Opening our Brother's Eyes
What should we do when we see someone whose challenges have him down and almost out?
We might be tempted to think: "That's his problem and not mine."
But the Torah teaches us otherwise.
God tells us that "If your brother falls into poverty ... you should strengthen him" and help him "live." When we encounter a poor person or someone failing in any way, we should do what we can to help him to pick himself up and live a better life. We are all children of the same God and responsible to help each other out whenever we can.
In our story, a boy gives himself over to helping his friend get back on his feet.
"WAKING UP JUST IN TIME"
More often than not, one could find Larry Silverstein busily sleeping!
Everyone who knew him was sure that he must have set a new Camp Wadi record for the most hours in the sack.
It seems Larry had a certain problem. As soon as his head would hit the pillow it would stay glued there until you almost had to pry it off with a crow-bar to get him to wake up.
At first, everybody would joke about it but soon it became clear it was no laughing matter. Larry just kept sleeping later and later until not only would he regularly miss the camp's morning assembly, but barely make it to the dining hall for lunch!
Not that Larry didn't try to get up on time. He put two loud alarm clocks right next to his head, and even tried sleeping without a pillow. But nothing helped. Larry probably had some kind of physical condition. Through no fault of his own, he was an unusually deep sleeper.
Things went from bad to worse.
One night, just before "lights out," Mr. Spangler the camp director came into the boys' bunkhouse. He walked right over to Larry who was already in bed. Although he spoke softly, all of the boys understood that he told Larry that unless he started getting up on time and showing up where he was supposed to be, he'd have to leave the camp.
From the look on Larry's face as the director walked out, it was clear that it was no idle threat. The next morning the wake-up music blared over the loudspeaker and one by one, campers popped out of bed, washed up, and started heading out to the assembly hall.
All except Larry, that is.
Oblivious to the loud beeping of the alarm clock on the shelf by his head, Larry looked like he was not likely to be getting up anytime soon.
"I guess that's it for Larry," said one of the boys as he was about to walk out to the assembly hall.
"Hey, we can't just let him sink and get kicked out," said Jonathan.
Jonathan immediately sprung into action, trying to wake up the sleeping boy. He tried convincing, cajoling, and even tickling Larry until finally the boy roused, and remembering the director's visit from the night before, jumped to his feet. Larry quickly washed and dressed, and headed out to join his friends, all the while with a grateful smile on his lips.
From that morning on all of the boys in Larry's bunkhouse, following Jonathan's lead, made a rotation and took turns waking Larry up. At first it wasn't easy, but little by little, Larry got better at waking up by himself. Soon he didn't even need his friends' help anymore. It ended up being a great summer for Larry and all the guys in the bunkhouse.
At the end of the summer, there was a farewell dinner. Larry stood up and warmed everybody's hearts when he winked at Jonathan and his other bunkmates and thanked them for giving him "a great summer that almost wasn't."
Q. How do you think that Larry felt when the camp director told him that he had to start waking up on time or leave the camp?
A. He felt worried that he wouldn't make it since he had really been trying and until now had failed.
Q. How did Jonathan feel when he saw that Larry was about to oversleep for the last time?
A. He wanted to help him before Larry failed and had to leave the camp. It's good to help others to succeed when they are having difficulties.
Q. Why do you think Jonathan decided to get involved and help Larry to wake up instead of just staying out of it and letting the inevitable happen?
A. Jonathan took responsibility. He saw his friend was failing in spite of his efforts. He realized it wasn't simply the "other guy's problem." He saw that perhaps he could help and made the ethical choice to do so.
Q. In our story, Larry was obviously trying to help himself wake up with alarm clocks, etc. yet was still unable to do so. Had he not tried to do anything to help himself, should his friends have been as willing to put in the effort to try to help him? Why or why not?
A. When we see that someone genuinely wants to improve himself and is trying to, we feel motivated to lend him a hand. We root for him and really want him to make it. But if someone is unwilling to do anything to help himself and wants others to do everything for him, then he himself is not being responsible. In such a case, sometimes the biggest help is letting the person suffer the consequences of his actions so he could hopefully learn to be more responsible.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Could one argue that since God has chosen certain people to be poor or unfortunate, we are somehow going against His plan when we help them? Why not let God help them if He chooses?
A. Ironically, it is just in such situations that God wants us to act almost as if He doesn't exist. He put us in the world to develop into more giving and spiritual people and one way to become so is by helping others. God surely had good reasons to make some people poor, etc., and we trust that it is ultimately for the best. But what God asks of us is to do whatever we can to help others.
Q. The sages teach us that "all the Jewish people are guarantors for one another." How do you understand this and apply it to this week's story?
A. A guarantor is someone who agrees in advance to help his friend to shoulder his burdens and to help him to get up when he falls. He guarantees - so to speak - his friend's success to the extent that he is able. This is how we should ideally relate to each other. When we see another falling in some way, we should be willing to step in and help prop him up. That is just what Larry's bunkmates did for him; they gave him the boost he needed to overcome his problem. By boosting up someone who is falling, we can often change his entire direction in life for the better.
Q. Can you think of a time when you lent someone a hand?