Ki Tisa(Exodus 30:11-34:35)
Profiting Off Others
In this week's Torah portion when Moses comes down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments, he finds that the people had made a golden calf.
This shows that they aren't interested in having the precious gift of the Torah or coming close to God. God tells Moses that He will give the Torah just to his family instead and leave the Jewish People to face the consequences of their choice. But instead of agreeing to accept this glory all for himself, Moses fervently prays for God to give the rest of the Jews another chance. He tells God that he would rather lose out everything than gain at the expense of the people. God accepts Moses' noble prayer, and the Torah remains a gift to the whole Jewish people for all time. We learn from this the value of caring about the good of the whole, and not profiting by the mistakes of others.
In our story a boy decides he doesn't want to gain from someone else's misfortunes.
A lot of talented young people turned out for the auditions at the Tri-County Music Festival. The festival attracted the brightest up-and-coming stars from all of the schools in the area. Those lucky enough to be chosen would have the chance to win big prizes and perform in front of a huge audience.
The competition was tough and only the best made it. The contestants had practiced hard all year for a chance to win.
The next one up was Hal Kramer.
"C'mon Hal you can do it!" urged his friends as the young singer headed onto the stage. He tried not to be nervous as the spotlights shone in his eyes. Soon the music he had chosen began to play. Hal drew a deep breath and began to sing with all his heart.
Moments later he finished his moving song. For an instant there was total silence in the auditorium. Then suddenly thunderous applause burst out. Hal breathed a sigh of relief. "They liked me." He thought "But will it be enough to win?"
After all the acts had performed the judges announced their results. "The finalists in the boy's solo vocalist competition are... Andy Walters and Hal Kramer!" The audience applauded with agreement as the judges went on to announce "All finalists are required to come back here next week at this time for the final audition. At least one, and possibly both finalists of each category will go to the festival! Anyone who doesn't come as scheduled will be disqualified."
Hal and his friends were sky high with happiness as they started to make their way out of the auditorium. But as they turned to leave they met up with a tall red-headed boy. He held out his hand to Hal. It was Andy Walters, the other finalist. "Congratulations you were great!" he said. He seemed to be forcing a smile and yet nearly in tears as he went on "I just wanted to tell you not to worry. You're definitely the winner."
Hal looked confused "What do you mean?" he asked. "Well" said Andy "Next week, during the time of the final audition, my mom has to have an operation. I've just gotta be their with her so I won't be able to come here to sing. So that means you win automatically. Good luck at the festival" he added emotionally and walked away.
Hal's friends, full of smiles, surrounded him. "That's great news!" said his friend Pete, patting Hal on the back. "You won! Now we can really go out and celebrate."
But strangely Hal didn't look so happy. "Uh ... I'll be right back guys," he said. Leaving his confused friends behind, Hal dashed off to the judge's booth. After a few minutes his friend saw him whiz by again this time toward the auditorium's exit. He caught up to Andy who was just finishing packing up his equipment into a waiting van. "I'm glad I caught you," panted Hal, out of breath. "The audition is back on!" he said with a smile.
Andy shook his head "But I told you," he said, "I can't make it next week. My--"
Hal cut him off. "Next week you can't, but the week after you can! Look, we're both good singers who worked hard to get this far. I don't want to win the competition just because you can't come. So I asked the judges if we could come sing at another time when you could make it too. At first they said no. But when I told them neither of us would show up unless they changed the date, the judges agreed to let us come the following week during the band auditions."
The other boy stared in disbelief.
Hal continued, "Listen, while I hope with all my heart that I get to sing at the festival, I don't want it to be at your expense."
Andy looked at him and said, "Hal, I don't know which of us is going to go to the festival, but one thing I do know is that where it counts you're a real winner."
Q. How did Hal feel when Andy told him he couldn't come on the day of the audition so Hal would automatically win?
A. He felt concerned about Andy. Even though he wanted to win, he didn't want the other boy to lose out just because he couldn't come.
Q. Should we try to go after what we want, even if it's going to hurt somebody else?
A. It's okay to try to go after what we want, but we should really try to be careful not to hurt somebody else when we do it.
Q. When Hal's friends heard that Andy was dropping out of the competition they were thrilled but Hal wasn't. What was the difference in their attitudes?
A. Hal's friends felt that all that mattered was to win. If the other boy wouldn't get a fair chance -- too bad. But Hal had a more thoughtful approach. He certainly wanted to win, but he also cared about Andy's feelings, and how much it would hurt him to lose his chance just because he couldn't come that day. Hal was willing to even risk some personal gain in order to do what was right.
Q. Do you think we lose out if we look out for what will be good for others and not only for "number one" (that is ourselves)?
A. In the short run, it might look like we're giving certain things up we might otherwise gain, but in the end we will come out the winner. God made the world and has plenty to give to everybody. He wants us to grow into unselfish people who care about the needs of others as much as our own. It's likely that the personal growth and self-respect we will gain will far outweigh whatever concessions we will make. In the long run we will get everything we need.
Q. Can you think of a time when you were really concerned about someone else's feelings?
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Often people act in a self-centered way, because they are afraid they will lose out on something that they feel is coming to them. In your opinion, is this a valid concern? Why or why not?
A. Jewish tradition teaches that God carefully portions out exactly what everybody is meant to receive and that there is nothing that anyone can do to prevent us from getting it, if it's truly coming to us. Likewise there is nothing we can do to get something that isn't meant for us. Our task is to behave ethically in all situations and trust that no matter what we will get what's coming to us. In the story, this is how Hal behaved when he concerned himself with Andy's welfare and not merely his own.
Q. What do you think could motivate a person to risk his own comfort and well-being for the sake of others, as did the boy in our story?
A. As we grow spiritually we are more likely to realize that we have been put into the world for a higher purpose. While, certainly, each of us should look out for our own good, this is not the ultimate purpose of life. In a deeper sense all of us are connected. Focusing on the big picture might at times require us to risk or even give up a certain amount of personal comfort. Yet we are happy to do it, because we know it is right. The boy in the story saw the value of fairness and his concern to give his competitor an honest chance motivated him to risk performing at the music festival.