The Best Connection
This week's Torah portion speaks about the greatness of the Land of Israel and how special it is. In one of its praises, it compares the Land of Israel to Egypt. In Egypt, the farmers automatically get all the water they need each year when the Nile flows over its banks. But Israel depends upon God to send it its yearly rain.
We might wonder why this is considered praise. Doesn't Egypt have the better deal, since they automatically get whatever they need, while the Jews in Israel have to constantly hope and pray that the rain comes on time? By forcing the people in Israel to rely on God constantly for rain and turn to Him for their needs, they gain a special connection in their relationship with God.
True relationships don't thrive on convenience, but rather on connection.
In out story, a kid discovers that what he thought was a burden is really a benefit.
"BEST DEAL IN TOWN"
I felt excited and a little annoyed as I put down the phone. Excited by the news I just heard from my buddy Brandon that there was a one-day-only 40% off sale at the music store in the mall. Annoyed because it meant that if I was going to be able to buy anything there, I would have to ask my Dad for my allowance two days in advance.
Now don't get me wrong - my Dad isn't mean or anything. Just the opposite; he's a great dad, and we're really close. It's just that I knew that asking him for the money early meant that we'd have to have our 'Weekly Meeting' early too. What's that, you may ask? Well my Dad says it's really important for us to touch base in a serious way at least once every week, so before he gives me my weekly allowance we have to sit and have a meeting. I have to tell him all about my week; how things went in school, with friends, and even about soccer league. Most weeks I tell him almost exactly the same things, and you'd think he would be bored of it by now, but nope. Each week it's the same thing - no meeting, no allowance.
Usually I can handle the 'Weekly Meeting,' but today I was really in no mood. I wished for once I could 'take the money and run' to the store with Brandon. Who knew how long before the really good CD's sold out? I told my friend over the phone to go ahead, and meet me in the store since I knew it would take me a while before I could get out.
I thought about Brandon, and felt jealous. He had once told me he gets his whole allowance for the year in one shot! And from what I can see, it's a nice, big 'shot' too. His Dad's a major executive for a huge company, and let's just say the way they live is much more than 'comfortable.'
Finally I got to the store. Like I had predicted, my Dad was willing to advance my allowance, but only after we had our meeting. I was relieved to see Brandon was still there after all this time. "Anything good left?" I asked, out of breath from my dash through the mall.
"Yeah, plenty. But what took you so long, Jay? I was about to give up on you."
I felt myself turning red. It would be embarrassing to explain about my 'Weekly Meetings', and I was sure my friend was going to laugh when he heard how much better he had it than I did. But I'm the kind of guy that when you ask me a question I give an answer, so I told him the whole story about the weekly meeting and what a hassle it could sometimes be.
As I spoke, I noticed my friend starting to kind of shake. Boy was he getting ready for a big belly laugh. But surprise of surprises, the kid didn't start laughing but actually started to cry! It was a good thing we were by ourselves in the back of the store where no one could see us. I just didn't get it.
After a minute or so, he pulled himself together. "You are so lucky..."
"I would give anything to be able to meet with my father every week." Brandon told me how his Dad was so busy that not only did they hardly ever talk, but weeks and even months could go by when they wouldn't even see each other, and the worst part, he said, was that when they finally did get to together, he felt like his dad was almost a stranger. It turned out that was why his Dad gave him all the money at once, because he never knew when they would see each other next!
I felt terrible for him, but it was hard to relate. I would never admit it, but a lot of times I felt like my Dad was one of my closest friends in the world. And whether I liked it or not, I had to also admit that the talks we had during our weekly allowance meetings were probably a big reason why. I got some good deals that day in the store, but none of them could compare to how good a deal I discovered I already had - at home.
Q. How did Jay feel before he spoke to his friend in the store?
A. He felt that his friend was lucky because he got all his allowance money without having to meet with his father each time.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He saw how he was really much better off than his friend was because he always got to talk with his dad while his friend almost never could.
Q. Brandon got lots of money without even having to do anything, so why was he unhappy?
A. Although he got a good allowance, he lacked something even more valuable - a close relationship with his father. The things we own may make our life more fun or convenient for a while but can never give us the deep pleasure having meaningful relationships with others, especially parents and other close family members. Those things are so important that they are worth effort and inconvenience to maintain.
Q. How did Jay's weekly meetings help him and his father become close?
A. Among the things that builds a relationship is consistently making time for one another. The weekly meeting and the fact that Jay had to ask for his allowance assured that no matter what there would be at least one time each week set aside for Jay and his dad to have a serious, unrushed talk.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Who would you say feels closer to God: someone for whom everything is going smoothly, or someone experiencing difficulties? Why?
A. We might hope and wish it was the former, but the truth is that when everything is going smoothly it is easy to forget about God. In difficult times, especially when things seem beyond our control, it is natural to turn to God for guidance and help. While we shouldn't seek troubles, if they come, we should know we have a special opportunity to grow closer in our relationship with God.
Q. Is there any way to keep the relationship strong without the problems?
A. God loves us and wants to be close to us, and He knows that this close relationship is so good for us spiritually, that sometimes He even sends us challenges so we will turn to Him and renew this crucial relationship. When we try to focus on all the good things in our lives, realize they are gifts from God, and verbally express our appreciation; we can sometimes accomplish the goal of strengthening the relationship in a positive, easy-to-take way.