Sharing and Control: This Week's Conversation Starter from the New "Values and Ethics"

This week's Torah portion, B'har, finds Moses speaking to the Israelites about some laws that will take effect in the land that God will give them. One of the laws says that every seven years land and indentured servants must be released. The Torah legislates giving the land a Sabbatical, a year of rest from planting and harvesting. This idea of letting go is supposed to make people realize that they are not the "true owners of the land or people - God is the ultimate owner.

This insight from the weekly reading is included in the new Values and Ethics: Torah Topics for Today, which discusses thoughtfully (and briefly) each of the 54 Torah portions and then pairs it with two or three specific values to be learned from the text, such as compassion, courage, gratitude, and patience. 

For example, this week's story of the Moses explaining the laws is paired with a discussion about loosening control and power struggles within our everyday lives, whether at home, school, or work. Above the Liberty Bell, for example, are inscribed words that come from B'har, "Proclaim liberty throughout all the lands, unto all its inhabitants!" Contributing author Rabbi Yael Hammerman writes that we can take inspiration from this reading and start in small ways to "proclaim liberty," beginning with sharing control over the car, in the kitchen, with the TV remote, and other items. "Lettting go is hard work," she writes in Values and Ethics, "but loosening our grip will ultimately make us feel better."

Questions titled "Making Connections" include: 

- What's the difference between losing control and loosening your control?

- When is being in control a good thing, and when do we benefit from sharing power?

Each parasha also has simple hands-on activities to enhance the learning. Values & Ethics can be used in a number of ways. Bar and bat mitzvah students can find deeper understanding of their Torah portion. Educators can search through the index to find a certain value they’d like to discuss through a Jewish perspective. Use it in the classroom or at home to encourage discussion.

Click on the image to download this week's parashah, B'har.

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