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Bereishit(Genesis 1:1-6:8)

A Good Friend

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OVERVIEW

What makes a good friend? Is it someone who goes along with whatever we say or do, whether it's right or wrong?

In this week's portion, we learn about our great, great, great ... grandparents, Adam and Eve. The Torah describes Eve as Adam's "helpmate," or in Hebrew, 'eizer k'negdo.' Although this term means that Eve was someone who would be together with Adam and help him to live his life successfully, the word 'k'negdo' in Hebrew also implies that Eve will be "against" Adam. This means that she would not be afraid to take a stand and let Adam know if she thought he was doing something wrong. This act of genuine caring, even if it might mean some friction in the relationship, is the 'help' that she would give him.

We see from here that the mark of a good and true friend is someone who cares enough about another person to let him know when he thinks he's wrong.

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STORY

In our story, a boy finds out what does ... and doesn't make for a true friend.

"JUNGLE BUNGLE"

      Josh Shiner's garage was like a jungle. Hoses of different shapes and colors hung from their hooks like pythons curled around trees, and his dad's various power tools and gardening equipment all sat perched in their places like wild animals, ready to pounce.

      The 'king' of this jungle was definitely the big red and black power mower, which slept silently in its corner. Josh and his friends, Alan and Peter, had just finished a grueling hour of homework together and had made their way into the jungle-garage to grab a basketball to shoot some hoops and let off steam. But where was the ball?

      Josh could usually get away with his habit of just chucking the ball in through the garage window when he was done, but sometimes the ball would get lost and land out of sight.

      "Found it!" yelled Peter as he pulled out the dusty red, white, and blue ball from the corner behind the power mower. "That's some machine," he added, looking the mower up and down.

      "Sure is," said Josh, "It's one and a half horsepower, and does the whole yard in 45 minutes. You wanna hear the motor?"

      "Yeah!" exclaimed Peter. "I'll bet those one and a half horses make the whole garage shake."

      Then Alan spoke up "Wait a minute, Josh. Are you sure your dad lets you do that? You once told Pete and me that he only lets you use his power tools together with him."

      Alan glanced over at Peter, who just shrugged. Josh blushed. It was just like Alan to be 'Mr. Conscience' and throw a wet blanket on their fun - always pointing out some rule, or problem that something might cause. Peter was a much better friend. Anything you wanted to say or do was just fine with him.

      Still, Alan did have a point - officially, Josh wasn't really supposed to touch any of this stuff. But he had already said it, and besides, this wasn't actually using the mower; it was just turning it on.

      Josh didn't know what to do. He gave Peter a knowing wink and the three boys took the basketball and went out to play. After a while, Alan had to go and the other two made a bee-line right back into the garage. Fortunately, Josh's dad hadn't come home from work yet, and now with 'Mr. Conscience' out of the picture, they could have some real fun.

      "I don't think my dad would mind, do you?" Josh said with a grin.

      Peter shook his head. "Whatever you say, pal."

      Josh took down the shiny silver key from the hook over the door, put it in the mower's ignition and turned. Sure enough, the roar of the lawn mower's engine was awesome. But then Josh jumped back, as the machine began to move! He had forgotten to put it in neutral, like his dad always told him, and now the 'king of the jungle' was about to go on a rampage!

      Fortunately Josh remembered how to hit the emergency brake, but not before the mower had lurched into his dad's favorite wooden tool bench, giving it a good crack right down the middle.

      "Alan was right!" Josh thought in a panic.

      Just then, the boys heard Mr. Shiner's car pulling into the driveway. What timing! Josh braced for the worst, as Peter slipped out the side door.

      Sure enough, he really got it from his father and was grounded for a good, long time. Finally when he was allowed to play with friends again, Josh called his friend Alan to get together. "I think I want to stick with friends who care enough about me to tell me when I'm wrong, instead of just letting me get in trouble by doing something stupid."

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QUESTIONS

Ages 3-5

Q. How did Josh feel at first about how his two friends answered when he asked them if he should start up the lawn mower?
A. He thought Peter was a better friend because he went along with him, and Alan didn't.

Q. How did he feel about this in the end?
A. He saw that Alan was really being the better friend by trying to stop him from doing something wrong.

 

Ages 6-9

Q. Whom would you rather have as a friend: someone like Alan or like Peter? Why?
A. It might seem easier to have a friend like Peter who always agrees with whatever we say or do, but really we are better off with a type of friend like Alan who cares enough about us to speak up if he thinks we are doing something that isn't good for us. A friend like that is worth his weight in gold.

Q. Why did Alan's speaking up show that he cared?
A. It isn't comfortable to try to correct someone. It takes effort to get involved, and the other person might get angry, or argue back. If someone speaks up to correct us, it shows that he cares so much that he's willing to face those consequences.

Q. Can you think of a time when you had to correct a friend? How did you do it?

 

Ages 10 and Up

Q. How is it possible to help someone, and be 'against' him at the same time?
A. There is no contradiction if we understand what 'help' really means. Help doesn't mean to simply assist someone to do what he wants to do. Help means taking into account who the person really is, what are his deepest values, and trying to help him grow toward them. It can often be that his immediate wants and his deepest values can clash and the true help in such a case would be to 'go against' him, and try to stop the person from doing what he wants rather than to assist him.

Q. Do we have the right to step into other's affairs and tell them we think they are doing wrong? What if what they are doing hurts no one except themselves?
A. Not only do we have the right, we often have the obligation. We are all responsible for one another, and if someone is being destructive, even to himself, we should try to help him out and guide him back on course. Obviously we can't force someone to change, or even accept what we say, but we must at least try to help him or her live in a positive way.

Q. Can you think of a time when you had to correct a friend? How did you do it?

 

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Published: October 18, 2003

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