Fun vs. Principles

Mishpatim: A resource for families.

Commentary on Parashat Mishpatim, Exodus 21:1 - 24:18

Often in life we look for the fireworks, the fun ride, the sparkling party, but it’s the everyday, the prosaic, that really creates the infrastructure for a solid life.

Consider what happens in this week’s Torah portion. After the thunder, voices and lightning at Sinai in our last parsha, in this one we find law after law. Such a letdown after the terrifying excitement of Sinai! But what we find here are really the tenets of how to live a life–how to live with one another on a daily basis.  For some examples: “You should not carry false rumors.” “You shall not oppress a stranger.” “On the seventh day you shall cease from labor.” Each principle provides instructions as to how to live a life.

Parents frequently worry about the way to instill their values in their children. Children tend to seek out the fun in life, so it’s especially difficult for them to learn that there are principles that guide our lives. The only way for us to do that is to model living by principles ourselves. When our children see us having fun but not at the expense of others, they learn from the guidelines and boundaries embedded in our day-to-day behavior. They observe carefully how we treat people both inside and outside the family circle.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about some principles that should guide their daily life.

·    How do we treat (or mistreat) the people who serve our needs, such as waiters, bus drivers, cashiers, household helpers?
·    What helps us figure out how to treat others?
·    Which values are most important to you? How do you express these values?

© Copyright 2010 Joyce and Fred Claar

From “Values and Ethics: Torah Topics for Today,” available from Behrman House Publishers.


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