Lech Lecha(Genesis 12-17)
Friends to the End
Real friends stand with each other even when it's not easy. In this week's Torah portion (Gen. 14:12-14), Abraham puts himself on the line to defend Lot, who's in trouble. We can learn from here the value of being loyal to the people we're close to.
In our story, a kid has to decide how far to go for a friend.
ON THE REBOUND
Mike expertly dribbled the red-white-and-blue basketball on the hard asphalt, cut smoothly toward the hoop and made an easy lay-up shot, swishing the ball through the net.
"You win again. Big surprise!" his buddy, Larry, shrugged with a smile. While the two boys were best friends as long as either of them could remember, when it came to athletic ability, they were as different as night and day.
Mike was a tall, lanky gazelle of a kid who seemed to have been born with a pair of sneakers on his feet. The shorter, rounder Larry, while he tried hard, was built ... let's say ... more like he should be spending his time in front of a classroom chalkboard than a basketball-court backboard. While both of them knew how these games - which had been a Sunday morning ritual between them for months - would almost always end, they enjoyed each other's company so much that neither of them cared.
"Okay, let's play again!" Larry said cheerfully, passing Mike the ball.
The tall kid was about to start the game off when he felt a tap on the shoulder.
"I see you've got some pretty good moves on the court, kid." It was Sam, an older boy, and the best ballplayer in the whole neighborhood.
"Uh, thanks," Mike muttered, feeling tongue-tied by the sudden 'celebrity' attention.
"Y'know, me and the some of my friends from the school team are on our way to have a pick-up basketball game over at the big indoor court," Sam said. "And I couldn't help noticing that you've got what it takes. How about comin' over and joinin' us?"
Mikes eyes lit up. "What do you say, Larry? Should we go play..."
"'Scuse me..." cut in Sam. "I said I invited you to come with us. As for your pal over there ... I think it's time for him to be callin' it a day."
The two friends looked at each other.
"Go ahead with him, Mike. It's no big deal," whispered Larry. "It's a great chance for you."
Mike didn't disagree. He and all the younger kids looked at Sam and his crowd as sort-of neighborhood 'heroes'. And an offer to hang with them was no small thing.
"Let's go," Sam said, as if the matter was already a done deal, signaling with his head and getting ready to walk.
Mike was about to follow. Why shouldn't he? Every muscle in his well-conditioned body wanted to play ball with guys this good and getting invited by them had swelled his head so much he though his sweatband would pop.
"Have a great time," Larry said, with a half-wave, and started walking away. Mike waved back, trying not to notice the sad, abandoned eyes his friend was trying to hide behind his smile...
Larry, his basketball cradled under his arm, was about to walk through the gate of the chain link fence leading out of the playground, when he felt someone snatch the ball away.
He turned to see Mike's smile-lit face.
"Hey, you and I have got a lot more one-on-one to play today, buddy," Mike said.
"But ... I thought you were going with Sam and the guys from the team?"
"What?" Mike answered with a grin. "And send my favorite 'home' team, home alone? No way!"
Q. How did Mike feel at first about going off with Sam?
A. He wanted to go, even if it meant leaving his friend.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He realized it wasn't right to go off and leave his friend behind.
A. That it wasn't right not to help when everyone else was, and was glad he joined in.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Mike learned that day?
A. He'd been so swept off his feet by the chance to play with the 'big boys' that he was willing to leave his friend in the dust. Then he realized that being loyal to a friend was important enough to give up something for.
Q. Do you think Mike gained or lost-out by being loyal?
A. While he might have lost out on a chance to boost his status and have some fun, he gained much more by building the important value of loyalty into his character.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Do you think a 'fair weather friend' is a friend at all? Why or why not?
A. A 'fair weather friend' - that is one who only remains a friend when things are easy - may be an enjoyable acquaintance, but is not a friend. A friend is someone who is ready to put himself on the line and be there even when it would be more comfortable or fun not to do it.
Q. Should the same degree of loyalty apply to family members?
A. Absolutely and in a way, even more so. Families that are loyal and supportive give each family member a priceless gift of security and stability.