Beating Around the Thorns
In this week's Torah portion, God tells the Jewish people to let their fields rest and not to plant their crops every seventh year. He promised them that if they do, they wouldn't lose out - He would perform a miracle and bring a double crop. This was a huge test of trust for the people, since in those days no crops meant no food! Each person had to face that test, and his decision really showed just how much trust he did or didn't have in God.
We can apply this idea to our lives as well. Whenever we find ourselves in a dilemma where doing what is ethical and right seems like an inconvenience or loss, we can choose to trust in God, knowing that if we do the right thing, in the end we will never lose out.
In our story, a girl faces the 'trust' choice, and comes out a winner.
"THE LONG SHORTER WAY"
It was a boiling, hot day, and Nancy and her friends were wondering if their long walk home from the neighborhood pool was ever going to end.
"Good thing we remembered our water bottles," Nancy said to her sister, Dianne.
The kids continued their trek, when suddenly someone noticed a break in the link-fence, running along the other side of the road.
"Hey, we're in luck!" shouted Dianne. "Taking that shortcut will get us home in half the time."
"Let's go for it!" agreed the tired girls. They immediately started to cross the dusty street.
But as they got closer, their hearts sank.
"NO TRESPASSING" read the old, rusty sign hanging off one side of the broken fence.
The kids looked at each other. "C'mon," said Dianne. "That sign has probably been hanging there for ten years. Nobody pays it any attention, and neither should we."
"Dianne's right," piped up Sarah. "Just look at how many people have 'trespassed'! They've beaten a path across the empty field."
"Besides," added Dianne, "who's gonna know? Who's gonna care?"
The hot and tired kids didn't need much convincing, and they started to go through the fence. But as Nancy bent down to go in, something just didn't feel right. True, she was hot and tired, but did that make it okay to trespass?
She stopped short and called out to the others. "Hey wait a minute!" The girls turned around. "Where do we get the right to cut through other people's property?" Nancy asked. "I know it's a long walk, but what's right is right, even when it's hard, isn't it?"
Dianne turned to her sister and said, "Listen, we've decided to take the shortcut. I'm sure it's not a problem. But if you want to sweat it out and take the long way around, be our guest. I'll be waiting for you, nice and cool, at home."
Nancy watched as Dianne and the others, laughing at their good fortune, disappeared through the hole in the fence, leaving her to continue on her own. Walking alone, the hike seemed even longer.
"Maybe I was dumb," she thought. "Those guys are probably all sitting in cool air-conditioned homes by now, and where am I?"
Once or twice she almost decided to go back and join them, or slip through the other openings that came up in the fence every so often. But each time she told herself, "Right is right, even when it's hard," reminding herself, as she often did, that by doing the right thing she would never lose out.
Nancy soon found her mind wandering into pleasant thoughts, and before she knew it, she was home. She walked through the door fully expecting to find Dianne lounging in air-conditioned comfort. But to her surprise, the house was empty. It was obvious that no one had been there since the morning.
"That's funny," she thought. "Maybe Dianne went over one of the kid's houses." After switching on the air conditioner, Nancy sat down with a pile of books to read for the afternoon.
A good while later, when Nancy went out to check the mail, she saw a strange sight. Coming down the road were Dianne and the other girls. They definitely didn't look happy. Huffing and puffing, a couple of the girls were scratching their legs, and Dianne was limping!
"Hey, what happened to you?" called out Nancy with a start.
The kids looked up, surprised, and a bit embarrassed. "Well," sighed Dianne, "it seems that short-cut wasn't such a good idea after all. The field was full of thorns..."
"And Poison Ivy!" added Sarah between scratches. "It took forever to get through. We thought we'd never get out."
"Were you ever lucky you didn't come with us," Dianne said.
Nancy looked at her sister and tattered friends and nodded with sympathy. "I was lucky," she thought to herself, "that I trusted enough to do the right thing."
Q. How did Nancy feel when she first went to take the shortcut?
A. Even though she wanted to, she realized it wasn't right.
Q. How did she feel after she saw what happened to her friends?
A. She felt bad for them, but realized that she had been protected because she had chosen to do what was right.
Q. If instead Nancy's friend had gotten home quickly and easily, would that have proven that they were right and Nancy was wrong?
A. Not at all. A lot of times we do see how doing the right thing brings good into our lives, but sometimes we don't see it right away. The important thing is to keep on doing good, and trust that it always pays off in the end.
Q. It wasn't easy for Nancy to pass up a shortcut. How come doing the right thing can often seem so hard?
A. Part of it is that a person naturally likes to take the easy way out, and that isn't always the ethical choice. Also these choices are often sent our way to test our character and help us grow by choosing to do the right thing, even when it's hard.
Q. Can you think of a time you didn't lose out for doing the right thing?
Ages 10 and Up
Q. What does a person gain by trusting in God?
A. Trust in God, called "bitachon" in Hebrew, is just about the most valuable thing a person could have. Someone who has it can literally be happy and calm every moment of his life. This is because he knows that he is never alone, and that nothing that happens to him is merely by chance. Since nothing can help him or harm him unless God wants it to happen, he doesn't have to be afraid of anyone or anything. He doesn't have to flatter anyone, hoping for their help. Trust in God can transform our lives and put us into an entirely different plane. It's worth doing whatever we can to acquire it.
Q. Does trusting in God assure that things will always turn out the way we want them to?
A. To trust in God is to know that He loves us, always has our best in mind, and sends us just what we need at every moment. But our perspective is limited, and it is quite possible that what God thinks is genuinely best for us may not be the same as what we think. Trusting in God means knowing that whatever happens is ultimately for our best.