Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics for Vayechi

FAMILY FORGIVENESS…

TORAH PORTION: VAYECHI

FamilyForgivenessWe’ve all been offended at one time or another by the words or actions of a family member. Parents, children, spouses and siblings do end up hurting each other, willfully or unintentionally. It is never too early to begin to learn to forgive. By taking ourselves less seriously, it becomes easier to forgive another. When it comes to family, the ability to forgive is crucial. Family is permanent, and having the strength to forgive is rewarding for all.

This week’s Torah portion gives a very clear message on the importance of family forgiveness. In the portion we are reminded that, years earlier, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and told their father that Joseph had been killed. Jacob, Joseph’s father, was devastated, and Joseph became a slave in Egypt before ultimately rising to extreme power. Wisely, and exceptionally, Joseph does forgive all his brothers for their malicious act, realizing that he and his brothers share a common identity and future that should not be jeopardized by grudges, even if they seem justified. Jacob also forgives all his sons for their cruel deception. This is a powerful Torah story with a very relevant message for life today.

The need to forgive and, if possible, forget, is vitally important. Calmly confront wrongdoers and explain what they have done as a step toward reconciliation, not increased hostility. Parents easily forgive their children for slights given intentionally or by accident. How parents treat their extended family members also gives important messages. Parental modeling of forgiveness is an important learning tool for children. Forgiveness is an ability that is within our power, especially in family situations.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the importance of family relationships in their lives forever.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What sometimes makes us angry at each other?
  • Why is holding a grudge ultimately useless?
  • Why is family very important to each of us?
  • What tools can we learn to reduce our pain at family hurts and insults?

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.

EACH FAMILY HAS A MISSION IN THE WORLD…

TORAH PORTION: VAYECHI

EachFamilyHasAMissionEach family has a mission in the world.  With reflection, you could probably write a mission statement for your family.  For  example, parents  might work toward their children growing up to be secure, contributing members of society, ensuring that they have compassion for others and do good in the world.  Everything we do while we are raising our children, large and small, contributes to this overall mission.

In our parsha this week, we find Jacob on his deathbed, offering a blessing to each of his sons.  Each blessing includes a vision of that child’s future. For example, when blessing Judah, he blesses both Judah and Judah’s descendants as leaders in Israel.

A parent needn’t wait until he is on his death bed to  bless his child.  Every Friday night, traditional Jews offer blessings to each of their children.  While there is a formula that many say, others  make up their own blessing.  What an interesting practice it would be to articulate weekly what you wish for your child.  Mentioning a success that each child had during the week may also increase the child’s self-esteem and enjoyment of this worthwhile ritual.  It’s a way of making the mission of your family explicit in the blessing of a child.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the kinds of blessings they enjoy now and what they might want for themselves in the future.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What do you think blessing means?
  • What are the blessings you enjoy in your life?
  • Do we focus enough on the things our children are doing right?

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.

ACTING WITHOUT THOUGHT…

TORAH PORTION: VAYECHI

ActingWithoutThoughtWhen we are angry, our vision narrows and we sometimes act in ways that would shock even ourselves in a better moment. It is hard to maintain perspective when someone or something angers or offends us. But, upon reflection we are able to look back on our actions and make changes for the future. We will not be forgiven for our regrettable actions if we do not make changes in our behavior.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayechi, Jacob is on his deathbed and shares parting words with all of his sons. These are not the blessings you might expect from a dying patriarch. Many of them are quite critical. Jacob scolds his sons Reuben, Simeon, and Levi for their reckless behavior from years before, which includes sexual indiscretion and a murderous massacre. Years later, these sons are still dealing with the consequences of their actions, and their father has not forgiven them. In the moment,  when the brothers did these things, they surely did not consider these consequences. Imagine how they must have felt when they realized how much their father was still hurting from their actions, so many years later.

Slowly counting to ten can prevent us from yelling or making a mean remark, whether it be towards a loved one or a colleague. Re-reading an impassioned e-mail can help us press “delete” instead of “send.” When we do take an action that we later regret, we can reflect on what led us to take that step in order to avoid doing it again. Thinking about those we have hurt
in the past can help us be more careful in the future.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about why it is important to control their anger.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What do you do when you are angry?
  • Can you think of a time when you stopped yourself from expressing anger?
  • How did it feel?
  • How can you communicate anger in a productive way?

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.