Family Parsha Parshat Vayigash: Standing Firm
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Vayigash(Genesis 44:18-47:27)

Standing Firm


When people feel they are being unfairly taken advantage of, they often think their only choice is either to react angrily or just give in and take it. But this week's Torah portion shows us there is a third way. When Jacob's son, Judah, thought that the Viceroy of Egypt was being unfair to him and his brothers, he firmly stood his ground against him, and remained calm and respectful at the same time. It is an important lesson to learn how stand up for our rights without making a fight.

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In our story a kid shows her friends how it's possible to stand your ground without losing your cool.

"OFF THE RACK"

      It was a cold, windy day. But that didn't stop Laurie Kline and her friends, Cindy and Jan, from slowing down in front of the stores they passed to do some serious window shopping as they walked home from school.

      "Hey guys, check out that sign. 'PURE WOOL DESIGNER SCARVES 50% OFF,' " said Cindy, pointing to the clothing store across the street.

      "Just what we need on a day like today!" Jan said, as the three of them turned on their heels and made a beeline for the store.

      The scarves were all so nice that it took the kids a while to make up their minds. Usually scarves like these would be way out of their budget. But at half-price they figured, why not? Finally, with choices in hand, they came up to the sales counter.

      "That'll be $25," said the store-owner behind the counter, as he began to wrap up the purple plaid scarf Jan had picked out.

      "Um, that's the ticket price," she corrected him. "They are all half-price, right?"

      The man hardly looked up. "They were half-price, kid. The sale ended yesterday."

      Jan's face dropped with great disappointment. "Oh," she said softly, thinking about all the time they just wasted picking out their scarves.

      As Jan turned to put the scarf back on the shelf, Cindy started yelling. "Wait just one minute! Jan, don't you go anywhere! That's false advertising!" With her face turning all red, she said to the man, "You have a big sign in the window saying these scarves are on sale!"

      The man shot back, "How dare you accuse me like that. I told you the sale's over. I just forgot to take down the sign this morning."

      "Come on, Cindy," whispered Jan, "It doesn't matter, forget it. Let's just go."

      But Cindy wasn't backing down. "Oh, yeah, sure. What a rip-off!" she said even louder, causing some of the other customers to turn their heads. "I'm never going to set foot in this store again and I'm going to tell everyone I know not to shop here either, unless you give us the sale price."

      "Troublemakers," the storeowner muttered, with a face as red as Cindy's. He turned his back on her and began to wait on another customer.

      "Come on, guys, let's get out of here," Cindy said, indignantly.

      She and Jan began to walk out, but Laurie stayed in line. "Aren't you coming?" Jan asked her.

      "You're not going to still buy that, are you?" added Cindy, loudly.

      "Guys if you don't mind, can I meet you in a minute?" Laura said.

      Her friends shrugged and walked out the door. Now it was Laura's turn in line.

      "You heard me tell your friend it's full price?" asked the man. Laurie nodded. "Then that's what you are ready to pay, right?"

      "No." said Laurie, calmly. "I believe you that forgot to take down the sign, but it's still not right."

      The storeowner looked at her quizzically. "You also want to make trouble?" he said.

      Laurie shook her head. "We came in here especially because of the sale sign. We didn't come here to make trouble. We like this store and buy a lot of things here, but I really think it's only fair that you give us the sale price until you take the sign down..."

      Meanwhile, Jan and Cindy were trying to stay warm in the parking lot. "Where's Laurie?" asked Jan.

      "I don't know," Cindy replied. "Let's go get her."

      They headed back toward the store, but met Laurie coming out the door. She was holding a bag.

      "You actually bought the scarf?" asked Cindy.

      "Uh-huh."

      "You mean paid the full price." Jan asked.

      "Nope, the sale price." Laurie smiled. "And here," she said, pulling out the other two scarves with a flourish. "You got the sale price, too!"

      "But how?" asked Jan.

      "She must have really screamed and let him have it, right Laurie?" Cindy said, but Laurie waved her off.

      "Nope. I didn't scream and I didn't fight. I just stayed polite, but I told him what I thought was right. It usually works best, you know."

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Ages 3-5

Q. How did the Jan and Cindy feel when the store owner told them they couldn't buy the scarves for the sale price?
A. They were both disappointed. Jan felt like there was no use even trying to argue, and Cindy felt like she had to fight hard to get him to change his mind.

Q. How did they feel when they saw that Laurie had succeeded in buying the scarves at the sale price?
A. They were surprised, and both learned that it is okay to stand up for what you want, and you don't have to fight or be angry to do that.


Ages 6-9

Q. What lesson did the kids learn from what happened that day?
A. Thanks to Laura, they saw that the best way to deal with being treated unfairly is neither to just 'take it', like Jan wanted to do, nor become very aggressive, like Cindy did, but rather stay calm and respectful but at the same time stand firm for what you believe is right.

Q. Why do you think the store-owner agreed to give Laura the sale price, and not Cindy?
A. It is human nature that when someone gets pushed he wants to push back. Even though Cindy might have had a valid point, because she expressed it with threats and insults, the man wasn't open to hearing what she had to say. Laura, on the other hand, by being respectful yet firm, didn't make the man feel like he was being attacked, so he was open to hearing her side of things - which he did. This is an important and powerful tool for a successful life.

Spiritual Exercise: The next time you feel like you are being treated unfairly or taken advantage of, stand up for your rights but in a calm and respectful way.


Ages 10 and Up

Q. What thoughts can a person have at the time he feels he is being cheated or taken advantage of that can help him react in a spiritual way?
A. There is a powerful two-part secret that we can all use to help us in this situation. The secret is that (a) God set up the world in a way that nobody can take advantage of us in any way unless God allows him to do so, and (b) if God is allowing him, it must mean that in some hidden way it is for our ultimate best that this happens. This thought will immediately calm us down and give us a fresh perspective to handle whatever comes our way.

Q. Does this mean that whatever anyone tries to do to us, we should 'just take it' no matter how wrong or unfair it seems?
A. Absolutely not. God wants us to try to take care of our own needs and interests in the best way we know how, as long as it isn't in a way that is unfair to others. However, if people treat us in a way that doesn't seem fair, we should draw upon the perspective mentioned above to help us remain calm and centered, to react in a spiritual and respectful way and know that if despite our best efforts we don't succeed in making things happen the way we want, that it is ultimately for the best.

Spiritual Exercise: The next time you feel like you are being treated unfairly or taken advantage of, stand up for your rights but in a calm and respectful way.


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Published: December 31, 2005

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Visitor Comments: 1

(1) Miranda, January 6, 2006 12:00 AM

All of the family parsha's are great and they really teach lessons to kids and even adults and again this is a great idea of family parsha.

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