> Weekly Torah Portion > Parents & Kids > Family Parsha

Be Kind to Your Body


Emor (Leviticus 21-24 )

by Nesanel Yoel Safran

Our bodies are precious, holy gifts from God and we should treat them with respect. In this week's portion (21:5) we learn that doing bad things to our bodies, even when very upset, is wrong. We should take care of our bodies and show them - and ourselves - respect.

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In our story, a kid discovers that his body doesn't belong to just any...body.


"I can taste those burgers already," Josh said as he poured the coals into the hibachi. His cousin, Greg, had come to visit from out of town and to celebrate the occasion the boys were making a barbecue in Josh's back yard.

"And those marshmallows are already melting in my mouth," Josh added as he adjusted the visor of the cool, official major league baseball cap that Greg had brought him as a special souvenir-gift from his hometown ballpark. "Hand me the matches, okay?"

Greg did, but as Josh took them from his hand, he noticed that the ends of his cousin's fingers were all red, shriveled and bleeding.

"Hey, what happened?"

"What do you mean?" Greg asked.

"Your fingers, man. They look like those raw hamburgers over there."

"Oh, that? You know, I, like, bite my nails and hangnails. I used to do it a little and now I do it a lot."

"Doesn't look too good... Why do you do that?"

Greg shrugged. "Dunno. I just feel like it. So what?"

"Because it's messing up your body - that's why. And your body is a gift from God."

"Exactly. It's a gift to me, so I can do whatever I want with it," Greg said, chomping on his fingers to make the point. "Now are you gonna ever light that barbecue, or should I just bring out the peanut butter and we'll call it a day?"

Josh struck a match, which immediately blew out. And another ... and another ...
"It's too windy." Josh sighed. "Even when they get to the coals they just blow right out before the fire can catch."

"Yeah," Greg agreed. "You know at camp they poured on lighter fluid to get the fire started easily."

"Great idea. Hmm, let's see." Josh looked around, scratched his head, then smiled. "I know just the thing."

Josh took the baseball cap off his head and as Greg looked on in horror, he put it down on top of the unlit charcoals and picked up the book of matches.

"Hey! What are you doing?"

"I'm doing like you said. This cap should burn easily and then the charcoal will catch on fire, too." He struck the match.

"Wait!!!" Greg yelled. "You can't do that!"

"Why not?"

"I gave you that cap as a gift!"

"Exactly. It's a gift to me, so I can do whatever I want with it. Now where did I hear that before?" Josh said with a smile as Greg's face turned as red as his fingertips.

"Okay, but I gave it to you to wear - not torch!" he paused "And ... I guess God gave me my body, including my fingers, to take care of and not mess up, either ... right?"

Josh nodded his head as put the cap back on it.

"You weren't really going to light that cap, were you?" Greg asked.

"Whether yes or no, I'm much happier - and your body will be, too - that you caught the spark of light, instead."

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Ages 3-5

Q. How did Greg feel at first about biting his fingertips?
A. He felt he could do whatever he wanted with his body.

Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He felt that since his body was a gift, he should take care of it and not hurt it.

Ages 6-9

Q. What life-lesson do you thing Greg learned that day?
A. He'd assumed that he could treat his body however he felt, since it was his. But Josh's little 'josh' helped him understand that his body is a precious gift from God to be used and not abused.

Q. Why do you think Greg was upset when he thought Josh was going to set the baseball cap he'd given him on fire?
A. Greg wanted Josh to appreciate and take care of the special gift he'd given him - not trash it. So too, God wants us to appreciate and care for the precious gift of our bodies.

Ages 10 and Up

Q. Are our bodies our own?
A. Yes and no. While we certainly should have more say than any other person how we use our bodies, ultimately they are 'on loan' to us from God to use while our souls are in this world. And as owner of our bodies, God gave us instructions concerning how we may and may not use them. The written and oral Torah discusses these at length.

Q. Does a person have a right to take his own life?
A. Life is incredibly precious. It is a unique opportunity to perfect our characters and prepare ourselves for a super-pleasurable eternity of closeness to God. Each moment of our lives is an important part of that opportunity and we should and must use every moment of life we are given until God decides we've completed our life's task.

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