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Dignified Inside and Out

Yitro (Exodus 18-20 )

by Nesanel Yoel Safran

The way we act and dress says a lot about who we are. This week's Torah portion (Ex. 20:23) instructs the Jewish Cohanim/priests to be sure to dress and walk modestly in the holy tabernacle to show it respect. So, too, when we dress and behave in a modest, dignified way, we show that we respect others - and ourselves.


In our story, a couple of kids consider what it means to be dignified.


Jill heard a knock at her front door. She opened it to see her friend, Debby, dressed in her best suit, carry-bag in hand.

"Hi," Jill said.

"Hi there to you, too," Debby said, looking at her watch. "Did you forget what today is?"

"What do you mean?" Jill asked.

"That it's our graduation banquet today?"

"Of course I didn't forget," Jill smiled. "How could I ever possibly forget I day I've been looking forward to for three years?!"

"But we're going to be late. It's going to be starting really soon."

"So let's go," Jill said.

"But it's going to take a long time for you to get dressed." Debby said.

"I am dressed," Jill said, stepping toward the door.

Debby looked at her friend's attire and frowned. "Um, don't you think that's a little too, um ... casual, for something like this? Don't you want to wear something a bit more, uh ... dignified?"

Jill waved her off with an annoyed flash of her hand. "What difference does it make how someone's dressed? A person is a person - right? So let's go."

The two friends went to the school banquet. After a scrumptious, five-course meal and awards presentations, the whole graduating class went over to the school auditorium, for a special professional circus entertainment program.

"Hey, this is pretty cool, don't you think?" Debby said, watching the colorful clowns, jugglers and animal acts.

"Sure," Jill said. "But one thing bothers me."

"What's that?"

"I really did not like that trained-dog act that just left the stage."

"Why not?" Debby asked. "It was hilarious!"

"I don't know. They way they dressed the dogs in those silly costumes..."

"But, that was the funniest part."

"In a way it was sort of funny," Jill said. "But in a way it was ... really not right. The clothes they were wearing kind of made the dogs look stupid. You know, not..."

"Dignified?" Debby asked.

"Exactly!" Jill said. "Hey why are you grinning like that?" she asked Debby.

"But what difference does it make how they're dressed? A dog is a dog - right?"

"Yeah, but ... hey wait a minute. I know what you're trying to say, but you can't compare it to how people dress."

"Why not?"

"Because dogs can't choose whether or not to look dignified - people can," Jill said.

"Exactly!" Debby laughed.

"Yeah ... well..." Jill was about to argue, but then decided to join in laughing, instead. "Um, Debby, that nice sweater you have folded on your lap..." she said "Do you think maybe I can borrow it and put it on?"


Ages 3-5

Q. How did Jill feel at first about how she was dressed for the graduation ceremony?
A. She thought it didn't matter however she was dressed.

Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She felt like she should dress in a dignified way.


Ages 6-9

Q. What life-lesson do you think someone could learn from this story?
A. We're not always aware that how we present ourselves makes a statement about who we feel we are. Someone who acts and dresses in a dignified way is saying he cares about himself and takes himself seriously.

Q. What bothered Jill about the way the dogs were dressed?
A. She realized that although their clothing didn't change what the dogs were, there was something not right about taking away their dignity. It was then she realized that dignity does make a difference and clothing can affect it - in the dogs ... and in her.


Ages 10 and Up

Q. What does it mean to be 'dignified?'
A. It means to have a sense of self-worth and appropriate self-esteem.

Q. What does our external appearance and behavior have to do with that?
A. While a person's true dignity is something internal, someone with dignity would never choose to portray himself - through dress or behavior - in a way that cheapens him in the eyes of others.


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