Jesse parked his bicycle outside his best friend Danny's house. Jesse and Danny were such good friends that they would play with each other just about every single day.
When Danny opened the door, he put his finger over his lips and softly said, "Shhh ... My Mom is resting. Come quietly and we'll play in my room."
"Hey Danny," said Jesse as they walked into the room, "I see you have some new markers. Wow, 12 in a pack! Can we make some Rosh Hashana cards with them?"
"Well," answered Danny, "they're not really mine, they belong to my sister Dina."
"Do you think she would mind if we used them just a little bit," asked Jesse?
"No," said Danny, "and besides, she uses my things sometimes, so I'm sure she won't mind."
Danny found some paper and they had a good time drawing colorful pictures with the markers. Jesse drew a beautiful shofar and wrote "Happy New Year." Danny made sure to use every single marker to make his card very colorful. He drew a big fish swimming in the sea. The words coming out of the fish's mouth were: "Something's fishy here. So have a great year!"
After they finished their pieces of art, Jesse took his card and went home. Danny took his and taped it on the door of the refrigerator to surprise his mom and dad.
Later on that afternoon, Dina came home and sat down to do some homework. She needed her markers for a project she was working on. She was upset to find that 5 out of the 12 markers didn't even have their caps on them and were almost dried out. And to make things worse, the tips of some of the other markers were totally squashed!
Dina was angry! Somebody had used her new markers without asking her permission. And now they were ruined! "They'll never be the same again," she said.
Just then her mom walked by and saw that she was upset about something. "What's the matter Dina?" she asked.
"My new markers are ruined. Someone used them and totally ruined them!"
"Just a minute," said Dina's mom, as she went into the living room to find Danny. "Danny," she called. "Come with me please." She walked him into the kitchen. "Who made this beautiful card that I see here on the door of the fridge? Was it you Danny?"
"Yes," said Danny. "When Jesse was here today, we each made a card."
"And such nice colors! Hey, where did you get the markers?"
"We used Dina's. I knew she wouldn't mind because I let her use my things sometimes."
"Oh," said mom. "Well, actually I just saw Dina and she was saying something about her markers not being in such great shape. She looked a little sad, so maybe you should go see what's up with her. If there's any problem I'm sure you'll know how to take care of it."
Danny suddenly remembered that he didn't put the markers back the way he found them. It was the month of Elul, and he had learned about taking responsibility for his actions. As he went to find Dina, he regretted not having asked her permission first. Although he let his sister use his things, he remembered that she always asked his permission first. Not only that, but he didn't take care of her markers. "I'd better think of something quick," he told himself. "She's probably real upset."
He quickly went to the telephone and called Jesse. "Jesse, it's Danny. I need you to do something super quick. Ride your bike to the store and buy a new package of markers -- the kind we used today, but get a Deluxe 36-pack. Then bring them to my house. I'll pay you back. Thanks. Bye."
Danny prepared for the worst. He went into Dina's room and found her throwing her markers into the trash can. She seemed to be quite upset.
"Dina, I see you're throwing your markers away. I must admit that it was my friend and I who used them today without permission. I'm really sorry. First of all, I didn't ask you. Secondly, I didn't put them back properly."
She seemed to calm down. "It's nice of you to admit that you did it," she said. "But it doesn't help me much because I need to work on my project now and I don't have any markers to use."
"Hopefully, very soon, you'll have some pens. A new set is on its way over right now. I wanted to replace the ones that I ruined."
Dina was touched that her brother was taking responsibility for his actions. She felt lucky to have such a brother. The fact that he ruined her pens didn't even seem so terrible anymore.
Elul is the time of year that we remind ourselves that we need to take responsibility for our actions. Being responsible for what we ourselves do will, in turn, be admirable to others as well. People will say, "He/she is a very responsible person!" People will know they can depend on us. It's a great time to talk to family members and discuss where improvement is needed. This helps us grow.
Q. Why is it important to ask permission before we use something that isn't ours?
A. Maybe the owner has certain reasons why he/she doesn't want anyone using his/her things.
Q. Can we assume that it's OK to use something without permission if it belongs to a close relative?
A. It's always better to ask, even if it belongs to a close relative. This way you have no doubts that it's OK.
Q. What does it mean to take responsibility for our actions?
A. When we do something wrong, we admit it and see what we can do to fix it up.
Q. Danny's intentions were good by wanting to make the card for his parents. However at the same time, he did something not so good (he used his sister's pens). Can you think of other examples similar to this?
A. You borrow your friends bike without asking, to run an errand for your mother.
Based on a story in Hebrew by Rivka Elitzur, author of "Shalom Lach Orachat."