Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics for Va-Yikra

WHY ALL THOSE RITUALS?

TORAH PORTION: VA-YIKRA

vayikra2Living our lives can get messy at times. Relationships do not always go smoothly. Even when we do not mean to, we can annoy others by accident. Miscommunications can strain relationships. Life is a beautiful adventure, but it can also be a little difficult to navigate.

This week’s Torah portion spells out many religious rituals. Why are there so many to perform? Turns out those routines are much easier to perform correctly than acting properly in real life. Lighting Shabbat candles on Friday night is much easier to do once instructed, than properly managing many aspects of our lives. The feelings created by prayer during rituals are much more meaningful to us than our words. Prayer gives us a chance to focus on our lives and to be consciously grateful for the blessings and gifts we often take for granted. Prayer also gives us a chance to focus privately on strengthening our weaknesses, which we all have. The more we reinforce and rededicate ourselves to change, the better chance our weaknesses will become smoothly integrated assets in our lives.

Rituals are very much a part of all our lives. Daily we perform the routines of brushing our teeth, showering, reading, and exercising because we know the benefits these bring. Many rituals infuse physical, mental, or spiritual growth into our lives. Are we open to new routines? Parents can guide children in what areas of their lives need improvement and in developing rituals to help reach goals. Rituals that lead to growth are much easier to perform properly than taking on life’s challenges unrehearsed.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about being open to expanding routines in their lives.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Which rituals that you perform are the easiest to complete?
  • Which routines in your life are most meaningful to you?
  • What areas in your life are most in need of changing?
  • Can you think of any routines that could help you master your challenges?

By Fred Claar

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

RITUALS…ANCHORS FOR OUR LIVES

TORAH PORTION: VA-YIKRA

vayikra1We all live with rituals.  Whether it’s the time and place we brush our teeth in the morning or singing our children good night songs, rituals provide the infrastructure by which we live our lives.  Without rituals, without certain daily repetitions of consistent behavior, our lives would be unbearably chaotic.

This week we begin the book of Leviticus. This portion and in fact much of the book of Leviticus is full of details about ritual, especially those related to how and when to bring sacrifices for worship.  While prayer long ago replaced sacrifice in Jewish tradition, sacrifices were the expression of ancient religions. Those sacrifices were brought on many occasions: for example, when one was guilty of sin, whether intentionally or unintentionally, when one was grateful, or when one was celebrating.  Ritual in Leviticus provided a concrete manner for people to express a wide range of emotions and states of being.

While everyone has some kind of rituals in their lives, these rituals can be performed unconsciously, without much significance.  They can also be opportunities.  Rituals can be used to signify something deeper about the moment; they can be used as teaching moments. What kind of songs are sung at bedtime?  What kind of rituals do you introduce to your children around getting dressed in the morning?  Can there be a ritual instituted so that family members show gratitude for having sufficient food on the table?

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about ways your family creates value in their lives through rituals.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What song or story do you like to hear the most before bedtime?
  • What new rituals might appeal to you?
  • How do rituals enhance your feeling of well-being?
  • What is your favorite weekly family ritual?

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.

“THNX GOD!!!”

TORAH PORTION: VA-YIKRA

vayikra3In a world of text messaging and twitter, writing a proper thank-you note has become a lost art. We express our appreciation by quickly texting THNX!!! while out-and-about and multitasking on smart phones. In contrast, in order to write a thank-you note you must sit at a desk and have a pen, stationery, and a stamp on hand. You need to write legibly, know your recipient’s street address, and have ample time and quiet to focus on expressing sincere gratitude. Unlike texting, however, sending a thankyou note shows that you are willing to sacrifice precious time to appreciate fully what you have been given.

In Torah portion Vayikra, God commands the Israelites to donate the first fruits of their harvest to the Temple. Though the Israelites worked hard all year to grow their crops and waited anxiously to see the fruits of their labor, they were required to give away their best produce instead of enjoying it themselves. Donating their first fruits to the Temple was an expression of gratitude for all the goodness in their lives.

A properly handwritten thank-you note would have been insufficient for the Israelites to thank God for the blessings in their lives. Like the Israelites, we too have much to be thankful for in our lives. But how do we express our gratitude? How do we sincerely thank the people in our lives who give us the gifts of time, support, and love? The next time you have the urge to quickly type THNX!!!, take a moment instead to express your appreciation more slowly and thoughtfully. The fruits of your labor will be greatly appreciated in return.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about what they are thankful for and how they express their gratitude.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What are you thankful for?
  • How do you express your gratitude – to your friends, your family and your teachers?
  • Have you ever written a thank-you note? Have you ever received a thank-you note? What did it say? How did it make you feel?
  • If you could write a thank-you note to God, what would it say?

By Yael Hammerman

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