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Vayeshev(Genesis 37-40)

One Against the Many


What should someone do if he finds himself surrounded and outnumbered by people doing wrong and he feels that even if he tries to stop them he won't stand a chance?

Try anyway. At the time of the first Chanukah, there was a small group of Jewish priests in the Holy Temple called the Maccabees. When they saw that the superpower Syrian-Greek army was trying to force the people to forget about God, they decided to take action even though they were vastly outnumbered. God helped them to victory and made the great Chanukah miracles that we celebrate still today. We can learn from the Maccabees that when we are fighting for a good cause, we shouldn't let numbers (or lack of them) get in the way. Happy Chanukah!

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In our story a kid doesn't let being outnumbered get her down for the count.

"THE NUMBER CRUNCHER"

      Debby Ross sat there shaking her head as she watched her classmates turning their usually neat classroom into a big mess. She didn't know what it was about having a substitute teacher that seems to turn the nicest, most mild-mannered kids into a bunch of King Kongs.

      Maybe because it was the last day before winter break, but ever since word got out that their regular teacher wasn't going to be coming in that day, the kids in class started going on a world-class rampage that was really getting Debby upset. She shook her head as she watched the kids preparing a 'greeting' for the sub, by stuffing the erasers with chalk, turning the teacher's desk backwards and sticking thumbtacks on her chair. It just wasn't how you should treat a person - even a substitute. In fact it was downright wrong.

      But you can't fight city hall, she thought to herself. If the other 28 kids in this class are into acting this way, who am I to say no, she figured, as she ducked just in time to avoid getting hit with a flying math book.

      Boy is the sub ever going to be mad when she sees what this room looks like, Debby thought. Well at least the she was only going to have to see it once. Debby couldn't remember her class ever having the same substitute teacher twice, and it was no wonder why.

      Not knowing what else to do, Debby decided to grab something to read off a nearby shelf. What's this? 'The Story of Chanukah.' Well this looks timely...

      "Once the mighty Ancient Greek Empire made unjust laws and decrees against the Jewish people and forbade them from worshiping God," Debby read. "Many people just gave up because they were so few and weak while the Greeks were so many and strong."

      I can relate to that, she thought. It's kind of how I feel right now, actually. It's really wrong what the kids are doing but they've got me way outnumbered so there's nothing I can do about it. Let's read some more...

      "But a small group of Jewish priests - the Maccabees - refused to give in. Even though they were so outnumbered, they stood up to fight for what was right..." Hmm, pretty brave. I'd also like to stand up and tell these kids to cut it out, but I'm sure it won't help. Probably didn't help those Maccabee people either...

      She read on:

      "God made a great miracle and the small group fighting for what was right won a tremendous victory that we celebrate until this day!"

      Wow, incredible. They did the impossible all because they were willing to stand up... Ouch! What just flew into me? This is really wrong. You know, I think I'm going to stand up too!

      Debby stood up, faced the class, and said, "Listen, you guys! Please cut this out, it's just not right."

      But nobody turned around or even seemed to hear her over this racket. She was about to sit back down, and then thought: If it's right, then it's worth the fight.

      She stood up on a chair and said really loud, "CUT THIS OUT RIGHT NOW! WHAT ARE WE - A BUNCH OF ANIMALS? I'M GOING TO START CLEANING UP THIS MESS WHETHER ANYBODY HELPS ME OR NOT."

      She grabbed a broom and started sweeping up the mess and soon felt a tap on the back.

      "Here, let me hold the dust pan for you, Debby."

      "Hey thanks, Becky," smiled Debby, happy she had at least one helper.

      Becky turned and said to the other kids who were watching and said, "C'mon, guys, Debby's right. Let's all pitch in and help her."

      Little by little the kids started getting up to pitch in. One kid took the chalk out of the erasers and a couple more crawled on the floor to pick up the scattered tacks and homework sheets.

      Debby was amazed. Hey, maybe this Maccabee thing really works! she thought.

      "We did it guys!" Debby exclaimed just as the classroom door started to open. Must be the sub, Debby thought. At least this one isn't going to start yelling, or even worse, crying like the last one did.

      "Class, the substitute still hasn't arrived, so it looks like I'm going to be your teacher today." It was Mrs. Klein, the school principal!

      What a miracle! If the principal had seen the classroom the way it was five minutes ago, we would have been in BIG trouble! Debby thought, relieved and happy. Seems like Chanukah miracles can still happen if you're willing to stand up and be counted - whether you're outnumbered or not.

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Ages 3-5

Q. How did Debby feel at first about what was happening in her class?
A. She felt it was wrong, but since most kids were doing it and she was outnumbered she felt like there was no reason to speak up.

Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She learned the Chanukah lesson that it is worth standing up for what is right even when you feel outnumbered, and felt glad she did.

 

Ages 6-9

Q. What do you think Debby discovered that day?
A. Even though she was sure what her classmates were doing was wrong, she felt powerless to do anything about it. But she was inspired by the Chanukah story of the Maccabees to be willing to take a stand for a good cause, even when the odds seemed against her, and that often God gives us special help when we do.

Q. If the kids hadn't listened, would you say that Debby's speaking up had been a waste of her time and efforts? Why or why not?
A. When it come to doing things that are ethically right, true success is in the trying - not the accomplishment. If we accomplish our goal, all the better, but even if not, we have done something spiritually positive for ourselves and the world just by trying to do good.

 

Ages 10 and Up

Q. What can a person do to get the courage to stand up for what is ethically right?
A. When we stand up for what's right, we tap into the most powerful force in the universe - God. God put us in the world to live ethically and stand up for positive values even when they are not popular. This was the secret power behind the Maccabee's miraculous victory, Debby's in the story, and yours if you are willing tap into it.

Q. How much should a person be willing to risk to stand up for what's right?
A. Standing up for positive values is one of the noblest and most important of human activities. While it all depends on the particular situation, there are times when we should be ready to endure people's disapproval and ridicule to take a stand. The Torah describes situations when a person should be willing to give up all his property for the sake of his values, and in certain rare cases, even his life. We are here not just to go along with the flow, but to do all we can to help make the world a better place.

 

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Published: December 17, 2005

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