The Gift of Closeness
This week's portion teaches us the secret of how to become closer to someone else - by giving to him. The portion describes the different types of offerings or 'gifts' which God asked us to give Him in the Tabernacle. The Hebrew word for these offerings is 'korbanot,' which is a form of the Hebrew word 'to come closer.' God didn't 'need' our gifts - the whole world and everything in it are His already. Rather, He wanted to help us feel close and connected to Him, and that our acts of giving to Him would bring us there.
In our story two sisters grow closer in a most unexpected way.
"GIVING PEACE A CHANCE"
KEEP OUT! NO PESTS ALLOWED! was the sign on Wendy's door, and it didn't take a genius to figure out whom the sign was meant to keep away. As far as Wendy Abramson was concerned, her younger sister Paula was nothing but a nuisance and she wanted to have as little to do with her as possible. The kid was always trying to follow her around, but Wendy made it very clear she wasn't interested. She made it a point to sit on opposite sides of the school bus from her sister, eat at different tables and do whatever else she could to put herself wherever Paula wasn't.
That's why she got so upset the day her mom dropped the bombshell over the breakfast table. "Wendy, I have to go away on business for a week starting tomorrow, and since your father is very busy and will be away at work most of the day I need you to help me."
"Sure mom. What can I do?"
"Well, you're big enough to take care of yourself, but Paula isn't. So I need you to look after her, you know, get her off to school, make her lunch, that kind of stuff."
Wendy almost choked on her Cheerios. "MOM PLEASE NO! Anything but that. I'll scrub the floors, I'll paint the whole house twice, just don't make me spend a whole week taking care of that little pest!"
Wendy's mom nodded. "I know it isn't an easy thing to ask of you, and I'm sorry, Wendy, but there just isn't any other choice. And who knows..." she added with a cryptic smile, "spending more time together might just help you to grow closer."
Wendy was floored. Growing closer was the last thing on her mind. Here she had been doing everything to avoid the little pest and now she had to spend a whole week taking care of her. Despite Wendy's best pouts, mournful tears and door-slams, her mom wouldn't change her mind, and the next morning Wendy braced herself for a miserable week.
"Come on, get up and get dressed. If you don't hurry you're going to miss the bus, and if you think I'm going to wait around and walk you to school, forget it!" Wendy said with all the charm of a drill sergeant, as she quickly set out her sister's clothing and went into the kitchen to fix her breakfast. 'Why am I stuck having to do this?' she kept asking herself as she roughly smeared a wad of peanut butter across the smallest piece of bread she could find and stuffed it into her sister's lunchbox.
Wendy and Paula rushed out the door and barely caught the honking school bus. She sat Paula down and as usual went to sit down on the opposite end of the bus. Then she thought, 'Gee, if I'm kind of responsible for her, maybe I should at least be able to see her,' and grudgingly sat down not actually near her sister, but not that far away either.
After school Wendy ran straight to her room like she always did, and was about to close and lock the door as usual, but then decided to leave the door open a tiny crack - just in case of an emergency.
That night after finally getting her sister into bed, Wendy plopped down on the living room couch. It had been a tough day, and she wanted to relax. Soon she heard some noise coming from Paula's bedroom. She went to check it out, and found her sister was crying.
"Hey what's the matter with you?" she asked.
"I miss mommy and I'm scared to be alone," Paula sniffed.
Seeing it was no emergency, Wendy was about to tell her to be quiet and walk back out. Then she looked again at Paula, who looked so small all curled up in bed. 'Poor kid,' she thought. 'If I were her age, I'd be scared too.'
"It's okay Paula. Here, let me read you a nice story and I'm sure you'll feel better." Paula smiled and a few minutes later she was fast asleep.
From that night on, something strange started to happen. Taking care of Paula wasn't turning out to be nearly as horrible as Wendy expected. She herself didn't even know why, but having to help her sister out so much just somehow made her like her better and care about her more.
Each day she found herself waking Paula up more gently, making her nicer lunches, and leaving her door open just a bit more. In fact, though she'd never say it to the kid's face, her sister was actually starting to grow on her and even seemed kind of cute - for a kid sister.
The week passed and Wendy's mom was due home that afternoon. Was she crazy or was she going to actually miss taking care of Paula? After giving her a nice warm bowl of oatmeal, Wendy walked Paula out to the bus. They had a nice chat along the way, and when Wendy sat Paula down on her usual seat and then took the seat right next to her, the other kids, and even the bus driver, did a double take.
That afternoon their mom came home. She opened the door and was relieved to see that the house was still in one piece. But the nicest surprise was seeing her two daughters laughing and playing a game together in Wendy's room. The usual KEEP OUT! sign on her door had been replaced by one saying WELCOME HOME MOM!, and signed by both of them.
"Wendy, I see you really came through for me. I hope it didn't take too much out of you."
Wendy smiled. "Mom, it was fine. Thanks for giving me the chance to give and get closer to someone really nice."
Q. How did Wendy feel about having to take care of Paula at first?
A. She felt like Paula was a pain and she didn't want to do it.
Q. How did she feel at the end?
A. Taking care of her made her feel close to Paula, and she was happy to do it.
Q. What did Wendy discover that week?
A. She discovered how to feel closer to someone - by giving. She hadn't felt very connected to her little sister, but after a week of taking care of her she came to feel much closer to her.
Q. Why do you think that is?
A. We all have a lot of love inside our hearts, but sometimes it is so locked up that we don't even feel it. Giving and doing for others is the secret key that opens our hearts and lets the love pour out.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Do you think giving makesus feel closer to God?
A. It is human nature to feel closest to those we are most similar to. God is the ultimate giving Being. His relationship with every creature in the universe is pure giving. When we give in the relationships in our lives, we are acting more like God, so naturally we begin to feel closer to Him.
Q. Can we ever grow closer to someone through taking?
A. It depends what our intention is. If we just want to gain something for ourselves, we won't feel closer. However, if our intention in taking is to help the giver feel wanted and valued, then our act of taking can really be a form of giving, which will help us feel closer.