Construct Before You Deconstruct (Behar-Behukotai)

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In the 1st portion of our double parsha we learn about what behaviors God expects from us when we enter into Israel (Leviticus Ch. 25).  In the second portion we hear of the positive outcomes when we do as God expects from us (ibid., Ch.26:3). We also hear about the punishments that will happen if we repeatedly fail to live up to those expectations. Parenting behavior should follow a similar sequence: …

Animal Attachment (Emor)

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   A newborn animal must remain with its mother.  For the first week of its life, neither the mother nor its offspring can be brought as an offering (Leviticus 22:27). It is possible that the Torah is recognizing an animal's basic “attachment” needs and therefore it would be cruel to separate mother and child at birth. Consistent connection to a loving caretaker is crucial for healthy…

That's a Lot of 'Do Nots'!

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“Love your fellow as yourself”, finally something we can all agree upon. But right before and after those positive, reaffirming words are dozens of “Do Nots” (‘Don’t cheat, gossip, bystand, plant forbidden seed mixtures, etc.).  How does it all fit together and what’s the parenting message? Kids crave love. And yet, they need something else just as much: Boundaries and limitations…

Compassion Cures (Tazria-Metzorah)

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The diagnosis of the spiritual skin affliction known as “tzaraat”’can only be diagnosed by a kohein (priest).  A reason given is that kohanim (priests), known for their kindness and compassion, are the only ones that can tell someone they have a spiritual affliction (tzaraat) that they need to fix. Similarly, if we are angry or upset with our child, it is not the time to tell him that he…

Because That's How I Feel! (Shemini)

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It’s the 1st day of the month of Nissan and the divine presence finally inhabits its earthly home in the mishkan (tabernacle). But a day intended to be filled with joy is stained by the death of Aaron’s sons. Their sin? They felt a strong, seemingly legitimate feeling, expressed it and violated a boundary that cost them their life. This episode leads me to ask: How do we effectively deal with…

The Song of Sacrifice (Tzav)

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  This week's Torah portion continues to describe the sacrificial service in the Temple. The sages of the Talmud comment that when a person brings an offering, it should not be a perfunctory, superficial ritual, but he should have the intent of offering himself to God. Understandably, this is demanding work. Sacrifice is difficult and uncomfortable. That is why an essential part of the temple…

You Called? (Vayikra)

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"And He called to Moses and God spoke to him..." (Leviticus 1:1)  Our sages tell us that every time God communicated with Moshe, He first lovingly called to him by his name: “Moshe…” Parents, on the other hand, often use their child’s name when they are upset. Some parents are careful to specifically use their full name when they are really upset(“Yosef Shlomo Cohen, come here right…

The "Shabbat" of Parenting (Vayakel-Pekudei)

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In this parsha the mishkan (tabernacle), the home for the divine is finally built. We are told that work on the holy mishkan is set aside for the even holier time of Shabbat. The work of the mishkan represents our active and creative engagement with the world to make it into dwelling place for God. Shabbat, on the other hand, celebrates the godliness inherent in creation. The beauty within. The…

The Half Shekel Mindset (Ki Tisa)

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The Jews are commanded to submit to a census by donating a half shekel coin to the National treasury. A half shekel seems to be a strange denomination to represent a whole person?! A relevant parenting lesson that can be derived from this is for us to see our children as “incomplete” works in progress. A common parenting error is to ascribe fixed qualities to our children based on specific behaviors.…

The Power of Loss (Terumah)

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A parent’s job description is to nurture and guide a child into responsible, self-confident adulthood. A crucial part of this is helping him process failure and loss. We step back from trying to save and rescue and stand by his side as he processes his feelings, learns from what happened and blazes a new path forward. The building of the mishkan (tabernacle) in the desert, was the path the Jewish…