Archive | Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Try not to give up when you do a difficult task

Posted on 01 August 2018 by admin

Dear Families,

We wonder, “How do I make the world a better place? There are so many things wrong, where do we begin?”

Maybe we begin by looking at all the things that are right with the world and decide what we can do to make it better. Every one of us wants to find a way to make a difference in the world. Sometimes we stop because we think that we can’t really do anything big. However, it isn’t only the big things that make the world a place for all of us to enjoy.

Find a cause — choose something you care about. Look in your neighborhood or school; what needs to be done? Often just picking up trash, recycling newspapers or helping a neighbor with their lawn is a good beginning. We don’t need to do everything, but we do need to do something.

Text of the Week

Rabbi Tarfon was accustomed to say, “You are not required to complete the task, yet you are not free to withdraw from it.” —Pirkei Avot 2:21

• Why does Rabbi Tarfon say that we are not expected to complete the task? Shouldn’t we finish things that we start?

• Often when we think that we cannot finish a job, we don’t even want to start it. Why does the rabbi tell us that we must do something?

• Why is completing a task so difficult? Why do we want to give up when things are hard? Why is it important not to give up?

Value of the Week: Perseverance

The dictionary says that to persevere means to persist in anything undertaken; maintain a purpose despite difficulty or obstacles; continue steadfastly. Synonyms for the concept perseverance include persistence, tenacity and pertinacity. What great words. This value means that we don’t give up because something is difficult. When we believe in something, we must work for it. When we see something that is wrong, we must try to make it right. Rabbi Tarfon knew all about perseverance.

Things to do 

• Choose a project to make a better world and set a goal. Don’t give up.

• Get one person to help you on your project and then get another and another.

• Help others to complete difficult tasks. Cleaning up is easy with friends.


Be kind to people, animals and the planet Earth

Posted on 25 July 2018 by admin

Dear Families,
To make a kinder world, we must make our own space kinder and then expand beyond. There are so many little ways that help us change ourselves, which will then help us change the world. Every kind act affects someone who then touches another person, and the chain continues. When we act kindly toward others, they feel good and then so do we. Is this making a difference? Yes, definitely.
Text of the week
Shammai says, “Make your Torah (study) a fixed practice; say little and do much; and greet everyone with a pleasant countenance.” —Pirkei Avot 1:15
• The sages tell us that everything is in the Torah and you can learn how to live by studying. Why do you think the rabbis tell us to study on a regular basis? How can study help you treat people better?
• What does it mean to “say little and do much”?
• Greeting everyone with a smile is the best way to make people happy, but why would it be part of this three-part mishnah?
• As with each mishnah, how are the three parts connected?
Value of the week
Kindness (sayver panim yafot — “Put on a Happy Face”
Kindness is when we care about others and showing that concern. We should show kindness to everything that is part of God’s creation: people, animals and the environment. Kindness can be shown in small ways that will make a difference. Greeting everyone with a smile brightens the day and makes people feel good. Smiling is the beginning of friendship. It makes people happy — and it feels good inside.
Things to Do:
• Listening and paying attention to someone is one of the kindest acts we can do.
• Do kind acts that help the earth; reduce, reuse, recycle.
• Be welcoming to new people and accepting of all people.
• Do things that give others happiness.


