When working with children, we often hear, “That’s not fair!” It is a hard concept for kids and often for adults. Fairness is a word that is really about justice or mishpat. Judaism has the message of justice deeply implanted in the spirit of Jewish life. The Torah is filled with laws and examples of how to make a fair judgment and the importance of being fair and just.
You shall not render an unfair decision: do not favor the poor nor show deference to the rich; judge your neighbor fairly. (Leviticus)
Only to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. (Micah)
Rabbi Hillel said, “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.” This is a very easy way to understand how to treat others. However, being fair isn’t always easy or simple. Fair doesn’t always mean the same! Here are some good questions to have with your family and friends (no matter the age – you can adjust the situations).
Have you ever been treated unfairly? How did it make you feel?
Do you think it is fair that older children get to stay up later and do more things than younger children? Why or why not? Do you think it is fair that boys get to do things that girls don’t get to do? Why or why not?
Some families have a rule that if there is a piece of cake to share, one person gets to cut it and the other gets to choose the first piece. How is this a fair way to divide the cake? Can this system be used in other areas?
Here is a story that also leads to thinking and talking: A young boy came to a woman’s house and asked if she would like to buy some of the berries he had picked from his father’s fields. The woman said, “Yes, I would and I’ll just take your basket inside to measure out 2 quarts.” The boy sat down on the porch and the woman asked, “Don’t you want to watch me. How do you know that I won’t cheat you and take more than 2 quarts?” The young boy said, “I am not afraid, for you would get the worst of the deal.” “How could that be?” she asked. The boy answered, “If you take more than 2 quarts that you are paying me for, I would only lose the berries. You would make yourself a liar and a thief.” Talk about the meaning of this story with your family.
Laura Seymour is the director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family JCC.