Author Archives: Fred Claar

About Fred Claar

Fred Claar is a member of the Board of Directors of MyJewishLearning, Inc.

Rejuvenate Yourself Weekly

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Reprinted with permission from Torah Topics for Today.

Our lives are full of commitments, responsibilities, school, and work. Often we are caught up in the demands of our lives and easily forget to focus on what is most important to us: our families and our “inner selves”. When the pressure of our daily life takes us over without a break, difficulties often eventually strike.

Thousands of years ago, before the Torah, time was broken only into months by the moon. The Torah introduced the concept of weeks for the first time in history.  Not only did the Torah break time into weeks, it also created, for the first time, the concept of a day of rest each week, Shabbat. Shabbat sanctifies time and is the antidote to our busy pressure-filled lives, presenting us with limits that are healthy for us. Shabbat allows us time to express gratitude for our blessings, time to relax and enjoy our family and community.

Celebrating Shabbat is not always easy. It is a worthwhile challenge to cut back a busy pressure-filled life, but it can not be accomplished overnight. Think about celebrating Shabbat as learning a musical instrument. Nobody goes from a beginner to expert immediately. Start with small doable steps like part of the day at first. On Shabbat do things that are different from other days, making your rest special. Your body, soul, and family require rejuvenation. Give them all a break.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the value of having sacred time in their lives each week.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

· Do you think a day of rest each week is a good idea?

· How could you begin to bring sacred time each week into your life?

· What goals would you like to accomplish in special sacred time weekly?

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Israel Means To Struggle With God

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Reprinted with permission from Torah Topics for Today.

Many people hold back on religion in their lives because they are uncomfortable with the concept of God. Does God exist? How could bad things happen to good people? Why does evil exist? These are all questions that people have addressed throughout time. Many sophisticated discussions and answers are embedded in Jewish texts for adults to encounter and wrestle with personally.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayishlah, Jacob wrestles all night with a mysterious angel representing God.Because Jacob successfully survives this encounter, his name is changed to Israel. The translation of Israel is “to struggle with God”. The Torah is saying that to struggle with God is common. Most people require inquiry and study, as adults, to come to terms with their personal encounter. Jews are not asked to accept complete faith blindly. Jews are encouraged intellectually to encounter God within themselves after studying the wrestling our sages encountered in their journeys to God. It is possible to be a good Jew and have questions about God. In Judaism, actions are more important than faith.

In thinking about God, we can pick up clues all around us, perhaps left for us to find, like the design perfection of the human body and nature’s beauty. Just because we can’t see or touch something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. We can’t see oxygen, but we would die without it. Infinity is beyond comprehension yet an integral part of modern science. Love is a powerful feeling that cannot be proven, but it may be a gift of God. Conscience, that little voice inside us, may also be one of God’s gifts.Religion is not about who God is but about what God helps us do.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about God from your personal view and struggles.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

Do you see clues in life to God’s existence?

Do you have unanswered questions about how God operates?

Do you hold back from religion because of your unanswered questions?

How might you begin your personal journey to wrestle with God?

How could a journey in life be more important than the destination?

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Sibling Rivalry

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Reprinted with permission from Torah Topics for Today.

Family tensions are easily created between siblings. Feeling overshadowed because of the accomplishments of our brother or sister, or feeling overlooked by parents, are frequent causes. How can we avoid these common family dilemmas?

This week’s Torah portion, Bereshit, includes the story of Cain and Abel and man’s first violent act: a lashing out of brother against brother based on family tension, jealousy and perceived favoritism.  When Cain is asked, after he killed Abel, where his brother is, he answers, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The Torah is clearly teaching that the answer is definitely YES to Cain’s question.

What can we do in our families to reduce tensions, manage jealousies, and create positive family dynamics? Recognize the special qualities of each child. Let children know how much each is appreciated by the whole family for his or her uniqueness. Parents need to be careful about expressing favoritism by balancing praise with sensitivity to the feelings of their other children. When kids know that their parents appreciate and love them for who they are, they have a better chance of dealing with the inequities they will face in the outside world without directing anger at their siblings. Children should be taught by parents to value their brothers and sisters as family forever and life-long friends.;

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about ways to create healthy family dynamics.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

· What are some of the things you like about the way your family functions?

· What are some things that you would like to change?

· How do you discuss things when there are problems?

· Do you feel heard and appreciated in your family?

· How can you and your family all work together to respect each other?

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