5th Grade Family Kesher - Isaiah and Social Justice

 

Read through the quotations with your grownup and pick your favorite.

What does the text mean?
Does it relate to modern day social justice issues?
Does your text inspire you to get involved?
Does that text give you advice on how you should get involved/what you should do to help?

Isaiah 1:17

Translation Original
Learn to do good. Devote yourselves to justice; aid the wronged. Uphold the rights of the orphan; defend the cause of the widow. [JPS translation]
לִמְדוּ הֵיטֵב דִּרְשׁוּ מִשְׁפָּט אַשְּׁרוּ חָמוֹץ שִׁפְטוּ יָתוֹם רִיבוּ אַלְמָנָה:
 

Genesis Rabbah 11:6

TranslationOriginal
All that was created during the six days of creation requires improvement. For example, the mustard seed needs to be sweetened and the lupine need to be sweetened, the wheat needs to be ground, and even a person needs improvement. [AJWS translation]
כל מה שנברא בששת ימי בראשית צריכין עשייה, כגון החרדל צריך למתוק, התורמוסים צריך למתוק, החיטין צריכין להטחן, אפילו אדם צריך תיקון.

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. According to this text, what is our role in the world?
2. How can we improve God's creations?


Mishna, Pirkei Avot, 4:15

Translation Original
Rabbi Eliezer ben Shamua taught: The dignity of your student should be as precious to you as your reverence for your teacher. The reverence for your teacher should be as great as your reverence for God. [CAJE translation]
רבי אליעזר בן שמוע אומר: יהי כבוד תלמידך חביב עליך כשלך, וכבוד חברך חמורא רבך, ומורא רבך חמורא שמים.

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. What does it mean to have dignity for someone?
2. Why should the dignity of your student be as precious to you as your reverence for your teacher?
3. Why should our reverence for our teachers be as great as our reverence for God?


Isaiah 54:14

Translation Original
You shall be established through righteousness. You shall be safe from oppression, and shall have no fear; from ruin, and it shall not come near you. [JPS translation]
בִּצְדָקָה תִּכּוֹנָנִי רַחֲקִי מֵעֹשֶׁק כִּי לֹא תִירָאִי וּמִמְּחִתָּה כִּי לֹא תִקְרַב אֵלָיִךְ:
 

Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 10a

TranslationOriginal
Every judge who judges with complete fairness, even for a single hour, tradition gives that judge credit as though they had become a partner to the Holy Blessed One in the creation. [AJWS translation]
כל דיין שדן דין אמת לאמיתו אפילו שעה אחת - מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו נעשה שותף להקדוש ברוך הוא במעשה בראשית.

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. What does it mean to judge with complete fairness? Why is this such a noble act?
2. Why does this judge become a partner in creation? What does this teach us about the importance of judging people fairly?


Mishna, Pirkei Avot, 1:6

Translation Original
Joshua ben Perahia would say: Make for yourself a Rav (teacher), and acquire for yourself a colleague, and give all individuals the benefit of the doubt. [Translation by CAJE]
יהושע בן פרחיה אומר עשה לך רב וקנה לך חבר והוי דן את כל האדם לכף זכות

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. Why are we told to make for ourselves a Rav? How is a Rav different than a colleague?
2. What is the connection between these two and giving all individuals the benefit of the doubt?


Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Torah Study 1:2

Translation Original
Just as it is a person’s duty to teach their child, so it is their duty to teach their grandchild, as it is written: “Make them known to your children and your children’s children” (Deuteronomy 4:9). This obligation does not refer only to one’s child and grandchild, but it is a duty resting upon every Jewish scholar to teach all those who seek to be their students, even though they are not that scholar’s own children, for it is written: “You shall teach them diligently to your children” (Deuteronomy 6:7). On traditional authority, the term “your children” in this verse has been interpreted to mean that your pupils are likewise called children, for it is written: “And the sons of the prophets came out” (II Kings 2:3). [CAJE translation. Edited for gender neutrality]
כשם שחייב אדם ללמד את בנו, כך הוא חייב ללמד את בן בנו, שנאמר: והודעתם לבניך ולבני בניך. ולא בנו ובן בנו בלבד, אלא מצוה על כל חכם וחכם מישראל ללמד את כל התלמידים אף על פי שאינם בניו, שנאמר: ושננתם לבניך – מפי השמועה למדו, "בניך" אלו תלמידיך, שהתלמידים קרוים בנים, שנאמר: ויצאו בני הנביאים.

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. According to the Rambam, who is a teacher?
2. What is the obligation of a teacher?
3. How does treating your students as your children transform your responsibility to them?


Ramban, Genesis 2:3

TranslationOriginal
And know that there is more encompassed in the words “to do,” for the six days of creation are akin to the days of the existence of the world. [AJWS translation]
ודע, כי נכלל עוד במלת "לעשות" כי ששת ימי בראשית הם כל ימות עולם

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. According to Ramban, the creation of the world is not completed, but in the continual process of creation. Based on this thinking, what is the role of humanity in building a just and equitable world?