Be fair and do the right thing

Posted on 20 July 2018 by admin

Dear Families,
To create a better world, we need fairness or justice. Sometimes, it seems as if things just aren’t fair for everyone. We need a world in which people are judged equally and have the same opportunities. This is not something we can do alone, but it is something we can achieve together. Sometimes, it means standing up for what is right even if that is difficult.
Text of the Week
Yehoshua ben Perachyah says, “Make a teacher for yourself; acquire a friend for yourself; and judge everyone favorably. —Pirkei Avot 1:6
• Why do we need a teacher? The harder question that the mishnah advises is about “making” a teacher for yourself. What does that mean?
• Friends are important in life. How do we get friends? What does it mean to be a friend? The mishnah in Hebrew actually says to “buy” a friend? Why would the rabbi suggest that?
•Judging everyone favorably is what our value of the week is all about. Why is it hard to judge people fairly? Why do we judge others at all?
• The three parts of the mishnah combine to tell us something important. Why put these three ideas together? How do they help us make a better world?
Value of the Week
Fairness (Mishpat)
Fairness and justice are ideas that are hard to understand. Justice means that people get what they deserve, and fairness is about it doing the right thing for everyone. Judaism tells us that G-d practices justice but is also merciful. That means that we try to balance doing the just thing in a kind way and understanding the needs of others.
When you are just and fair, you treat each person as an individual. Fairness also means that every person’s rights are protected. We do not want people taken advantage of or treated differently because of their sex, race or religion.
Things to do
• Don’t make a quick judgment — find out the truth and act on it. Think for yourself.
• When you are just, you admit your own mistakes and accept the consequences.
• Stand up for yourself and for others. Don’t let others act like a bully or cheat or lie. This take courage.


All we’re asking for is to show a little respect

Posted on 12 July 2018 by admin

Dear Families,
We all want to do good things for the world — to do our part in making the world a better place. How do we know what we should do? How do we decide on a tikkun olam project that is right for us? Here are questions to ask:
• What are you good at?
• What do you like to do?
• What bothers you about what is wrong in the world? What really makes you mad?
• Who are your heroes and what is it about them that you admire?
• What are you not good at, but might do anyway because it would make a big difference in someone else’s life?
Text of the week
Ben Azzai was accustomed to say, “Do not be scornful of any person and do not be disdainful of anything, for you have no person without his hour, and you have nothing without its place.” —Pirkei Avot 4:3
• There are two words in this mishnah that we don’t often use. Look up “scornful” and “disdainful” in the dictionary. What do they mean?
• What does it mean that every person has his hour? What does it mean about everything having a place? What does this tell us about respect?
• How do you show respect for animals and things? Is it different than with people? In what way?
Value of the week:
respect (kavod)
Respect is an attitude that has to do with the way we treat one another, the way we speak and the way we treat others’ belongings. Being respectful also include self-respect. A good way to practice respect is to think about how you would like to be treated. When we respect people, animals and property, we show that we value each and every person and thing.
Things to do
• Treat everyone the way you would like to be treated.
• Honor other people’s need for time and space to themselves.
• Follow the rules of the place you are; i.e., school, camp, a friend’s home.
• Demonstrate ways to show respect for yourself.


Perfection not required to make a difference

Posted on 05 July 2018 by admin

Dear Families,
When you strive to make a difference, you don’t have to be perfect. Sometimes just doing anything is a step in the right direction.
The responsible actions to take are those that will help others when they are in need. When we don’t act when others need help, we close our eyes to the world. We must not say that someone else will do what is needed; we must do our part to make the world a better place.

Text of the week

Hillel was accustomed to say, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am for myself alone, what am I? And if not now, when?” —Pirkei Avot 1:14

  • Why does Hillel focus first on taking care of yourself? Why is that the responsible thing to do? What happens if you do not take care of yourself?
  • Hillel goes the next step and wonders what kind of a person we are if we care only about ourselves. What kind of person cares only for themselves?
  • The last phrase of this mishnah tells us to act now and not wait. Why is that important?

Value of the week: Responsibility (Achrayut)

Being responsible means that others can depend on you. It means you are willing to be accountable for what you do or not do: You accept credit when you do things right and you accept corrections when things go wrong.
When you take responsibility, other can count on you. Making excuses is not something a responsible person does. You want to be trustworthy.

Things to do

  • When someone asks you to do something, do it to the best of your ability.
  • Focus on your own part, not someone else’s.
  • Are you willing to accept credit or correction when you do something?
  • Admit mistakes without making excuses.

Decide to be a leader — and lead

Posted on 27 June 2018 by admin

Dear Families,
When it comes to making a difference in the world, many people wait to let others start the task. Especially when you are young, you wonder what you can do. There is so much that we can do, no matter what your age. But the first thing you must do is decide to act. Begin small and then gather others to help you. Together, we can do so much.
Text of the week
Hillel was accustomed to say, “In a place where there are no leaders, strive to be a leader.” — Pirkei Avot 2:6
• What does it mean to be a leader? What does it mean to be a follower?
• Why does the world need leaders?
• Can you be a negative leader? What does that mean?
• This text is about stepping up and doing the right thing. Why is that hard to do?
• Name some leaders that you know or have read about. What are the qualities that make them good leaders?

