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What does it mean to Love Your Neighbor as Yourself?

This year, JCDSRI is weaving a values curriculum into all areas of the curriculum. This month’s Jewish value comes from Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The fifth graders are using other Jewish texts, especially from Pirkei Avot (a section¬†within the Rabbinic collection known as the Mishna), the Ethics of the Fathers, to help them unpack the meaning and application of this verse. Some of the questions that have been raised by them: What does it mean to be a neighbor – does that mean only people within your community? (They rejected that understanding). What happens if you don’t like yourself – how does that help you know how to treat somebody else? (This question is still being explored). What are the behaviors connected to this concept that will help to show that we love our neighbors? (Treating someone with respect, being helpful, reaching out to them, using kind words, etc). Using the teaching from Pirkei Avot which states, “I am only for myself, what am I; if I am not for myself, who will be; and if not now, when?,” we have explored the idea of maintaining a balance. While we need to be there to help others, we also have the obligation to take care of ourselves, These are important concepts to be considered at any time but are even more significant at this time of the year as we enter into the spiritual tasks of the HIgh Holy Day season. May all of you have a good year, one filled with blessings and health, and may you have more laughter than tears in the year to come.