Rambam, Mishneh Torah, The Laws of Torah Study 5:12

Translation Original
Just as the pupils are required to honor the teacher, so the teacher out to be courteous and friendly towards their pupils. The sages said: “Let the honor of your student be as dear to you as your own” (Pirkei Avot, 4:15). One should be interested in their pupils and love them, for they are the spiritual children who give pleasure in this world and in the world to come. [Translation by CAJE. Edited for gender neutrality]
כשם שהתלמידים חייבין בכבוד הרב כך הרב צריך לכבד את תלמידיו ולקרבן, כך אמרו חכמים יהי כבוד תלמידך חביב עליך כשלך, וצריך אדם להזהר בתלמידיו ולאוהבם שהם הבנים המהנים לעולם הזה ולעולם הבא

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. Why must a teacher honor their students?
2. How do students provide benefit to the teacher in both this world and the next?
3. What should a teacher’s overall approach to their students be?


Abraham Joshua Heschel, I Asked for Wonder: A Spiritual Anthology

Original
Everything depends on the person who stands in front of the classroom. The teacher is not an automatic fountain from which intellectual beverages may be obtained. The teacher is either a witness or a stranger. To guide a pupil into the promised land, the teacher must have been there themselves. When asking themselves: Do I stand for what I teach? Do I believe what I say?, the teacher must be able to answer in the affirmative. What we need more than anything else is not textbooks, but textpeople. It is the personality of the teacher which is the text that the pupils read: the text that they will never forget. [Edited for gender neutrality]

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. According to Heschel, what are the most effective means of education?
2. Who is the ideal teacher? Why?
3. What is the goal of education?


Genesis 1:1

TranslationOriginal
In the beginning of God's creation of the heavens and the earth [translation by Judaica Press].
בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹקִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ:

Suggested Discussion Questions

What difference does it make to know that the world and heavens were created by G-d?


Isaiah 58:7-11

Translation Original
It is to share your bread with the hungry, and to take the wretched poor into your home; When you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to ignore your own kin. Then shall your light burst through like the dawn and your healing spring up quickly; Your vindicator shall march before you, the presence of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then, when you call, the Lord will answer; When you cry, the Lord will say: Here I am. If you banish your yoke from your midst, The menacing hand and evil speech, and you offer your compassion to the hungry and satisfy the famished creature- then shall your light shine in darkness, and your gloom shall be like noonday. The Lord will guide you always; the Lord will slake your thirst in parched places and give strength to your bones. You shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose waters do not fail. [[JPS translation] Edited for gender neutrality]
(ז)הֲלוֹא פָרֹס לָרָעֵב לַחְמֶךָ וַעֲנִיִּים מְרוּדִים תָּבִיא בָיִת כִּי תִרְאֶה עָרֹם וְכִסִּיתוֹ וּמִבְּשָׂרְךָ לֹא תִתְעַלָּם: ח) אָז יִבָּקַע כַּשַּׁחַר אוֹרֶךָ וַאֲרֻכָתְךָ מְהֵרָה תִצְמָח וְהָלַךְ לְפָנֶיךָ צִדְקֶךָ כְּבוֹד יְקֹוָק יַאַסְפֶךָ: (ט)אָז תִּקְרָא וַיקֹוָק יַעֲנֶה תְּשַׁוַּע וְיֹאמַר הִנֵּנִי אִם תָּסִיר מִתּוֹכְךָ מוֹטָה שְׁלַח אֶצְבַּע וְדַבֶּר אָוֶן: (י)וְתָפֵק לָרָעֵב נַפְשֶׁךָ וְנֶפֶשׁ נַעֲנָה תַּשְׂבִּיעַ וְזָרַח בַּחֹשֶׁךְ אוֹרֶךָ וַאֲפֵלָתְךָ כַּצָּהֳרָיִם: (יא)וְנָחֲךָ יְקֹוָק תָּמִיד וְהִשְׂבִּיעַ בְּצַחְצָחוֹת נַפְשֶׁךָ וְעַצְמֹתֶיךָ יַחֲלִיץ וְהָיִיתָ כְּגַן רָוֶה וּכְמוֹצָא מַיִם אֲשֶׁר לֹא יְכַזְּבוּ מֵימָיו:
 

Abraham Joshua Heschel, I Asked for Wonder: A Spiritual Anthology

Original
Everything depends on the person who stands in front of the classroom. The teacher is not an automatic fountain from which intellectual beverages may be obtained. The teacher is either a witness or a stranger. To guide a pupil into the promised land, the teacher must have been there themselves. When asking themselves: Do I stand for what I teach? Do I believe what I say?, the teacher must be able to answer in the affirmative. What we need more than anything else is not textbooks, but textpeople. It is the personality of the teacher which is the text that the pupils read: the text that they will never forget. [Edited for gender neutrality]

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. According to Heschel, what are the most effective means of education?
2. Who is the ideal teacher? Why?
3. What is the goal of education?


Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13

TranslationOriginal
When God created the first human beings, God led them around all the trees of the Garden of Eden and said: “Look at My works! See how beautiful they are—how excellent! For your sake I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil and destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.” [Translation by AJWS]
בשעה שברא הקב"ה את אדם הראשון נטלו והחזירו על כל אילני גן עדן ואמר לו ראה מעשי כמה נאים ומשובחין הן וכל מה שבראתי בשבילך בראתי, תן דעתך שלא תקלקל ותחריב את עולמי, שאם קלקלת אין מי שיתקן אחריך

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. What does this text teach us about the earth?
2. What is our responsibility to the environment? What is God's responsibility to the environment?
3. Have humans heeded God’s warning? Who will repair our mistakes?