Jewish Value of the Week: Fairness — Mishpat
Fairness 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, as well as the importance of being fair and just.
Rabbi Hillel said, “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.” However, being fair isn’t always easy or simple.
Family Talk Time
- 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? Do you think it is fair that boys get to do things that girls don’t get to do?
- 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. Is this a fair way to divide the cake? Can this system be used in other areas?
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 two 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 two 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 two 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.
A Story for Shabbat: ‘The Little Sharpshooter’
— from “Brainteasers From Jewish Folklore”
On his way home from military school, a young nobleman stopped to rest at an inn. Leaving his horse at the stable, he noticed a wall with a dozen bulls’ eyes drawn in chalk. There was a bullet hole in the center of every one.
“How can this be?” he thought. The clean holes could only have been made by a rifle at a good distance. Even he himself, who had won his school rifle prize, could never have shot so well.
Questioning the villagers, he was astonished to learn that the sharpshooter was a small Jewish boy dressed in rags.
“But you’re an insignificant little peasant,” he told the boy.
“And I can barely lift a rifle, Your Excellency,” the boy responded.
So how did the little boy manage to hit a bull’s eye every time?
He shot first and then drew the target around the hole.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.