Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics for Va-Yak-Hel/Pekudei

GIVING IS JUSTICE IN ACTION…

TORAH PORTION: VA-YAK HEL

VKH-P3Giving charity is for everyone. Tzedakah, the Hebrew word for charity, actually correctly translates as justice. Whether one has a lot or a little, giving is an integral part of a Jewish life. Even the poor are required to give a little charity. Money, food, our time, out-grown clothes, older toys, all can be useful to others in need. A community is only as strong as the willingness of its members to help each other.

This week’s Torah portion, Vayakhel, stresses that every member of the community must participate in contributing to the building of the Mishkan, or Tabernacle. All Jews are called upon to be ‘generous of spirit’ and donate to the Tabernacle construction. All can be generous of spirit even with a small contribution.

We should think of our money, time, and possessions as tools we can use, beyond our own needs, to benefit others. When we are willing to stand up and be counted for a charitable cause or for helping individuals in need, we become ‘generous of spirit’ and display gratitude for what we have.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the importance of helping others and being a part of a strong community.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Why is charity important?
  • How does the giver benefit from giving charity?
  • How can small amounts make a big difference? (Think of a savings account after many years.)
  • Is it necessary to be recognized by others when giving?

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.

DOES OUR BEHAVIOR MATCH OUR PRIORITIES?

TORAH PORTION: PEKUDEI

VKH-P4Most of us worry about money fairly often in our lives, especially when we have children.  What offsets this worry is accountability and consciousness of the way we choose to spend our money.  What we spend our money on reflects our priorities, and it is important that our behavior matches our priorities.  Otherwise, there might be too little in the bank when it’s time to pay for college!

In Pekudei, our parsha of the week, each person in the community owes a half shekel, reflecting the high priority placed on community by the Israelites.  Moreover, accountability is evident in the detailed description of the way that half shekel is to be used in the sanctuary.

It is a difficult challenge to instill accountability in our children in the context of our materialistic, consumption-focused society.  One way to begin is to give children a modest weekly allowance, starting at five or six years of age.  Encourage them to think about how much they will spend and how much they will save.  To emphasize the importance of saving, take them with you to the bank to open a savings account.  Perhaps this will motivate them to save a little bit each week, either for something big that they can pay for themselves or simply to save money for their future.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about clarifying their priorities and aligning their spending habits with those priorities.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • How do you feel when you spend money?
  • Are you conscious of the value of money in meeting your priorities?
  • What are other ways to realize your priorities without spending money?

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.

THE VALUE OF REST…

TORAH PORTION: VA-YAK HEL / PEKUDEI

VKH-P2Families lead busy lives.  Life is filled with work, homework, sports, lessons, running a household, etc.  Often it seems there isn’t a moment to breathe.  A moment to just stop and say “I’m here” and that’s enough.

In this Torah portion Moses tells the people that they are commanded to set aside the seventh day as a day of complete rest.  It is a day in which no productive labor is allowed,  a day in which the emphasis is put on “being” instead of “becoming” or “having”.

Think about your own life.  Is there enough time and room for simply stopping and being with one another?  Stop now and take a breath.  See how that feels.  Think about ways to incorporate rest into the busy life of your family.  Some families choose to put aside a day of the week and celebrate the Sabbath as a day of rest.  Others pay attention to the principle of the day and figure out where to find the resting moments in life.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the concept of purposeful resting every seventh day, emphasizing “just being” over “doing”.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Do you find time to rest and relax?
  • What does it mean to you to rest? Does it mean spending time with family or friends? Does it mean playing a game or reading a book?
  • Which activities best put you at ease after a day or week of busyness?
  • What is one thing your family could do to promote “rest” each week?

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.

A SACRED MOMENT IN TIME…

TORAH PORTION: PEKUDEI

SacredMomentInTime

Are there special moments that you set aside in the hopes that you won’t be interrupted or distracted? Family dinner? Those fifteen minutes before bedtime? A birthday? What is it that makes those times special for you? Is it the people you are with or the actual thing that you are doing? Is it about a particular time of day or year or about the event around which it is organized? Now think about how those times feel different from the rest of the week. Do you not take phone calls or answer email? Are there certain things you choose to talk about, or not talk about? How do you go about making that time special time?

This week’s Torah portion, Pekudei, describes the sacred time of Shabbat in similar terms. At first glance it might seem like it is just a long list of things to “not do” on Shabbat, but on closer look we can find that it is actually sharing a way of behaving that helps us to make that time (Shabbat) different and special.

For six days of the week we are limited in our actions because we are pulled in so many directions. We have great power to accomplish many things, but we are limited by our many responsibilities. What does is look like to think of one day, one special time, as helping us to balance those responsibilities and limitations? Instead of thinking of Shabbat as being a time when there are lots of rules of things we “don’t do”, we could think of Shabbat as a time when we are freed from those limitations and have the power to create those sacred moments in our lives.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the magic of sacred time.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What is a “sacred time” in your life?
  • What do you do, or not do, in order to make time special?
  • Does this image of Shabbat or sacred time resonate with you?
  • What are the things you might do, or not do, on Shabbat in order to make it more special for you?

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

THE POWER OF WE…

TORAH PORTION: VA-YAK HEL / PEKUDEI

VKH-P1As parents, we all know how much work goes into running a household. Nothing happens by itself; someone must do the dishes, make lunches, drive carpool, go shopping, etc. Children need to have the confidence that they’re cared for, but they should eventually learn about the efforts involved and what they can do to pitch in. How do we balance the two ideals?

In our Portion, the Jewish people constructed the Sanctuary (Mishkan). All members of the community were required to do their part, commensurate with their abilities. Whether the contribution took the form of a donation or volunteering, each and every person’s involvement was a crucial element in reaching the final product. Only with everyone’s participation did the Sanctuary become a special place.

It’s easy to take things for granted. Our children grow up in a society of plentitude and become used to things being there for him or her. Yet, it takes hard work to create anything. A household can only function properly with the labors of hard-working parents, and a special environment can only be achieved by way of planning and effort. Everyone’s contribution, and occasionally sacrifice, is necessary. Young children can be given small tasks in relation to their age and congratulated for pitching in. Putting away clothes, washing dishes, making their bed, all are helpful for the family effort. If we model chores correctly ourselves, they can even be seen as a privilege. Being a part of a family beyond only our own needs, all contributing commensurate with their abilities, makes a home very special.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the power of WE – with everyone working together for the good of all.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Name five actions or activities your parents do for your family.
  • Would you be OK if some of these things were missing?
  • What do you do to pitch in? What more could you do?
  • How do you feel when you know that others appreciate what you do?

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.