Some people just naturally seem to attract a lot of attention. Their look, style, and what they do tends to make them stand out as stars among their peers. Other people seem to almost fade into the background and spend much of their lives virtually unnoticed by almost anyone. Is it reasonable to say that the high profile first group is somehow more important than the others? The Torah says no. In this week's Torah portion we learn about the various jobs that the Cohanim, the special Jewish priests, did in the God's Tabernacle or meeting place. There were some high profile, 'star' jobs as well as the seemingly menial job of taking out the used ashes to the dump outside of the camp. Yet, this job was just as necessary and, significantly was mentioned with as much honor as the other seemingly more important ones. The lesson here is that whatever a person finds himself doing in life, as long as he does it sincerely and with worthwhile intentions he can rest assured that in God's eyes, he is as important as they come.
In our story a boy learns about being important.
Stu Jacobs was riding his bike home from school one day when a colorful red, white and blue poster caught his eye. "Junior league try-outs tomorrow!" read the sign.
Stu raced home, excited. He dashed to his closet, fished out his well-used baseball glove and began to warm-up by bouncing and catching a tennis ball against his garage door. Nearly two hours later, when his dad drove up from work, the boy was still enthusiastically at his task.
"What's up son?" asked Mr. Jacobs with a smile.
The boy paused, wiped the sweat off of his forehead and said, "I'm practicing for tomorrow's try-outs. I'm gonna be the star pitcher on a class-A junior league team!"
"Well, good luck!" said his dad. "If the garage door is any indicator, I'm sure you'll do just fine."
The next afternoon, Stu was one of the first to arrive at the try-out field. The coaches there put the boys through a battery of throwing, catching, and batting exercises, to determine who would make which teams and what position they would play. Stu took his turn, and although he wasn't really as big or fast as a lot of the kids there, he gave it his all, and was sure he was going to be chosen as the next, great pitching star.
As the day ended an announcement was made that a list of team and position assignments would be posted on the walls of all the school cafeterias the following day. Stu used up the very last of his energy to bike home - tired, but happy.
At school the next day Stu found it hard to concentrate on his morning classes. He couldn't wait for lunch break, when he would get to see in black and white how he made it as pitcher for the best team. The lunch bell finally rang and Stu lined up with a crowd of kids and craned his neck toward the computer printout taped to the wall. He scanned up and down the "class A" teams list, but couldn't find his name. "There must be some mistake!" he thought. Finally the boy got down to the "class B" teams list and his heart sank as he read "Jacobs, Stuart - right field."
That day Stu shuffled home, closed himself in his room and didn't come out even for supper. Finally his dad knocked on his door to make sure he was alright. Stu, hardly holding back tears, told his dad the whole, sad story. "Instead of star-pitcher they made me into some 'nobody' right-fielder!" he lamented.
Mr. Jacobs nodded in empathy. He put his arm around his son's shoulder and asked, "Tell me son, did you do your best at try-outs?"
"Sure, I always do!" said Stu.
"Let me ask you another question. How many players go out on the field?"
"Nine," mumbled the boy.
"Can you play a game with less than that?" asked his dad.
Stu shook his head, "No, it's against the league rules."
"Well, then" said Mr. Jacobs "Wouldn't you say that a right-fielder who tries his best, and without whom the team can't even play, is pretty important? Isn't he just as important as a 'star' pitcher?"
The boy looked up and smiled. "I guess you're right, dad. To play the game you do need a right fielder as much as a pitcher! Dad, would you mind coming out with me after supper so I can practice to be a good right-fielder?"
A broad smile lit up Mr. Jacobs' face. "It would be my pleasure. And Stu," he added warmly, "in my book you'll always be a star!"
Q. How did Stu feel when he wasn't chosen to be a pitcher?
A. He felt really sad because he wanted to be the star, and now he felt that he wasn't going to be so important.
Q. Did he feel differently after talking with his dad?
A. Yes, he came to realize that every player on the team added something, and was important.
Q. Why do you think that Stu specifically wanted to be at first the star pitcher, and not anything else?
A. He figured that since generally the pitcher gets the most attention, he assumed that they must be more important than the other players. He felt that he would only be doing something worthwhile, and please his dad, if he was the pitcher. People often make the mistake of thinking that his job, title or position will make him into a better, more important person.
Q. What is it that really makes a person important?
A. Really, every person in the world is already important. Since God made us, and felt that we were important enough to put and keep in the world, that is enough. Nobody needs more credentials than that. But beyond that, we can enhance our God-given importance by doing whatever we may be doing with sincerity, humility, and pleasantness. Stu's father realized this as he tried to encourage his son.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Who is more worthy of respect: an honest and friendly garbage-man, or a gruff, dishonest billionaire CEO? Why?
A. While this is an extreme example, it is coming to point out an important, yet easy to miss truth; it is a person's inner traits and values that should earn our respect, and not his position or status. In our example, the garbage-man, by virtue of his superior character trait, is in fact more worthy of respect than the 'respectable' businessman.
Q. The sages of the Talmud teach, "It's better to be the tail of a lion than the head of a fox." What do you think that means?
A. The lion is an awesome animal, truly the 'king of the jungle.' Every part of the lion, even the tip of his tail, is still important. It's even more important than the head of a small, common animal, like a fox. A lesson here is that being even a small part of something great is meaningful.