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Ki Tisa(Exodus 30:11-34:35)

Jumping to Conclusions


OVERVIEW

In this week's Torah portion, we learn the damage caused by jumping to hasty conclusions. The Jewish people were riding high. God had taken them out of the slavery of Egypt, and had given them the most precious gift imaginable, the Torah, on Mount Sinai amidst great miracles.

Yet only a short while later, when Moses came down from the mountain with the tablets of the Ten Commandments, he found the people doing something terrible. They were dancing around the image of a golden calf! It was almost as if they had forgotten about Moses, and the Torah God had just given them. How could this have possibly happened?

Before he went up on the mountain, Moses had told the people that he would be coming down 40 days later. But when they got the calculation wrong, and Moses didn't come when they expected, instead of reacting calmly and checking out the facts, the people quickly jumped to the conclusion that Moses had died, or left them. Then they panicked, and built the Golden Calf as some sort of 'replacement' for Moses.

Whatever the situation, it always pays to stay calm and rational, think things through, and not jump to hasty conclusions, which are often incorrect.

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STORY

In our story, a girl learns about not jumping to hasty conclusions.

"BIRTHDAY SURPRISE"

      Claire Engel's birthday was coming up in less than a week, but she was in no mood to celebrate. How could she be when her three best friends had stabbed her in the back?

      It started whenever she began dropping hints to them that she might want to get together with them on her birthday for pizza or something. The girls would all suddenly change the subject as if they couldn't give a care that one of their closest pals would be soon turning 11.

      All three girls, Tammy, Ellen, and Jill were suddenly 'busy' that day, even though each one had plenty of time to rearrange her plans!

      The final straw though, was when Claire walked home that day, and happened to notice her three friends across the street. She saw them whispering amongst themselves and glancing in her direction. When they saw her approaching, they all gave her a warm smile, and even giggled, but in Claire's eyes the damage had been done. Yes, there was no other explanation except that her friends had turned on her.

      "If that's the way they want it, so be it." Claire excused herself and quickly walked home feeling miserable. She walked into the kitchen, and found her mom stirring a batch of her favorite tri-colored pasta on the stove.

      "I wanted to make something nice for the soon-to-be birthday girl," she said with a smile. But when the girl hardly responded, Mrs. Engel knew something wasn't right. After a few gentle questions, Claire broke down and told her mom the whole story.

      She said as far as she was concerned their friendship was through. Mrs. Engel looked at the girl reassuringly, "Well it certainly does sound strange," she admitted. "But if I were you, I wouldn't jump to any conclusions, and do anything rash. These girls are your good friends. I'm sure there is more to it than meets the eye," she added with a strange twinkle in her eye.

      Mother and daughter sat down to a nice lunch of pasta primavera, but Claire was more enwrapped in the food for thought that her mother's words had set in motion. "Maybe Mom's right," she thought. "It makes no sense that my three best friends would suddenly forget about me. I'm not sure what's going on, but I guess I'll continue to act friendly, and see what happens."

      It was the day of her birthday. The school day had finished, and Claire gathered her books, and headed home. "Oh, Mom's still at work," she thought as she unlocked the door.

      Claire flipped on the light, getting ready to sit down to her homework, when she was startled by the sound of a roaring "SURPRISE - HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!" There, all around her, stood Tammy, Ellen, and Jill, each holding a colorfully wrapped present. Eight other friends stood behind them, smiling ear-to-ear.

      Claire's mom stood smiling by the kitchen doorway. "Your friends have been busy planning this for weeks," she said.

      Claire had the best birthday of her life, and most of all felt glad that she hadn't jumped to any conclusions, and patiently waited for the good to come her way.

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QUESTIONS

Ages 3-5

Q. How did Claire feel at first when her friends didn't seem interested in her birthday?
A. She jumped to the conclusion that they had abandoned her, and didn't care.

Q. How did she feel after they threw her the surprise party?
A. She realized they had been planning this all along, and was glad that she had decided to wait and give them a chance, instead of accusing them.


Ages 6-9

Q. What's wrong with jumping to conclusions?
A. Life and its various situations are often more complicated than they first seem. If we don't take the time to think before we react, we are likely to reach the wrong conclusion, and cause problems for ourselves and for others.

Q. How can a person avoid falling into this trap?
A. Just being aware that things aren't always like they first appear will help us to control our initial impulse to jump to a hasty conclusion. Once we have slowed ourselves down, we should start to calmly consider the facts, and think about alternative ways of viewing things. Often those few calm moments of consideration will open the door to a clear and correct understanding of the situation.

Q. Can you think of a time when you jumped to a wrong conclusion?


Ages 10 and Up

Q. Why do you think people tend to draw hasty conclusions about things?
A. There is a tendency within people to feel that they must respond immediately to every situation that comes their way. Even to pause for a few seconds when asked a complicated question feels uncomfortable. (Try it.) But this is a mistake, as the repercussions of responding inappropriately or reaching a false conclusion are often much more costly than the few seconds of discomfort to get something right. One mark of a wise man is that he thinks before he acts.

Q. Is it ever appropriate to be hasty?
A. Yes, but at its proper time. The first stage of any decision is to clearly think a situation through, carefully weigh the facts, and arrive at a conclusion about the proper action to take. This stage should never be rushed. However the second stage, where we put our plan into action, should be done confidently and without delay. At this stage hesitancy is counterproductive, and can reduce our level of effectiveness.

Q. Can you think of a time when you jumped to a wrong conclusion?


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Published: February 15, 2003

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