This week's Torah portion teaches us about the precise measurements of the vessels and furnishings of the Tabernacle. Just as when we build something we have to make sure it's measured just so - not too long or too short, so too when we build ourselves. In Hebrew the word for measurements - midot - is also used to refer to our range of character traits (such as lighthearted vs. serious, calm vs. hyper, stingy vs. generous, etc.) and our sages teach that we will be most happy and successful when we don't act in the extreme, one way or another, but rather keep ourselves in proper, balanced measure.
In our story, a kid discovers the special happiness that balance can bring.
"MIDDLE OF THE ROAD"
If Jeremy Davidson's new XTR-pro scooter looked good in the store where he and his parents picked it out, it looked ten times better now as he coasted down the sidewalk, its chrome gleaming in the bright afternoon sun.
"Hey Jeremy, that's so cool!" called out his friend, Gary, as the boy coasted by. "Can I give it a spin?"
Jeremy slowed down just long enough to smile and say, "Sorry, but no way!" He had waited a long time to get this scooter and he wanted to get maximum enjoyment, and that meant not sharing it with anyone.
The scene repeated itself time after time as Jeremy circled the neighborhood. Each of the guys asked him to use it and each of the guys got the same answer: no!
Soon enough the kids got the not-so-subtle hint and stopped asking. Now Jeremy had the whole sidewalk to himself to cruise and enjoy his hot new wheels. The only problem was - he wasn't enjoying himself.
'You know, maybe it isn't cool not to share,' he kept thinking as he rode on. 'If one of the other kids had got this and not me, I'd want him to let me use it.' It was getting late and time for Jeremy to go home. He decided that, starting tomorrow, he was going to share the wealth.
The next day, it didn't take long for the neighborhood kids to catch wind of Jeremy's change of heart. Soon there was a big line in front of his driveway and as soon as one kid finished his lap around the block, the next one jumped on. Every kid in the whole neighborhood got a chance to ride the scooter that day - every kid except Jeremy, that is.
Although he tried to keep a smile on his face, Jeremy was burning up inside. He had been sure that sharing was going to make him feel good, but it didn't and this wasn't working out any better than when he didn't share at all! Now what was he going to do?
The next day when he walked in the door after school, the boy was still pondering that question when his mom brought him a nice warm mug of hot chocolate.
"Hi Jeremy. Look what I made you," she smiled and handed him the cup.
"Thanks Mom. Did you add the sugar yet?"
"Sure did, I measured out two level spoonfuls, just like you like it. Not too little and..."
"...not too much!" laughed Jeremy as he finished the sentence. He took a sip and suddenly his eyes lit up. That was it! There, right in his mug, was the answer he'd been searching for. He quickly drank up and ran out to the garage to get his scooter. This time, both he and the other kids would have fun.
"Thanks for letting me take a ride!" smiled Gary as handed Jeremy the scooter after finishing his lap.
Bob was the next kid in line, but knew he'd have to wait as Jeremy climbed on the scooter and started off. Jeremy and the kids had arranged that he would take a turn himself between each turn of lending it out.
As he coasted along, Jeremy truly enjoyed the ride and the discovery that the best way to make himself happy and others happy too, was by not going too much to either extreme, but rather by doing things in the right balance - not too little and not too much.
Q. How did Jeremy feel the first two times he went out with his scooter?
A. He didn't feel happy - the first time because he didn't share at all, and the second time because he shared it too much.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He felt happy and good because he had shared the scooter, but not so much that he couldn't enjoy it, too.
Q. What lesson do you thing Jeremy's new scooter taught him?
A. When he saw he wasn't happy by keeping the scooter to himself, he assumed that by going to the opposite extreme he'd feel better. But in the end he realized that it is acting in the middle way - neither sharing too little, nor too much - that made him feel the best.
Q. Why do you think it made him feel best?
A. When a person acts in an extreme way he is out of balance and therefore feels something is missing. God gave each of us many character traits and knows we'll feel our best when we use each one in a moderate, measured way.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. What can a person do to 'balance out' if he finds that one of his character traits is leaning towards one extreme?
A. Like any other scale out of balance, the best way to bring it to the middle is to tip the scale more to the other side. This could mean acting 'extra' much in the opposite fashion for a limited time until he reaches a healthy middle point. For instance, someone who finds himself too disorganized, could go out of his way to keep his things super neat and organized for a week or so and see if that helps bring him more to the center.
Q. Are there any traits in which it is wise to act extreme? If so, which one(s)?
A. Our sages teach that when it comes to anger, it is so harmful to ourselves and others that it is best avoided completely. Even when we feel we need to show someone anger, we should be sure it is just a 'show' and that we don't actually feel angry inside.