Chayei Sarah(Genesis 23:1-25:18)
The Joy of Giving
There are times that people could use our help. At these times we have a choice to make. Do we look at their request as a bother or as an opportunity?
In this week's Torah portion, Eliezer, Abraham's servant, is searching for a wife for Abraham's son, Isaac. He knows that she would have to be someone very special, as she was destined to be the mother of the Jewish people. So he tries to find somebody with a good heart who loved helping others.
When Rebecca, instead of shying away, happily volunteers to bring a huge amount of water for him and also his thirsty camels, Eliezer knows he has found the right one.
We learn from Rebecca how we can elevate the lives of ourselves and others through the joy of giving.
In our story a girl discovers the joy of giving.
If the janitor didn't dust the Sinai Day School bulletin board every once in a while, it wouldn't get any attention at all. The few notices and index cards that were still tacked to the old corkboard were faded into a uniform gray from the time when they were put up long ago.
The kids, who would bustle past the bulletin board on their way down the hall to the lunchroom, didn't even bother to look at it anymore. So one day as Suri and her friend Chana passed it by, they were surprised to notice a new sign. It was a cheery-pink piece of stationery with a flowery border. Moving closer, they examined the neatly printed sign that read:
VOLUNTEERS NEEDED TO HELP AN OVERWORKED MOTHER CARE FOR A SPECIAL NEEDS TODDLER.
Suri shrugged her shoulders and turned to continue towards the lunchroom, from where wafted the smell of pizza. But she noticed her friend lagging behind. "Let's go. Pizza's waiting," she said.
But Chana had opened up her bag and was fumbling through it pulling out a small note-pad and a pen. "What are you doing?" Suri asked.
Chana blushed. "Oh, I'm just going to copy down the phone number on this notice," she said offhandedly.
"You're not actually thinking of calling, are you?" her friend asked, stunned.
"Why not?" responded Chana. "It looks like an interesting thing to do. And I'll bet the mother could really use the help, too."
"You're serious, aren't' you?" asked Suri. "When I see these types of things I run the other way. Aren't we busy enough between homework and after school clubs? Besides a person needs free time to socialize. Which reminds me, I'm supposed to invite you to go with me and Laura to the mall this afternoon. Do you wanna come?"
Chana chuckled. "Suri," she quipped, "I think they're going to give you your own 'key' to the mall soon. You're there so much. Besides," she added, "I think I'm going to try to make an appointment to meet this lady in the afternoon. I'm sure that I'll be able to find the time in my schedule to help her out."
"Well, it's your choice," said Suri. "I'm off to the mall."
The next week the girls bumped into each other in the schoolyard. Suri was wearing a blouse with a big smiley face on the front, which bore the exact opposite expression to her own bored frown.
"Hi Suri," beamed Chana. "That's a nice blouse, is it new?"
"Oh I picked it up at the mall last week, but I don't really like it. By the way, what are you so cheery about? You're wearing a smile bigger than the one on my shirt."
Chana took her friend aside. "Well if you want to know, it's my new volunteer job. It's been the best experience of my life! The mom, Mrs. Silverstein, is such a nice lady. She was thrilled when I called her up. She has broken her leg and was having a really hard time managing. And Yoni, the baby, is soo cute! He has the biggest brown eyes and likes to play peek-a-boo when I try to feed him or give him his medicine. I can't wait to see him this afternoon."
Suri wrinkled her nose. "But isn't it hard work?" she asked.
Chana thought. "Gee, I guess it is," she said. "But it just feels so good to be able to help them out, I hadn't really noticed. Well I gotta run. I'm late for algebra."
But before she could get far, Suri called her back. "Hey, wait a minute Chana," she said hesitantly.
Chana gave her friend a questioning smile.
"Before you go ... ahh ... could you please give me Mrs. Silverstein's phone number. Maybe she could use my help too."
Chana smiled. "Sure Suri, but what about the mall?" she joked while handing her friend the number.
"Well, I may have to give back my 'key,' but after looking at you, I think I might have found a better way to spend my free time."
Q. How did Chana feel when she saw the sign on the bulletin board looking for volunteers?
A. She was happy and excited that she might get the chance to help someone who needed her.
Q. How did Suri feel at first about helping out? How did she feel after her friend Chana started to volunteer?
A. At first she felt like it would be a bother to help. But after she saw how happy Chana was, she realized that there is a joy in giving to others.
Q. Do you like to help Mommy and Daddy?
Q. Who do you think is usually happier -- somebody who likes to take, or somebody who likes to give? Why?
A. Somebody who is able to find the joy in giving will always be happy. Just about whatever situation he finds himself in, he'll be able to do what he enjoys: giving. Many people will like him and be glad to see him. Someone who likes taking depends on finding others who want to give. When things don't work out just the way he wants, he's likely to feel low.
Q. Imagine a situation where a teenage girl is hoping to go out with friends in the afternoon but her mom asks her to baby-sit. If she is a "giver," how will she react? What if she is a "taker"?
A. If she is a "giver" she will say: "Great! Now I get a chance not only to help my mom so she can go out, I can also help my little brother and sister with the things they need." If she is a "taker" she will say: "Oh no! My day is ruined. Instead of getting to play I'm going to be stuck in the house all afternoon."
Q. Try to think of other situations, and how "givers" and "takers" might respond.
Q. What is one of the most meaningful acts of kindness you have ever done?
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Our sages teach that "If a person has 100 dollars he will want 200, if he gets 200 he will want 400." How do you understand this statement, and what insight does it reveal about the nature of "taking?"
A. If a person focuses on taking, he may convince himself that if he only could get what he desires, he'll be happy and content. But in reality it is the desire to have more that is actually motivating him. So it creates a never-ending cycle of not feeling content until he gets the "one more thing." A wise person realizes this sooner rather than later, and begins to re-focus himself on giving rather than getting.
Q. Do you think a person who is willing to help is likely to be taken advantage of by others?
A. It may seem that way since there always seems to be somebody who needs something. But a person who becomes aware that helping others is one of the greatest pleasures will not be concerned about this, any more than she would "mind" having precious jewels constantly offered her. And if she feels is being taken advantage of, she can always say no.
Q. Describe the most meaningful acts of kindness you have ever done.