Depending on God
We all have certain things that we've grown to depend on and take for granted as being necessary for our happiness. Yet some of these things may not really be as necessary or powerful as we think. Sometimes these dependencies can even limit a person, preventing him from seeing things clearly and from reaching his true potential.
This is what happened to the ancient Egyptians who had grown to depend on and worship idols and even sheep, which they mistakenly viewed as types of 'gods.' In this week's Torah portion, God was about to take the Jewish people out of their slavery in Egypt. One of the things He told them to do first was to catch, slaughter and roast sheep. Doing this showed the Egyptians -- and the Jews -- that the 'sheep-gods', which people were so dependent on, were actually powerless. They discovered the truth that the only being worth depending on is God.
We may also be shown at some time in our life that some of the things that we think we must depend on are also not real. While recognizing the truth may not feel comfortable, nevertheless we can be happy in knowing that we are being given an opportunity to come closer to God, on whom we can always depend.
In our story a girl discovers that something she thought was holding her up was really holding her back.
"A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION"
Ruthie Emanuel was sitting on her bed reading when her sister Jackie burst in.
"Get ready!" she said. "Mom and Dad are taking us to the zoo!"
Ruthie got very excited. For months she had wanted to go to the beautiful new zoo that had opened up outside of the city. All her friends had raved about it, especially the giant elephant that was supposed to be the biggest in the country! But her parents had been really busy at work, and they weren't able to find the time -- until now.
Ruthie quickly got dressed, grabbed her crutches that she had been using since she had badly sprained her ankle skiing last month and hopped down the stairs. Even though the doctor had told her she really didn't have to use the crutches anymore, Ruthie had become very dependent on them, and in her opinion she definitely still needed them.
Downstairs she found her family already gathered, with picnic lunch and all, ready to go. They packed into their minivan and set off for the zoo. It wasn't a short trip but the kids didn't mind since they were so excited to be going. Finally they saw a sign with an elephant on it that looked as big as a house, and they knew they had arrived.
The Emanuel kids packed out of the van. Ruthie, who was sitting in the back seat, turned to Jackie and asked, "Could you please get me my crutches from the back of the van so I can get out too?
"Sure," Jackie said with a smile. Ruthie waited and waited, but her sister didn't reappear.
After a few minutes Jackie came up to the car door with a serious look on her face. The rest of the family was gathered behind her. "Ruthie, I'm so sorry. Your crutches aren't anywhere. I guess in the excitement nobody remembered to pack them."
"Oh no!" cried Ruthie. "What am I going to do?!"
Ruthie's father determined that there wasn't enough time to go home to get the crutches and get back to the zoo. In the end the family realized there really was no choice -- Ruthie would have to stay behind in the van, with her dad to keep her company. Even though Mr. Emanuel did his best to cheer his daughter up, the girl was crushed at having to miss the zoo.
A few minutes later her dad turned to her and said, "You know, there is an alternative."
"What do you mean?" asked Ruthie.
Her dad smiled softly and said, "You remember what the doctor said last time? He said that you're ready to walk without your crutches."
Ruthie got upset. "But dad!" she sobbed, "you don't understand. I still need my crutches! I simply can't walk without them!"
"Okay. It's your decision. In the meantime, I'm going to get some drinks."
While her father went to the nearby refreshment stand, Ruthie sat, feeling very sorry for herself. She thought about what her father had said. She did want to walk, and she certainly didn't want to miss out on the zoo. But how would she ever manage without her crutches?
Suddenly, as on impulse, Ruthie leaned out of the van and put one foot on the pavement. She slowly lowered the other foot and stood up for the first time in a long time without her crutches. It felt a little funny, but it really didn't hurt. Ruthie whispered a short prayer and took a step. Then another! She felt as though she had been let out of a prison.
Her dad headed back with the drinks and was pleasantly surprised to see his daughter walking toward him! "Hey look at you! Come on -- let's go to the zoo!"
They left a note on the van and walked into the zoo, heading straight to the elephant exhibit. Ruthie gaped in awe at the mammoth beast and said, "Look at what giant steps he takes!" Her father took her hand and with a smile said, "True. But they are not anywhere as big as the ones you took today."
Q. How did Ruthie feel when she forgot her crutches?
A. She felt like it would be impossible for her to walk without them.
Q. How did she feel once she tried, and was able to walk?
A. She felt great as she realized that she was able to do more than she thought, and she wasn't dependent on her crutches.
Q. Why do you think Ruthie felt she still needed her crutches even though she really didn't?
A. A person can sometimes get used to a certain situation and begin to feel that the only way that things will work out is if they stay the way they are. Ruthie got used to needing crutches and just couldn't imagine being able to walk without them, even though she really could. She was afraid to try walking without them. We should not feel too dependent on any one particular thing, and by remembering that God is always there to help us, we will have the courage to step beyond our limitation.
Q. Would it have been better for Ruthie if she had remembered to bring her crutches to the zoo? Why or why not?
A. Forgetting her crutches was really the best thing that could have happened to Ruthie. Without her crutches to lean on, she had no choice but to confront the issue of whether she really needed them as much as she thought. In the end she discovered that she didn't, and felt much freer because of it.
Q. Is there anything that you think you need very badly, but in fact you don't really need it at all?
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Is it preferable to live in a comfortable delusion or in less comfortable reality?
A. Human beings have a drive to seek what is comfortable. However, a person has an even more pressing and basic drive -- to live a meaningful life based upon true values. Ultimately he may reach a point where these needs clash and he must make a choice --comfort or truth? The path of personal growth and spirituality is to choose to live a life infused with truth and clear awareness, whatever the cost. And in the end a person who lives this way will find that he experiences a sublime level of pleasure which more than compensates for any comfort he may have sacrificed to get there.
Q. Are there things that are genuinely necessary for us to be happy?
A. Happiness, in truth, is an attitude that comes from within. One person can have everything and still feel miserable. Someone else can seem to have nothing yet feel happy and content. So what is necessary for our happiness is essentially to develop the attitude of appreciating what you have, rather than relying on any specific circumstances. By learning to rely on God and to be happy with whatever situation He sends us, we can literally always be happy.