Jewish Folktales
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Jewish Folktales

Jewish Value:

     Pursue Justice

Additional Value:

     Be Generous

Lesson Summary:

This lesson s purpose:
"When times are hard, it is sometimes difficult to remember that the things that count are not always material, and the people who make a difference in our lives are the ones we often take for granted. The parable of "The Three Laughs" exemplifies these ideas. We may never know the reasons behind the giving of others. Sometimes it may seem stingy and at other times generous. Perhaps all that may be needed to untie the purse strings may be "Loosening the Stopper." "The Clotheslines," "Defending His Property" and "A Special Gift" reveal gifts of generosity in everyday events of life."


"The learner will:

  • use the geographic themes of location, place and human-environment relations to describe settings and cultures represented in folktales.
  • research background information that enables folktales to be placed in a historical setting.
  • identify the Baal Shem Tov, Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev, and Rabbi Shneur Zalman and explain how they used parables to teach their people.
  • define/identify the terms righteous, Hasidism, Shabbat and explain their cultural relationship to the folktales.
  • describe the eight levels of Tzedakah and explain how they transform the idea of generosity.
  • explain how giving the gift of joy can transform people or their situations.
  • describe how tests of patience can strengthen one’s character.
  • interpret a person’s character in a role-play through non-verbal actions alone."
(taken from

Be Inspired:The ideas included are offered as starting points as you and your students explore, discover and live the lessons. Be sure to elicit and encourage student and parent participation, consistently reinforcing the value being addressed. Allow lessons to authentically develop and change based on engagement and interests.

Lesson Plan Components

For the educatorJewish Thought, Text, and Traditionsmore

The Torah teaches in the book of Deuteronomy “Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof,” literally meaning “Justice, justice, you shall pursue.”  The notion of tzedek tirdof--pursuing justice is a core Jewish value that not only refers to courts and laws, but perhaps more importantly, deals with how we treat others.  The prophet Micah teaches that the idea of “good” is encompassed by the act of seeking justice.  In doing so, one can walk with G-d (Micah 3:1-12).

To pursue justice means that we should live righteously, meaning it is our responsibility to ensure that the needs of others are as important to us as our own.  Furthermore, righteous living involves us acting ethically--to be upright, just, and sincere.  The commentator Nachmanides reminds us that tzedek tirdof challenges us to resolve conflict by compromising and teaches that being righteous is more important than the obligations of law.  What is essential in being righteous and pursuing justice is our ability to act fairly and be inclusive of others.  Because every human being is unique and was created b’tzelem elohim, in G-d’s image, they can make a positive difference and contribute to our world in special ways (Genesis 1:26).

The value of tzedek tirdof lifts up the messages of the prophets who sought justice and fairness for all.  Like the prophets of our Hebrew Bible, we too can question how the world is and what it ought to be.  We can keep Divine expectations for a better world and better people at the center of our relationship with G-d.  Furthermore, no one opinion is of greater importance than the other.  In fact, in examining the phrase “Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof,” we learn that the phrase is in the singular.  Therefore, each of us must pursue justice.  When we do so together and act in righteous ways, the pursuit of justice may be fulfilled.  

As Pirke Avot teaches, “You are not required to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it.…”  We do not need to complete the task of tzedek tirdof alone, but should do our part in creating a just world.  Our choice, then, is whether or not we should take action.  When we do so, the pursuit of justice comes closer to being fulfilled.

Questions for Personal Reflection:

1. Is there a difference between acting ethically each day and specifically pursuing justice, such as by advocating publicly for a specific issue?

2. Why is it important to understand that our concepts of right and wrong, good and bad, may differ from others?

3. How can you make a difference in your classroom by pursuing justice or fairness for each child’s unique needs?  How might you differentiate your curriculum, instruction, and classroom management strategies to exemplify this approach?

4. How can you pursue justice--tzedek tirdof on a regular basis and incorporate this value in the classroom?

Jewish every dayIncorporate Jewish Valuesmore

Materials and resourcesmore


Video Playlist on Tzedakah:



Explore, Discover, and More Extension and Reinforcement Activitiesmore

Music Connectionsmore

List of All Songs

Songs about Tzedakah:


Lesson Contributors

Lesson from:, a resource that offers philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement. This lesson plan offers a guide to using several folktales and parables to extend student understanding about giving and gratitude.

republished with permision