Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics for Va-Yeshev

THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL…

TORAH PORTION: VA-YESHEV

va-yeshev2Have you been pushed to go to an event that you did not want to attend, and then had a great time? Ever start out disliking a very demanding teacher who later in the year becomes appreciated for making you a much better student? In life many times “things might not be what they seem at first”.

This week’s Torah portion, Va-yeshev, contains what might be one of the most famous examples of the idea that things which start off badly might come to a good end. Joseph, the favored youngest son of Jacob, is sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. He seems destined for a life of enslavement in Egypt when a turn of fortune brings him into good graces with the Pharoah. Joseph’s life quickly changes as he rises to the top of Egyptian society, gaining fame, security and fortune. This is a very positive end to a dreadful beginning.

Sometimes we simply need to look a little harder to find the good in what feels bad. Often we just need patience to wait for changes. It can be hard to hold out hope when things feel as though they are not going your way, but a positive outlook on the world can go a long way towards making situations feel more manageable. Being able to look forward and see a “light at the end of the tunnel” can help make the journey there much easier.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about some positive unexpected outcomes in their life and in yours.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • When was a time in your life that you had an unexpected outcome?
  • How does it make you feel when events don’t turn out the way you expect?
  • How do you manage when things don’t feel like they are going your way?

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

CARING FOR ONE ANOTHER…BUILDING AN ETERNAL BOND

TORAH PORTION: VA-YESHEV

Building an Eternal Bond Sometimes brothers and sisters act in a caring manner and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they tell on one another, and sometimes they defend one another. In order for there to be peace in a household, parents must constantly foster a family culture where brothers and sisters care deeply about one another.

In this week’s Torah parsha there is tremendous strife between Joseph and his brothers. Jacob, their father, clearly plays favorites and gives Joseph a multi-colored coat to signify his love for Joseph. Joseph fuels the tension created by this favoritism by telling on his brothers.

Sometimes it’s difficult for children not to feel that their parents favor one child over another, especially if one child is effortlessly successful while other siblings might have a more difficult time achieving in their own lives. We can create an environment where each child flourishes and feels loved by focusing on a child’s uniqueness and achievements, given his capacities. While siblings cannot help but compare themselves to one another, the more they feel loved for who they are, the more they will thrive and be able to care genuinely for their siblings, no matter how successful.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about Joseph and his problems with sibling rivalry.

Connect to their lives:

  • What do you like best about your brother or sister?
  • What do you like least?
  • What helps you get along with your brothers and sisters?
  • Do we work at appreciating the special qualities of ALL in our family?

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.

HONORING PARENTS…

TORAH PORTION: VA-YESHEV

va-yeshev3Words have power. Just as our words can lift someone’s spirit, so too can they can cause damage. Words can sometimes be smokescreens for what is truly taking place, defense mechanisms to shield us from shame and pain. Seeking approval and love, children frequently want to please their parents. However, when accidents, mistakes, and errors in judgment arise, children will go to great lengths, including lying, to shield themselves from punishment and embarrassment in the eyes of those they love most. What most kids don’t realize is that words of truth and transparency are building blocks of loving, secure relationships.

The story of Joseph and his brothers can be seen as a cautionary tale of parenting and brotherhood. All Jacob’s sons desire is their father’s affection, the same kind of attention that Joseph receives. Yet the more Jacob favors Joseph, the more his other sons resent their brother with the multi-colored coat. We may wonder whether Jacob was aware of how his special attention to Joseph affected his other children. In our Torah potion the brothers act out in anger against Joseph by selling him as a slave, thereby sending him far, far away. Upon realizing the foolishness of their actions, they betray their father’s trust by leading Jacob to believe that Joseph has been eaten by a wild animal. Instead of owning up to their mistakes, Jacob’s sons attempt to save face. Rather than speaking openly about their needs, the brothers end up breaking their father’s heart. How many of us have told a lie or withheld the truth to protect ourselves?

Our children don’t always know how to express their needs, including their desire for our time and affection. They may even tell tall tales or act out in order to get our attention. It is important that our children know that we love them not only when they excel, but also when they have made a mistake. As parents, we can teach our children that the best way to honor their parents is by being honest and using words to create clarity and stronger relationships.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about telling the truth and being honest about their needs.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Have you ever withheld the truth to avoid getting into trouble?
  • Is there a difference between telling a lie and withholding information?
  • Did you ever tell a tall tale to get your parent’s attention?
  • Do you have a way of telling your parents that you need them?

By Rabbi Charlie Savenor

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