Value of the week
Leadership (Hanhagah)
We have many leaders in our Jewish history; Moses and King David are very well-known. It is not always easy to be a leader, and sometimes we are thrust into the job as Moses was.
Moses took the job that God gave him and, even when it was challenging, he continued. Yet, even if we are not Moses, we can lead others to do the right thing. There is a wonderful story that we read during the High Holidays. It tells of Rabbi Zusya, who said, “When I die, God will not ask if I was Moses but will ask if I was the best Zusya I could be.” We are judged by our actions, especially when they are difficult to do.
Things to do
• Think of a project you would like to do. Find others to help you and be the leader of the group. Is it hard to be the leader in a group?
• One way to practice being a leader is to teach something to others. Talk about the difficulties in being a teacher.
• Can you be a leader with no followers? It is hard but important to stand up and do the right thing even if no one joins you. This may mean being nice to someone that has no friends.


We are obligated to make a difference, to fix the world

Posted on 20 June 2018 by admin

Dear Families,
Each summer at Aaron Family JCC camps, we focus on different ways to make the world a better place. This summer, I will share different texts, values and give things to do for you.
Tikkun olam (fixing the world) is Judaism’s way of making a difference in the world. Jews are required to perform mitzvot. These are not good deeds, but commandments. This means that making the world a better place is not voluntary, but we are obligated to work to make a difference. Every time we do something to help another person, we feel good, so there is a double benefit. However, we must never forget the obligation or think someone else will do it. We need to care for the world and for all that is in our world.
Text of the week
Rabbi Akiva was accustomed to say: Beloved is man, for he was created in the image of God. —Pirke Avot 3:18
• In the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, we read that we have been created “in the image of God.” In Hebrew, the term is tzelem Elohim. Rabbi Akiva believed this was the most important phrase in the Torah. Why do you think he felt that way?
• How does being in God’s image tell you to treat other people?
• How does the way we treat others help us with tikkun olam?
Value of the week:
Compassion— Rachamim
Caring and compassion are important as we go out into the world to change it for the better. The Hebrew word rachamim means truly caring about others. The word is also translated as mercy. Rachamim comes from within; it is a sign of love, respect and concern. We must care about others but also care about ourselves. To really change the world we must care about those we don’t know. The Torah says: “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:20-21).
Things to do
• Treat others and yourself with care.
• Let people know that they are important by looking at them and listening closely.
• Be careful with everything you touch.


Jewish camps — including Dallas J’s — still going strong

Posted on 06 June 2018 by admin

Dear Families,
This past week, myjewishlearning.
com posted a piece titled How Summer Camp Became a Jewish Thing by Jeri Zeder. As we are frantically and enthusiastically getting ready for camp at the Aaron Family JCC, this article brought me back to our history. Here is a short part of the article:
“Turn of the Century: The first Jewish camps sprouted up amid the larger organized camping movement in America, led by 19th-century social reformers seeking to give a reprieve to children living in the squalid conditions of industrializing cities. These fresh-air programs blended spiritual, educational and recreational components. By the mid-1920s, hundreds of camps had opened in forested, lakeshore spots around the United States.
“The early Jewish camps were motivated by two concepts: Bring inner-city kids out to the country, and ‘Americanize’ the children of Eastern European immigrants. What made these camps Jewish was their demographics, not their programming. Their campers were Jewish, and the camps were run under Jewish auspices.
“Acculturation at Camp: But beginning in the 1920s and through the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, a trend emerged that ran counter to the emphasis on acculturation at many Jewish camps: the growth of camps with consciously Jewish cultural and educational missions. Among the first were the
Cejwin Camps in Port Jervis, New York, which were founded by the Central Jewish Institute, an independent Jewish community center on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and Camp Boiberik, a Yiddish camp near Rhinebeck, New York.
“In addition to Yiddish camps, camps with Zionist, Hebrew and socialist identities came into existence. While sporting different cultural and ideological missions, they all offered in common Jewish experiences inextricably linked to the pleasures of friendships forged in outdoor summer fun.”
We are still going strong and continue to recognize the impact that camp has had on generations of children. Each summer at our camp orientation, I ask parents who were past campers and counselors to stand. I am not only amazed at the numbers standing, but also to see the pride that they feel sending their children off on a journey that is still with the parents.
I hope all of you who have camp memories take time to remember how camp impacted your life — especially those of you coming to the J to exercise or for meetings. As you wait in the carpool line to get in, as you listen to laughter and are bombarded by children coming down the hall, remember that we are giving to our future.


