Family Parsha Parshat Vayakhel: - Being Honest -
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Vayakhel(Exodus 35:1-38:20)

- Being Honest -


OVERVIEW

Most of us realize that it is an important value to be honest and straight. Yet sometimes things come up that can tempt even a normally honest person to stretch it just a little bit. In this week's Torah portion we see an illustration of just how far a person should go to be honest with other people's money and property. Moses was in charge of the money that the Jewish people had donated to construct the beautiful vessels needed for the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle was the special sanctuary that God had asked the people to build as a 'meeting place' where they would feel especially close and connected to Him. Even though everyone totally trusted their great leader Moses, and had no doubts that he would use the money properly, Moses insisted upon keeping detailed records and carefully showing the people how every last penny was being spent. This served as a lesson for all time that we should remain scrupulously honest in all of our money dealings, especially those which concern others.

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STORY

In our story a boy goes out of his way to remain honest in the face of temptation.

"CHIPPING IN"

      Howard Salenger made his way deliberately up and down the aisles of the Buy-Ways supermarket. His class was making a special surprise going-away party for their teacher who was retiring. The entire class had chipped in money and had chosen Howard to go shopping for the food and drinks.

      The boy eagerly stuffed his shopping cart with the most delectable snacks, cakes and drinks he could find, and made his way to the check-out to pay. As he waited in line, Howard peeked through the packages of baseball cards on display next to the cashier. The boy, who had a big baseball card collection, didn't expect to see anything new. But he perked up when he noticed that a new card, featuring his favorite pitcher, and last year's team's MVP was the top card showing on one of the packs!

      "I definitely have to buy this!" he told himself as he grabbed the cards and threw them into his cart.

      Soon it was his turn to check out. Howard pulled out the wad of money that the class had given him, and fished through his pockets for some money of his own to pay for the cards. But, to his dismay, he came up empty-handed. It seemed that he didn't have a penny of his own at the moment to pay for the cards.

      "No big deal," he thought. "I'll just use some of the change from the class money. What's a measly pack of baseball cards? No one will even notice."

      Howard methodically unloaded his cart. But as the cashier rang up the wide variety of treats Howard felt himself growing uneasy. Maybe it wasn't right to use the class money to pay for his baseball cards. After all the kids had trusted him to spend their money honestly. Even though the cards didn't cost much, wouldn't it still be wrong to buy them with money that wasn't his?

      The woman behind the cash register was nearly up to the baseball cards that were smoothly gliding along the conveyor belt towards her. Howard felt torn. He desperately wanted to get the cards, but he even more wanted to be honest and responsible. Howard knew what he had to do.

      He quickly grabbed back the package of baseball cards and put them back on the display shelf. Although it was a hard choice, Howard felt relieved and knew that he had done the right thing. He grabbed his packages and brought the food back to the waiting class.

      The hungry kids gave him a hero's welcome. "Great stuff! Way to go, Howard!" exclaimed one of the guys. "We knew we could count to you to make the right choices!"

      Howard smiled and felt good inside. Only he - and God - knew about the most important "right choice" that he had made that day.

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QUESTIONS

Ages 3-5

Q. How did Howard feel when he first found the special pack of baseball cards?
A. He felt like he had to get them, even if he had to use other people's money.

Q. How did he feel after he put them back?
A. He felt happy that he had chosen to be honest even though it was hard.


Ages 6-9

Q. Do you think Howard made the right decision? Why or why not?
A. It certainly wasn't an easy decision to make. The boy really wanted the cards. If he wanted to, he could probably have thought of a lot of excuses to justify getting them. Yet he boldly placed his values above his desires and chose to remain honest and clean. By making that choice he gained something much more valuable than any baseball card.

Q. What are some other situations that a person could mistakenly justify as being alright and honest but really aren't?
A. For instance taking too many packs of sugar or ketchup from a fast-food restaurant, or getting back extra change and not returning it, or pretending to make a 'collect' phone call in order to signal someone to call him back, etc. Things like this might seem minor and harmless, but in fact they are not right and a person who wants to honest won't do them.


Ages 10 and Up

Q. Why should a person be honest?
A. There are many reasons why 'honesty is the best policy'. On a societal level, things work much more smoothly when people are on the level with each other. On a personal level, one will feel much better about himself if he knows he behaves honestly. But there is an even deeper reason. God revealed to us in the Torah the mode of conduct which will bring us to the highest level of personal and spiritual development. One of the most important of these guidelines is to behave with impeccable honesty in every situation.

Q. What inner messages can a person tell himself that will encourage him to increase his level of honesty?
A. He can try to visualize how good it felt in the past when he made the decision to act honestly, and how it didn't feel so good when he didn't. He can also remind himself that God is watching out for him and will certainly provide him with whatever he needs through honest means.

Q. What are some other situations that a person could mistakenly justify as being alright and honest but really aren't?
A. For instance taking too many packs of sugar or ketchup from a fast-food restaurant, or getting back extra change and not returning it, or pretending to make a 'collect' phone call in order to signal someone to call him back, etc. Things like this might seem minor and harmless, but in fact they are not right and a person who wants to honest won't do them.

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Published: March 2, 2002

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