We can all be peacemakers or warmongers - it's our choice. In this week's Torah portion, Korach makes the disastrous choice to unjustly rebel against Moses because someone close to him had convinced him to start the fight, while another would-be rebel is saved from the terrible consequences, because someone urged him to keep his peace. We should try to influence people to get along peacefully - and certainly not try to stir up quarrels.
In our story, some kids see how the right words can stir up peace ... or war.
"What?!" Shawn's eyes almost popped out of his head as he read the list with the batting order their junior-league baseball coach had taped up on the locker room door. "Did you see this?" he asked his buddy and teammate, Tom, as Mike and Andy listened in. "Manny's batting cleanup today - the best spot in the batting order - and you're only batting fifth!"
Tom shrugged. "Yeah, I was also a little surprised, but that's life. Manny's been batting well lately and I guess coach thought he deserved it."
"Well, he thought wrong!" Shawn insisted, pounding his baseball glove for emphasis "You're the star hitter on this team, and you should go right up and tell him so."
"Maybe you're right - I guess I should be upset," Tom said, his face began to flush. "But do you really think I should go to the coach and complain?"
"Absolutely!" Shawn said. "I'll even go with you for moral support. We'll all go with you." He turned to Mike and Andy, "Right guys?"
"Sorry, I've gotta oil my baseball glove right now," Mike shrugged, ignoring Shawn's incredulous, eye-rolling sneer.
"And what about you?" Shawn asked Andy. "Don't you think that this is something worth fighting for?"
"Um, well ... maybe..."
"Whatcha mean 'maybe'?" Shawn snarled. "It's time to take a stand - and you're standing with us. Let's go!"
Shawn and Tom - who now looked very angry - started stomping to the coach's office, Andy close behind. Suddenly Andy felt a hard tug on the shoulder of his uniform.
"Where do you think you're going?" Mike asked him.
"Didn't you hear?" Andy said, "We're going to complain to the coach that Manny's batting cleanup today and not Tom."
"Oh yeah?" Mike said. "What difference does it make to you?"
"I dunno," Andy said, "I just figure..."
"Listen," Mike cut in, looking Andy straight in the eyes. "Are Tom and Manny both very good hitters?" Andy nodded. "And isn't the coach allowed to make the batting order however he wants?"
"Yeah, but, like Shawn said..."
"Tell me something," Mike said, "where are you on today's batting order?"
"Me?" Andy chuckled, "Eighth, as usual."
"And whether Manny is batting cleanup, or Tom is - is your place in the order going to change?"
Andy shook his head.
"So why get yourself involved in a fight for something you're not even sure is right and that has nothing to do with you?" Mike asked with a grin.
"You know what? You're right," Andy nodded and plopped himself back down on the locker room bench. A moment later he heard the coach's blasting voice - which wasn't spouting poetry - and then saw Tom and Shawn slink out of his office looking about an inch tall each.
Mike looked at Andy with a nod. "Come on, let's stretch our arms and throw the ball around to each other before the game starts."
"Okay ... but wait a minute. Didn't you say your glove needed oiling?"
"On second thought, I think it's oiled enough - especially now that it helped us slip our way out of a pointless fray."
Q. How did Tom feel before Shawn spoke to him - and after?
A. At first, he wasn't upset about the coach's decision, but afterwards he was angry.
Q. How did Andy feel before Mike spoke to him - and after?
A. At first, he was going to join into the fight, but afterwards he felt there was no reason to quarrel.
Q. What life-lesson do you think someone could learn from what happened?
A. We have the ability to help keep people at peace or stir up contention. It is so much better to do the former.
Q. If Shawn really thought that what happened to Tom wasn't fair, shouldn't he have got involved?
A. Perhaps he felt that way, but there was no reason to stir up Tom - who wasn't even upset at first - to start an argument with the coach.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Do you think it's ethical to 'bend the truth' to help keep people at peace?
A. While truth is an important value, peace, at times, can be even more important. As long as it isn't causing harm, it's often the right choice to make keeping people at peace our priority.
Q. What would be an example of that?
A. For instance, if 'A' said something nasty to us about 'B,' and 'B' asks us what 'A' said about him or her, we can 'bend the truth' and make what 'A' said seem positive.