Topics explored at Shabbat Dinners Spring ‘23

  1. Intentionality & Accountability

  2. Comparing

  3. Relationships and Marriage

  4. Motherhood & Fatherhood

  5. Money

  6. Jewish Distinctiveness

  7. G‑d

  8. Authority

 

1. Intentionality & Accountability

“I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday.” - Eleanor Roosevelt.

Our life experiences are made up of choices. Those choices can be made for us, often in childhood but also in adulthood, by others' expectations or ourselves. Making our own choices requires intentionality and brings with it accountability to those choices.  Let’s explore:

Prompts to consider:

  1. What does being accountable for our choices look like (those we consider successful decisions and those we don’t)?

  2. What are the obstacles to making choices intentionally and/or being accountable for them?

  3. What are the consequences of having our choices made by others? 

 

2. Comparing

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” - Theodore Roosevelt.

Comparing is biblically designed into our psyche, and so are the results of it. Cain compared himself to Abel, Joseph’s brothers to Joseph, and the results weren't pretty. Today, we constantly explore others' experiences through our handheld computers or expose others to our experiences and await their responses, which undoubtedly affects us. Let’s explore:

Prompts to consider:

  1. What behaviors emerge from comparing ourselves to others or sharing ourselves with others?

  2. How can comparisons be reduced?

  3. Have you observed shifts in the degree of comparing yourself to others?

 

3. Relationships and Marriage

“It is not good for a human to be alone. Thus a man should leave his father and mother, and cling to his wife so that they become one unit.” - G‑d.

Each person is a complex creature of competing appeals and nuanced interests. This complexity is significantly compounded when a commitment for eternity is given to another person. Yet, in the deepest of connections with another, we can discover our own wholesomeness. Commitment brings along the greatest of joys along with great demands. Let’s explore:

Prompts to consider:

  1. What do you consider the joys of commitment, and when do they emerge in the relationship?

  2. Considering there are no institutions of higher education for marriage, where do you learn how to live in marriage? And what are the benefits and losses of this type of learning?

  3. What would you consider your obstacle to a successful marriage?

 

4. Motherhood & Fatherhood

“Sometimes the strength of motherhood is greater than natural laws.” - Barbara Kingsolver.

“Anyone who tells you fatherhood is the greatest thing that can happen to you, they are understanding it.” - Mike Myers.

As soon as we bring a new human being into existence, at the birth of our child, we are thrust into the role of Mother or Father, and we remain in that role forever. The roles of Mother and Father are different. When we play our unique role of Mother or Father, we often do it alongside someone playing the other unique role. As our child evolves, so does our role as Mother or Father. Let’s explore:

Prompts to consider:

  1. For men, what is your understanding of the role of Motherhood and being a mother? For women, what is your understanding of Fatherhood and being a Father?

  2. How has your conception of Motherhood and Fatherhood been formed from your experience as a child?

  3. What do you consider to be your strengths and weaknesses in being a Mother or Father?

 

5. Money

“Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.” - Ayn Rand.

Money equals power. Like a power station, it fuels our primal needs and ambitious dreams. Like a power station, it needs resources to create its energy. Like a power station, it can wreak destruction if the energy is not properly harnessed. And money is present in almost every detail of our life.  Let’s explore:

Prompts to consider:

  1. How has money played a role in your life up to this point?

  2. How is money influencing your future critical decisions like marriage and your career?

  3. Can you describe a relationship you’ve been in or observed that was influenced by money? It can be for the better or the not-so-better.

 

6. Jewish Distinctiveness 

“The Jews' continued distinctiveness, despite overwhelming pressure to become like everyone else, demonstrated their enormous effort to cultivate freedom.” -  Dara Horn.

Jews look no different than others, yet we are distinctive and have been since our beginning. It’s our trademark. Our distinctiveness is expressed in our beliefs and conduct. Observing Shabbat and a Kosher diet are primary examples of distinctive conduct. Let’s explore:

Prompts to consider:

  1. What do you consider are the outcomes of Jewish distinctiveness?  

  2. What role does universality play in Jewish distinctiveness? 

  3. What evolution did you observe, or do you anticipate, in your Shabbat and/or Kosher observance?

 

7. G‑d

 "Listen up Jews: the L-RD is our G‑d, the L-RD is one." - Moses.

Whether you are drawn towards it or pulling away from it, G‑d is at the center of Judaism, and of being Jewish. G‑d is invisible, and G‑d is also demanding, just to name a few characteristics. We encounter G‑d in our imagination through text study, prayer, and contemplation of life events. G‑d makes us laugh, and G‑d infuriates us. Through it all, G‑d remains G‑d. Let’s explore:

Prompts to consider...this topic can be hard, so any reflections are valuable:

  1. What role does G‑d play in my encounter with Judaism and being Jewish?

  2. What does G‑d being invisible and/or G‑d being demanding mean to me?

  3. Has my understanding of and relationship with G‑d evolved, or have I observed others’ understanding of and relationship with G‑d evolve?

 

8. Authority

“Power [authority] tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” - John Emerich Edward Dalberg, Lord Acton.

"Football is like life - it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority." - Vince Lombardi.

With ease, authority can slide into authoritarianism and become destructive, requiring us to be vigilant when encountering it. Authority also provides us with a foundation to hold onto and a star to reach for as we grow and expand. We all experience authority beginning with our parents, and can appreciate its value. We also reach for autonomy that is independent of authority. Living with these two tensions is a crucial component of living and growing. Let’s explore:

Prompts to consider:

  1. What are your views on authority, and what has influenced them?

  2. Do you have an ongoing authority figure (Coach Lombardi like) in your life who guides you? How did that come to be?

  3. Have you experienced or intimately observed corrosive authority? How has that influenced you?