Linking the Generations - Ki Teitzei Deuteronomy 21:10–25:19
When You Go Out
Preparing for a new year and a new you:
This week’s Parashah, by examining codes of laws and regulations, presents a set of ethical and moral dilemmas. One could group them into three areas:
1How ethics uphold our society.
2How the concern for others is a universal concept we need in our world.
3The importance of our concern for the natural world.
As we begin a new school year, and the month of Elul leads us into the High Holidays, it is a perfect time to speak to our students about how these themes come together at this time of year.
In the beginning of a school year, we are trying to establish norms and routines. But we are also creating community and asking our students to focus on kindness, respect, welcoming, and self-control. And the purpose need not be just about keeping order. We may be creating a contract of behavior in our rooms – a Brit – so that learning can take place. But we can also acknowledge that these are universal values that Judaism provides us as ways to improve society as a whole – and by extension the world.
Elul is about taking stock of some of these values that we will then reflect further upon during Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur. Yes, we are hopeful for a sweet new year ahead and will celebrate that with our food and our prayer. But we can only bring about the full sweetness of a new year when we have made changes in ourselves and the world.
In speaking with our students about this, I asked what would happen if the world never changed? Their reactions were impressive. They know the world needs to change and they began to realize that changes in themselves, in their own behavior, is what starts that process.
Students at the younger ages may not see that connection, but the fact that this is the time of year we focus on these new starts, on creating community, and on being the most welcoming and most compassionate person we can is a connection to our tradition we can make every year at this time.