Teach children faith by developing strong roots

Posted on 31 May 2018 by admin

Dear Parents and Children,
As the school year comes to a close, we look back on how we have grown. With our little ones, it is easy to see the physical changes and even the intellectual and emotional growth can be observed.
But, how do we “teach” our children to have faith and how can we measure spiritual growth? Talk with your children about wonder and, most importantly, talk about God. The ease with which young children talk will strengthen your own faith. Our children are indeed strengthening their roots and are growing strong.
A story is told of a young student who questions Rabbi Akiba about the nature of faith. The rabbi brought the student over to a sprout in the ground and said, “Pull it up.” The student did so with little effort. They walked on to a sapling and again Akiba said, “Pull it up.” This took more effort but was done. And then on to a shrub which took all the student’s strength to uproot. Finally, Rabbi Akiba took the student to a fully grown tree and, try as he might, the student could not move the tree.
Rabbi Akiba spoke, “That is also how it is with faith. If the roots of our faith are deep, if our religious views are mature and developed, our faith cannot be uprooted, even by someone trying very hard to do so. Always remember that the strength of your faith first depends on the strength of its roots.”
Parents, grandparents and all the adults in our children’s lives must remember the impact we have with every word. Albert Schweitzer said, “There are three ways to teach: by example, by example, by example.” Let’s us look within and then model the very best that we want our children to see.
Shalom…from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.


How to be a good host and guest

Posted on 16 May 2018 by admin

Dear Families,
School is ending soon, and summer is coming. Often, summer is the time for trips and visiting places, friends and family (when you are not at camp). As you prepare, a very good Jewish value is hachnasat orchim, hospitality or welcoming guests. There is a skill to welcoming guests and to being one (whether in someone’s home, a hotel or an amusement park). There is a little learning, a little thinking and then a lot of doing. Get involved this summer. Here is a little learning:
Hachnasat orchim is about extending hospitality to guests, and it is an important standard for Jewish behavior. One of the favorite stories about this mitzvah is about Abraham taking care of the three visitors who came to his tent. He said he would give a little food and then made a major meal — and so he set the standard for doing even more.
The ancient rabbis were also very concerned about hospitality. It was an important mitzvah to welcome anyone who traveled or who was new or alone. The rabbis came up with specific guidelines for host and guest. Here are a few:
Rules for the host
• Always be happy when you are sitting at your table and those who are hungry are enjoying your hospitality. —Derech Eretz Zuta 9
• Do not embarrass your guests by staring at them. —Mishneh Torah
• It is the obligation of the host to serve at the table. This shows his/her willingness to personally satisfy the guests. —Talmud, Kiddushin 32b
Rules for the guest
• A good guest says, “How much trouble my host goes through for me.” —Talmud, Berachot 58a
• A good guest complies with every request that the host makes of him. —Derech Eretz Rabbah 6
• Guests should not overstay their welcome. —Talmud, Pesachim 49a
• Good guests leave food on their plates to show that they have been served more than enough. —Talmud, Eruvin 53b
• Make up rules that you can use when you visit somewhere.
• Have you ever invited a new family in your neighborhood for dinner? What plans might you put in place to make them feel welcome?
• How can you be welcoming to a new friend whether you meet them at your home or some place you are visiting?
Shalom…from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.


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