Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics for Va-Yetze

TITHING…

TORAH PORTION: VA-YETZE

va-yetze3We all have something to give. By giving, we show that we are responsible for those less fortunate in our communities and, more broadly, in the world. We can give financially, starting as small as a child setting aside a small part of his or her allowance. Or we can give by volunteering our time. Especially when we feel things are missing in our own lives, helping others can help us realize how we are blessed in different ways.

In this week’s Torah portion, Va-Yetze, Jacob promises to give a tenth of everything he receives. At this point, he has nothing. He has just run away from home and left everything behind. Having no idea what is before him, he makes this promise. If he remains poor, a tenth would be a small gift, but a dear sacrifice. If he grows wealthy, a tenth would be a much larger gift, but perhaps easier to part with. Jacob makes this promise: whatever comes his way, he will give a tenth of it.

Giving to those less fortunate than ourselves can help us recognize the great blessings in our lives. It reminds us that we cannot take full credit for the richness we receive. Just as Jacob did not know what was before him, we do not know what the future will bring for us. But, like Jacob, we should not wait for a better day to help others; we should commit to help today – and every day.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about ways your family is able to help others.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • In what ways do you feel blessed?
  • Who in your community needs your help? Who in the broader global community?
  • How does it feel to give to those less fortunate than you when you don’t feel that you have a lot to give?
  • Does giving of our time bring a different kind of satisfaction from giving money or objects?

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.

DEALING WITH DISHONESTY…

TORAH PORTION: VA-YETZE

va-yetze2There are times when we all deny the truth, especially when accused. When Adam was accused of eating the apple by God, he blamed it on Eve, and she blamed it on the snake. It’s difficult to confront people directly with the truth when we know they are lying. It can be easier to go along with whatever dishonesty another person is perpetuating rather than confront him or her.

We can take a lesson from our patriarch Jacob in this week’s Torah portion, Vayetze. Laban, his father-in-law, tricked Jacob by giving him Leah first as a wife, when the younger sister Rachel had been promised. Jacob says to him, “It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times”. After twenty years of living under the thumb of his father-in-law, he courageously confronts him directly with the truth.

We can communicate the importance of honesty to our children by being honest ourselves and calling others on their dishonesty, including our children. There are many acts that we don’t want to own up to in our lives. But perpetuating lies by being silent can be very destructive in the life of a family. It can teach children that they should construct a false self to present to the world in order to be safe. Better and more courageous to be as honest as possible in our day-to-day dealings, so that children can learn the same.

TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN about the importance of honesty.

CONNECT WITH THEIR LIVES:

  • Did you ever catch one of your friends in a lie?
  • How did that make you feel?
  • How did you respond?
  • In what other ways could you have responded?

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.

HOW CAN WE IMPROVE?

TORAH PORTION: VA-YETZE

va-yetze1We all plan self-improvement projects.  But one mistake we often make is that we think we can change ourselves all at once.  The truth is changing one’s self doesn’t happen easily.  It happens slowly and by increments.

In this week’s Torah portion, Jacob leaves home and a difficult family situation, lays down to sleep, and has a spectacular dream.  He dreams of angels going up and down a ladder.  Given the slow evolution Jacob goes through on his journey, the dream can signify that Jacob can only progress in his journey step by step.  As a model for us, Jacob shows us, that we can progress on our journeys only step by step.

When trying to improve our character, we cannot leap quickly up.  Small ladder-like steps can lead to large accomplishments over time.  Quick leaps, on the other hand, can lead to falling down the ladder.  To be secure, a ladder needs to lean against something high up.   It is expected, of course, that we will slip back a rung, but we should not worry.  Catch hold of the next rung and start climbing again.  Lasting change is never achieved quickly or easily.  To reach our personal goals, we need to keep climbing, like Jacob, one step at a time.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about their strengths and weaknesses.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What would you would like to change about yourself?
  • How would you go about doing that?
  • What do you think would be easy to change?  What would be difficult to change?

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.