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Vayigash(Genesis 44:18-47:27)

What's Really Valuable?


OVERVIEW

Sometimes what people consider being the least important things in their lives are really the most important, but they don't realize it until things get tough. The citizens of the mighty Egyptian Superpower seemed to have it all. Wealth, jewels, land. But when famine struck, they soon realized that all of it was worthless if they didn't even have basic food to eat. Little by little, they came to trade away all the fancy things they owned, just for a little flour to make bread to eat. We can learn from this the valuable lesson of trying to keep our priorities and values straight even without having to learn it the hard way.

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STORY

In our story, a girl goes through a difficult situation, and comes out with a new set of priorities

"GRAND ILLUSION "

      Suzy Salenger was buzzing around a mile a minute. After all, there were so many details to work out before her big birthday bash, just two weeks away. There was shopping to do, cakes to bake, and decorations to design. And of course there was the matter of the guest list - who to invite, and how to reach them.

      As Suzy checked over the long list of names, she felt satisfied that she had duly invited every popular kid in the area. Yes, this party was sure to be a hit!

      As she was finishing up, her mom happened to walk by and glance at the guest list. "Wow Suzy, that's quite a 'who's who' of the neighborhood kids," she said with a smile. "But I didn't notice Janet's or Ellen's names on the lists. Certainly you're planning to invite them too, aren't you?"

      Suzy looked up distractedly. "Oh, sure, Mom, I guess I should. I must have just forgotten to write them down."

      Janet and Ellen were girls who Suzy had been friends with since the first grade. She still liked them well enough, but Suzy felt they were, you know, kind of boring compared to the with-it crowd that she had been hanging around with lately. The popular girls were the friends she valued most, and thought were most important to invite. But heeding her mother's comment, she penciled in the two names, almost as an afterthought, and began to make the invite calls. An hour later, she put down the phone, pleased that almost everyone she invited said they could come to what was shaping up as a major party.

      The night before the party, Suzy was resting after transforming her playroom into something resembling the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf when disaster struck. "Hey Suzy, did you hear the news?" shouted her brother, Pete.

      The girl shrugged.

      "The Great Winter Carnival is coming to town! Tomorrow is opening day, and as a grand opening special - for one day only - admission and all the rides and attractions are free!"

      Suzy felt her heart sink as her brother continued. "There's going to be music, and special guests. The guy on the radio said they expect a thousand kids to show up!"

      Suzy groaned. The Great Winter Carnival was the best event of the year. It had sold out everywhere it went. Would her fun-loving crowd really be willing to miss it for some dumb old birthday party? A party that she had invested her heart and soul into planning for the last three weeks?!

      Barely five minutes passed, when she began to get her answer. The phone rang. "Um, hi Suzy. This is Jackie ... um, about the party tomorrow. I'm sorry but I just won't be able to make it after all ... something came up ... er, Bye."

      And so it went, call after call, until half the expected guests had backed out with one excuse or another. Suzy finally took her phone off the hook. She simply couldn't take it anymore. She didn't know what to do. She couldn't just cancel - the food was already made, the tables were already set, and her parents had re-arranged their schedule for her to help make the party happen. Nope, she had to go through with it, and hope for the best.

      "Whoever will come, will come," she thought as she drifted off into a fitful sleep.

      The next day Suzy found herself sitting alone in her playroom, thoroughly miserable. The party was supposed to have started a half an hour ago, and nobody had shown up! She felt like crying. Then Suzy heard the doorbell ring. She jumped off her seat and ran to get the door. Standing there were the two smiling figures of ... Janet and Ellen.

      "Gee, sorry we're a bit late," said Ellen. "We just wanted to pick up something for you before we came." Ellen gave Suzy a beautiful bouquet of flowers, leaving Suzy speechless.

      "Why thank you!" Suzy said wholeheartedly. "And thank you so much for coming. Didn't you guys hear about the Great Winter Carnival's grand opening today?"

      Suzy's two friends looked a bit uneasy, and shuffled on their feet until Janet finally spoke up. "Sure we heard about the carnival, and it wasn't easy to pass up. But we figured the birthday of an old and dear friend was even harder to miss." Then noticing the empty room, Janet looked at Suzy sympathetically, and said, "But I'm sorry more people didn't come. This probably isn't the happiest way for you to spend a birthday."

      Suzy was silent for a moment. Suddenly it dawned on her how superficial and fickle so many of her new friendships actually were, and how much she really did value her old, loyal friends, Janet and Ellen. "No Janet," Suzy said, "I couldn't be happier than to spend this special day with my two most special and valuable friends."

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QUESTIONS

Ages 3-5

Q. How did Suzy feel about inviting Ellen and Janet when her mother first mentioned it?
A. She wasn't really into it. She was much more interested in inviting her cool new friends.

Q. How did she feel after they were the only two to show up?
A. She was really grateful for them, and saw how they were really her most loyal and valuable friends after all.


Ages 6-9

Q. What did Suzy value most in a friend before her birthday party fiasco? And what new conclusion did she come to after it?
A. At first she put the most value in finding friends who were cool, exciting, and trendy. But she came around, the hard way, to see that loyal and true-blue friends are those who really count.

Q. Most people would agree that it is very important to be a good friend to others. What do you thing makes someone a good friend?
A. One of the most important qualities needed to be a good friend is to empathize with others and really be able to tune into their feelings. When they are happy, we are also excited for them. When they are down, we feel for them and give comfort. The key is to be able to put ourselves into our friend's worlds and really be there with them and for them. Another essential quality is loyalty - that you're there for your friend, no matter what - even if there's a great winter carnival at the same time as his or her birthday party.


Ages 10 and Up

Q. Is it really worth the effort involved to make and keep friendships? Isn't it easier to just go it alone?
A. We are all individuals, but it is hard to go through life alone. Humans are social beings and feel much more content when we are in the company of others who we care about and care about us. Our sages teach us that it is even worthwhile to 'buy' ourselves a friend. That means to be willing to really make an extra effort to make and cultivate close relationships with others. Good friendships require effort to make and maintain, but they are one of life's most valuable assets.

Q. Do you think two people have to be similar in order to be friends?
A. Not necessarily, but it helps a lot. When people are of similar backgrounds, and have similar values, they tend to naturally be able to communicate with each other, which is an important part of friendship. It is possible to stretch oneself to befriend those quite different from ourselves, and it is often rewarding when we do, but it takes a lot of effort and sensitivity to make it work.

Q. What lesson did the girl in our story learn about friendship?
A. She came to discover that what she had assumed were the qualities to seek in friends needed re-evaluation. She had valued things such as social status, charisma, and the like. Her difficult experience made her realize that stable, loyal, long-term relationships are the ones that are likely to come through for you when the going gets tough. A loyal friend is worth his weight in gold.


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Published: December 7, 2002

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