Favouritism

People crave fairness. Most people understand that in life there are winners and loser, and that some people will do better than others. We accept that sometime things wont go our way. What we want is fairness, a level playing field, where we are given an equal chance as anyone else. Favouritism, whereby one person is treated more favourably than others is unjust, as the rest of the people feel that their contribution is not viewed equally.

Favouritism is all the more damaging with children. If a child becomes convinced that their efforts are not valued equally, he or she may decide that there is no point trying, thereby instigating a cycle of failure and low motivation. The Biblical story of Joseph is a warning of the consequences of favouritism. Joseph was treated to a special coat as a mark of his special place in his father Jacobs heart, which led to intense jealousy from his other brothers. When the opportunity arose, Josephs brothers exacted revenge by selling him into slavery. He was taken to Egypt, and later brought his family there where they were later enslaved.

The Talmud (Shabbat 10b) draws this lesson from the incident: "A person should never single out one of his children for favourable treatment, for because of the two extra coins worth of silk (which Jacob invested in the special coat he made for Joseph), Josephs brothers became jealous of him and one thing led to another until our ancestors became slaves in Egypt." Children should be treated as equal but different. "Educate a child according to his way," the Bible (Proverbs 22:6) advises. Each child is an individual and needs something different. Because individual treatment for each child may sometimes be perceived as favouritism, extra effort needs to be made to avoid this perception.

 
Feeding the poor

Providing food for those who are hungry is one of the fundamental acts of charity. Few acts of kindness have such an immediate positive impact, and few acts of charity can be achieved with so little investment. A Jewish teaching (Leviticus Rabbah 34:2) says: "Whoever gives a peruta (small coin) to a poor man, The Holy One Blessed be He, will give him life. For indeed, is he really giving only a perutah? No, he gives him his life! How can we explain this? If a loaf of bread costs 10 perutot and a poor man standing in the marketplace has only nine, then if someone comes and gives him a perutah so that he is able to buy a loaf of bread and, having eaten it, feels refreshed, the Holy One Blessed be He, says to the donor, In your case too, when your soul presses to break loose from your body, I shall return it to you." Indeed the Biblical book of Proverbs (22:9) states, "A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor."

The Bible contains many food-related laws designed to alleviate hunger from the poor. Every third year, a farmer must give a tenth of his crops to the poor (Deuteronomy 26:12). When reaping the harvest in the field, the Bible instituted various provisions for the poor: to leave a corner of the field for the poor to enjoy (Leviticus 23:22), to leave for the poor a sheaf that was forgotten in the field (Deuteronomy 24:19) nor to collect bit of produce that fell during transport (Leviticus 19:9). When someone claims to be poor it is not unreasonable to check out his or her story, but not if the request is for food (Talmud Baba Batra 9a), for this is a need so basic to survival. Rabbi Chaim of Zanz was aware that sometimes charity is not given to the deserving poor, but he reasoned that "the merit of charity is so great that I am happy to give to one hundred people even if only might actually need it." When you feed the poor, you are in a sense undertaking a Divine activity, as God, the Psalmist (146:7) declares "gives bread to the hungry."

Thus Jewish laws demands that "When you give food to a hungry person, give him your best and sweetest food" (Maimonides, Laws of Prohibitions to the Altar 7:11). Jewish sources are replete with stories of people whose lives were saved on account of sharing their food with the poor. For example, the Talmud (Shabbat 156a) tells a story of a bride who gave her meal at her wedding celebration to a pauper and survived a close brush with a poisonous snake that same evening. The noblest way of feeding the poor is to invite them to eat with you. In this way, you not only make them less hungry, but you also help them feel less isolated and depressed. That is why one rabbi is reported in the Talmud (Taanit 20b) as exiting his front door before each meal to announce: "Whoever is in need, let that person come and eat."