Rules Mean We Care
There are different ways to teach people the right way to behave. Sometimes a gentle word is enough. And sometimes, if that doesn't work, something more is needed. In our Torah portion, God teaches the Jewish people the right way to live. He tells them how many good things will happen if they do what they are supposed to do. But God also tells them that if they still won't listen and continue to do destructive things, He will have to do something stronger to educate them, even if it's not pleasant. He loves them so much and knows that it would be wrong to let them keep acting in ways that will hurt themselves and others. God is our parent who really cares about what's best for us and wants us to become the best we can be.
In our story, the mother of one boy emulates God by teaching him that there are real consequences to his actions.
HOME BEFORE DARK
"Have a nice time, Jeff," called out his mom as Jeff and his friend, Kevin, rode off on their bikes." And remember your curfew, you have to be home before dark."
The boys were having a lot of fun, and even though it was time to go home they decided to stay out anyway, and didn't come back until it was already very dark out.
When Jeff finally got home, his mother told him he would have to be grounded for a whole week because he broke his curfew. When he called Kevin on the phone and told him, his friend laughed and said, "My parents didn't say anything to me when I got home. They couldn't care less. See you next week. Bye."
Jeff slammed the phone down just as his big sister Anne was walking by. "What's up Jeff?" she asked. "Why the sour face?"
"Mom won't let me go out for a week and Kevin's parents didn't do anything to him," he sighed.
Anne thought a minute and said, "You know what, Jeff? You're lucky Mom and Dad did what they did."
"What do you mean?" asked Jeff with a confused look.
"Let's face it -- you chose not to follow Mom's rules. Do you think our parents punish us because they like to? They do it 'cause they love and care about us and want to teach us to accept the consequences of what we choose to do."
"But what about Kevin?" answered Jeff. His sister looked at him and said, "How do you think Kevin feels that his parents don't seem to care what he does? Does it really make him happy?"
Jeff thought about it and said, "He probably feels like they don't care about him so much, either."
His sister nodded.
"Well, sis," Jeff said with a smile. "Since I'm home a lot this week, maybe you'd like to play a game of SCRABBLE to help me pass the time?"
"I'd love to," said Anne, and she went to get the game down from the shelf.
Q. Why did Jeff's parents make him stay home for a week?
A. Because he didn't come home when he was supposed to.
Q. How did he feel when he was punished?
A. He knew that when he chose to stay out late it was wrong. So even though he was unhappy about the punishment, he knew he deserved it.
Q. Why do you think parents punish their children?
A. Parents are responsible to educate their kids and prepare them for life. They really want them to be happy and successful. Sometimes punishment is the only way to get their lessons across to the kids, so they will pay attention and realize that the consequences of what they do are important.
Q. Why do you think Jeff's mother gave him this specific kind of punishment?
A. Jeff's parents gave him the freedom to go out with his friends because they felt he was responsible to come back when they asked him. When he chose not to come back in time, it was a natural consequence that his parents would take away this freedom in order to educate him.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. What does it mean that "sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind?" Give an example.
A. Sometimes what seems like strictness is actually much better for a person than just letting him do whatever he wants. For instance the "cruel" mother who doesn't let her son eat only junk-food (like he wants to) is really being kind to her child by helping him to grow up healthy and learn good eating habits etc.
Q. Do you think it is good for society to have laws, or would it be better if there weren't any? Why?