

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.

TEACHING ETHICS TO LAST A LIFETIME…

TORAH PORTION: VA-ETCHANAN

vaechinan1Raising children is not only about teaching our children how to be successful in the future, going to the right schools and finding the right job. It’s also about teaching them ethics that will carry them through their lives. The ethics we teach to our children are meant to last a lifetime and, in fact, to outlive us.

Moses is told in this Torah portion that he will not be able to enter the Promised Land. But he is to teach the people of Israel a body of ethics to serve them in their building of a new society in the Promised Land. This body of ethics is meant to guide the people of Israel in their new lives and into the future, with each new generation.

We too, as parents, may not survive to witness our children or our grandchildren reach their “Promised Lands”. However, the ethics we teach them now will last them through their lives. Whether it’s honesty, or commitment, or kindness to one’s neighbor, or giving to the poor, or gratitude, these ethics will travel the distance through our children’s lives and hopefully even through our grandchildren’s lives. While we our pressured now to raise children who are civilized and obedient, it’s important to take the long view. We teach now, but we also teach ethics for the generations that will follow us.

TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN about how Moses instructed his people on ethics to guide their lives into the future.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What does it mean to be good?
  • How should one treat others?
  • Which lessons are hardest to remember in your day-to-day life at school or at home? Which are the easiest to remember?

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.

FACING UP TO CONSEQUENCES…

TORAH PORTION: VA-ETCHANAN

va-etchananWe often do not think of the potential consequences before we take action.  Hopefully, we stop to think about the impact on our surroundings when we are making big decisions that require a lot of thought.  But in the moment when we react quickly or when a decision doesn’t seem as though it has far-reaching implications, it is unlikely that we are running through all possible scenarios in our minds.  So what happens when we are later faced with the consequences of those actions?

In this week’s Torah portion, we see Moses dealing with the consequences of his actions. The Israelites arrive at the promised land, and Moses only catches a glimpse of it before finding out that he will not be allowed to enter. A reason is because of something he did in a moment of frustration while traveling in the desert, many chapters back.

How do we act when we are confronted with our actions and asked to take responsibility for them, especially when we find ourselves surprised by the unintended consequences? It is easy to be defensive and full of excuses, explaining that we didn’t mean to hurt someone or to cause harm. However, regardless of our original intention, our challenge is to accept the fact that our actions brought about these consequences. There are times when apologies can begin to make things right, and there are times when, like Moses, we simply need to accept what results from our actions.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about facing up to the consequences of their actions.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • When was a time you hurt someone and didn’t realize it?
  • How did you act when you found out?
  • Have you been hurt by someone who didn’t know?
  • Did you choose to tell the person, and if so, how?
  • How often do you think of the consequences before you do something?

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