By Laura Seymour
There are so many lessons we strive to teach our children, but we sometimes struggle to remember messages. So how do we practice justice and fairness, and strive to eliminate hatred and prejudice based on the teachings of Judaism? It’s a pretty tall order.
How do we teach our children and ourselves? We do so through our texts and by our example.
Fairness is a word that is really about justice (mishpat in Hebrew). Judaism has the message of justice deeply implanted in the spirit of Jewish life. The Torah and commentaries are 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.
Try these conversation starters with your children:
- 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?
Stories work well for discussions, too: 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.
Laura Seymour is director of Jewish life and learning and director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.