Every human being has within him two opposing drives. One is to behave generously and give of his time, possessions and energy. The other is to behave selfishly, hang on to everything he has, and even try to take away from others. The Jewish people were confronted with the opportunity to choose whether or not to be givers when they saw that collections were being made to gather the gold and silver needed to build the Tabernacle - that very special and beautiful structure that God told them to build and worship Him in as they sojourned through the wilderness on the way to the land of Israel. Anyone who went into the Tabernacle could actually feel that God was right next to him! Nobody was forced to give - volunteers only. Though it was a challenge to have to part with their precious possessions, the Jews passed the test and gave freely, with open hearts. In fact, they were so generous that they gave even more than the builders needed! We can learn from here to strive to be givers rather than takers in every opportunity that arises.
In our story, a girl opens up her heart to give to a friend in need.
"GIVE AND TAKE"
It was the nicest class trip anyone could remember. The awesome scenery and spectacular waterfalls of Teva national forest seemed to cast a spell over the entire class. The weather had been perfect, and after a long hike the kids all sat down by a soothing stream to relax and enjoy the lunches that each of them had packed.
Everyone ate hungrily, and for a moment, the gurgle of the stream was the only sound that could be heard among this normally lively and talkative group. The silence was soon broken by a gasp. "Oh no! I don't believe it!" cried Jenny as she frantically went through her red and blue knapsack.
"What's the matter?" asked Gail, the girl sitting next to her, with concern.
"I must have forgotten to pack my lunch," she said in a sad voice.
Gail was silent. She felt bad for her classmate and considered offering Jenny some of her lunch. Yet, she herself felt so hungry from the hike, how could she give up any of the little food that she had brought along? But Gail felt her heart open as she looked at Jenny who was still half-heartedly rummaging through the pockets of her obviously lunch-less knapsack.
Gail tapped Jenny on the shoulder. The girl looked up with her eyes, red with tears. Gail held out an apple and a small package of cookies. "You know, I'm a little full, and I have some extra food. Would you like this?"
Jenny hesitated for a moment, then gratefully accepted the food. "Thank you so much!" she said.
But before the girls even had a chance to talk, Debby, one of their classmates, walked over. "Jenny, please take half of my sandwich. I'm stuffed."
Soon someone else came over with a bag of chips. A can of soda appeared. Then some pretzels. Before long, nearly the whole class was gathered around, laughing and happily sharing the food that had piled up around the amazed Jenny. It was one of those magic moments none of the kids would soon forget. The rest of the trip was even more wonderful than the first part had been. The class felt a special sense of togetherness that only comes from giving.
As the girls boarded the bus to return home, Gail winked at Jenny and said, "Thanks for forgetting your lunch and giving us all a trip to remember!"
Q. How did Gail feel when she first realized that Jenny had forgotten her lunch?
A. While she felt bad for the girl, she didn't really want to give her any of her own food.
Q. How did she feel after she decided to share?
A. She felt great. By sharing their food she and the other kids came to experience the special good feelings that come only from giving.
Q. Why do you think the other kids started to share only after they saw Gail give some of her food to Jenny?
A. Many of them also likely noticed Jenny's distress. But they were hesitant to open their hearts and tap into their ability to give. But when they saw that Gail could overcome selfishness, they felt empowered and realized that they could too. By giving to people in need we can help teach others how to give as well.
Q. How does trust in God help make a person into more of a giver?
A. People often hesitate to give because they feel that it will cause them to somehow lose out. But when we trust in God and realize that He has unlimited means and resources to give us what we need, we will lose that fear and gain the confidence to give to others. This is especially true when we come to understand that God, the ultimate giver, wants us to develop into giving, loving people and will certainly help us when we do so.
Q. Can you think of a time when you extended yourself and gave to another? How did you feel?
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Why do you think that the kids all felt so close to each other after they chipped in to help their friend?
A. A sense of selfishness, or an unwillingness to give, creates barriers between people. We are afraid to grow to close to others in fear that it will require us to give more of ourselves than we are prepared to. When we take the risk to give, as did the kids in the story, we come to feel an almost magical breaking down of these uncomfortable barriers and a sublime sense of unity with those around us. This is what the class experienced. Ironically, it is those who are willing to give the most away that are generally the happiest people.
Q. To what extent should one be willing to give of himself?
A. The Torah asks us to "Love others as we do ourselves." This means that ultimately we should try to reach a level that the other person's needs are literally no less important to us than our own. At this level there is no limit to what one would be willing to give. However, realistically this is a goal that can only be reached over a long time with much practice. A good rule of thumb as we work toward this level is to be willing to give a bit more than one is comfortable doing. Little by little he will feel his heart open and his ability to give expand. This is a very satisfying feeling and one of life's foremost spiritual goals.
Q. Can you think of time when you extended yourself and gave to another? How did you feel?