Contained within this week's parsha, Ki Tetzei, is one of my favorite mitzvot: "You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether a fellow countryman or a stranger in one of the communities of your land. You must pay him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets, for he is needy and urgently depends on it; else he will cry to the Lord against you and you will incur guilt." It is a mitzvah that is increasingly hard to fulfill in today's sophisticated, multi-layered, direct deposit global economy, but I think the essence of the mitzvah remains clear: respect all work and respect all workers.
I also think that's how we approach teaching this mitzvah to our children. We all teach our children to be polite, to say please and thank you, but what if we added an extra layer? What if we taught that we were thanking our doctor, our grocery store clerk, our teacher, our letter carrier, our house cleaning crew, our gardener, our rabbi, or our neighborhood firefighter specifically for the job they did for us? We would be teaching our children that we value the work that was done on our behalf, no matter how big or small the job, and that we appreciate the person who did the work for us.
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