Commentary on Parashat Shoftim, Deuteronomy 16:18 - 21:9
Children are perpetually concerned with fairness. “It’s not fair,” they cry when a sibling gets something they don’t. It’s a phrase they often use when there’s something not exactly to their liking. But “it’s not fair” can become something more mature as they grow older. It can become a concern for justice. It’s not fair, for example, can become it’s not right that a classmate is being teased on the playground, or can extend beyond their immediate environment to—it’s not right that a person has no place to sleep at night, or that a child has not enough to eat.
This week’s Torah parshah urges us repeatedly to pursue justice. It is concerned with fairness in the courts, not taking bribes, and the poor having as much of a right to achieve justice as the rich. The aim of setting up a court system is ultimately to have a just society with access to fairness for all.
We as parents can nurture our children’s more immature concern with “fairness” with a concern for justice. First of all, we can do the best we can to navigate fairly in all the situations at home when a concern for fairness is raised. That can be the small beginnings of coming to know what justice can mean out in the wider world. Next, when our children show curiosity about poverty, we can begin to educate them in ways appropriate for their age to such problems as homelessness, hunger, inadequate schools, and racism.
TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN about the concept of fairness and how it extends beyond their own worlds.
CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:
· What does it mean to be fair? When is something unfair?
· What do you think is the best way to deal with something when it is unfair?
· Are there situations in which being fair does not mean being equal?
© Copyright 2010 Joyce and Fred Claar
From “Values and Ethics: Torah Topics for Today,” available from Behrman House Publishers.
Pronunced: TORE-uh, Origin: Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses.