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Vayetzei(Genesis 28:10-32:3)

Considering Others


No sensitive person wants to hurt anybody's feelings or cause him humiliation. But how far should we be willing to go? In this week's Torah portion we learn about Rachel, one of the founding mothers of the Jewish people. She was so considerate of her sister's feelings that she was willing to risk making the ultimate sacrifice of not being able to marry her soul mate, Jacob. It is an important value to be considerate of other's feelings, even when it isn't easy.

 


In our story a boy faces having to make a big sacrifice to spare the feelings of others.

"A HIGHER GOAL"

Even though the hockey rink was freezing cold, Larry Falk, the Lion's star goalie, could feel himself sweating buckets underneath his uniform. Who would have thought that he would be able to keep their tough opponents, the Gladiators, from scoring even one goal the whole game, and earn himself a shutout in this, the big championship match?

But now with only one minute left to play, and his team ahead 3 to 0, that's exactly what was happening! Larry could already picture in his mind the banner headline of the sport's section of tomorrow's Tribune, the local newspaper. His coach had already hinted to him that if he kept the shutout he was a shoe-in for the Most Valuable Player award!

Larry was readying himself for the game to resume when he noticed something strange going on by the opposing team's bench. It looked as though Mr. Edom, their coach was having a fit. Although they were half way across the ring, he was yelling so loud that Larry could easily hear. "You guys are a bunch of LOSERS!!" he screamed. "Its bad enough that you're going to lose the game. But not even one goal?! If you don't score at least once before the game is over, I'm making you all ride home in a van with a big 'loser's' sign draped over it. The whole state will see what you are!!"

Larry felt terrible as he saw the boys cringing in shame at their coach's burning threat. "How can he humiliate them like that?" thought Larry indignantly. But his thoughts were broken up by the drop of the puck as the game resumed.

The Gladiators won the face off and gained control of the puck. They skated his way as the Lion's defensemen moved in to stop them. The clock was ticking ... only seconds left to play! With time running out, the boy with the puck took a desperate shot in Larry's direction. He had an even more desperate look on his face, as he realized the embarrassment he and his team would face if they didn't score at least one goal.

Instinctively Larry moved to block the shot. "No problem. I can stop this shot easily!" thought the goalie as he took position. But then time seemed to stand still as Larry recalled what he had just seen. "I want the shutout so much..." he thought, "but not at the price of letting those guys be humiliated!"

In a flash Larry moved his stick to the side, just enough to let the puck fly into the goal. SCORE!!! The announcer shouted and the crowd went wild. The Gladiators were hugging. Their coach was beaming, even though they did lose the game. But the happiest person in the whole arena ironically was Larry. His team had won the game. And even though he had given up the honor of a shutout, he knew that he had helped to save the other team from humiliation. To him, that was the biggest 'save' of his career.

 


Ages 3-5

Q. How did Larry feel when he saw the other team's coach yelling at them?
A. He felt bad for them that they were being humiliated.

Q. How did he feel after he let them score the goal?
A. Really great. Even though he gave up the honor of a shutout, he felt it was worth it so the other team wouldn't be embarrassed by their coach.

Ages 6-9

Q. Do you think Larry did the right thing in letting the other team score a goal?

Q. Larry gave up a lot for the sake of his opponent's honor. How can we decide how much we should be willing to give up in order not to embarrass someone else?
A. It's not an easy decision to make. It might help us gain perspective to try to put ourselves in the other person's shoes and imagine how he might feel if he gets embarrassed. We can then weigh this against how hard it would be for us to actually give something up to protect his honor. If we honestly consider the other person's feelings as part of the equation we'll usually make the right decision.

Q. Who's feelings are more important ours or the other guy's?
A. In truth they are equally important. Our sages teach us to care as much about others as we do for ourselves. Often it's difficult to feel or behave this way, but if we keep this value in mind, eventually we will grow into more considerate people.

Ages 10 and Up

Q. Our sages equate embarrassing someone to actually killing them. How do you understand this rather extreme-sounding comparison?
A. A major part of a person's identity is his sense of self-respect. By humiliating someone, one actually robs him of this identity. He may remain physically alive but his self-respect - which is his human essence - has been temporarily murdered. For the moment, the person feels dead. The sages say the reason why a person blushes when embarrassed is because his blood is being spilt. The very comparison should breed within us a sensitivity and respect for the feelings of others.

Q. Do you think Larry did the right thing in letting the other team score a goal?

Q. The boy in the story exhibited a large measure of what could be called self-sacrifice. Do you think this is a healthy trait? Why or why not? A. When expressed in the proper measure the trait of self-sacrifice can be quite healthy and one of the most sure signs of spiritual development. It is basically a move away from self-centered behavior and a realization that we are all in it together and that sometimes we may have to give up some personal comfort to help others.

 

Published: November 17, 2001

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