Shavuot(Exodus 19:1 - 20:23)
The Value of Unity
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The holiday of Shavuot celebrates the birthday of the Jewish people as a unique nation. This occurred when God gave us the Torah, that great source of wisdom and guidance on how to live a happy, meaningful life. When we received the Torah, we were all united, like 'one person with one heart.' The value and power of unity and cooperation is one of the big lessons of Shavuot that we carry with us until today.
In our story a couple of kids discover how sometimes one can be greater than two.
Laura could almost count all the money she'd be making as she put the big, sweet carrots through the juicer. It was the first really hot week of the season and she was sure that very few people passing her sidewalk juice stand would be able to resist buying a cool, natural drink on a day like today. When she had discussed the idea with her neighbor, Jackie, she had agreed that the idea was a sure hit.
Laura packed up the fresh juice, together with a couple of ice-packs, and lugged the heavy cooler out to the table she had set up on the edge of her lawn. At only 99 cents a cup, she was sure she'd be rushing home soon to make a second batch.
"Would you like a cool drink?" Laura called out cheerfully to a lady who was walking by pushing a double-stroller.
"Oh, thanks, but I just had a big cup of apple juice," she said with a smile.
"You did?" Laura asked, confused.
"Yeah, I bought it from your friend next door."
She looked over and sure enough, Jackie had set up a juice stand of her own, and it was crowded with customers. Laura couldn't believe it. What a nerve! Well, she would show her.
"FRESH JUICE SPECIAL! BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE!" Laura yelled out really loud. The people standing in front of Jackie's stand heard her and most of them came her way to take advantage of the bargain.
Laura smiled as she poured cup after cup. She wasn't making as much money as she hoped for with all her hard work, but still...
"Hey what's the idea of stealing my customers?" rang out a familiar, but at the moment not-too-friendly voice. Laura looked up at Jackie, who was now fuming.
"Well it's no worse than stealing my idea!" Laura snapped back.
Jackie mumbled something under her breath and ran back to her stand.
It was a long, hot afternoon for both girls, as they ran themselves ragged, working frantically to out-sell each other.
"FRESH APPLE JUICE! REALLY CHEAP!" called out Jackie to everyone within earshot.
"CARROT JUICE! FRESHER AND CHEAPER!! Laura would counter, even louder and vice versa. They attracted a crowd, but it seemed that more people were just stopping to see what the commotion was all about than to actually buy a drink from either of them.
It occurred to each girl how it would be so much easier, not to mention more fun and profitable, if they weren't competing like that. But each one figured that competition was what the other one wanted.
As the sun started going down and people stopped walking along the street, an exhausted Laura began to clean the sticky table and bring it and all her things back into her garage by herself. For all of her work, her moneybox was still pretty light.
She came back out to make sure she hadn't forgotten anything and saw a figure leaning against the nearby mailbox. Was it one last customer who needed a drink? She came closer and saw it was Jackie, who looked just as tired as she did. Laura didn't know whether to smile at her like a friend or scowl at her like a competitor. She was too zonked to fight, so she just shrugged her shoulders, threw up her hands and said, "There's got be a better way."
Jackie nodded and said, "There is, Laura and I've got an idea...."
The next day was even hotter, and the people neighborhood bought plenty of cool drinks from the newly combined, "L & J's ALL-NATURAL CARROT-APPLE JUICE COCKTAIL" stand that the two girls had set up together in between their houses. They were both much more relaxed as they split up all the jobs they had to do and found that working together they were making a lot more money than each one had separately.
"Thanks for the drink. What a great combo!" said one of their many satisfied customers.
What a great combo indeed.
Q. How did Laura feel at first when she saw Jackie had set up a juice stand next to hers?
A. She felt angry and tried to do things so she would be successful and Jackie wouldn't.
Q. How did the girls feel in the end?
A. They saw how it wasn't good for either of them to fight against each other, so they decided to team up and had a much easier and better time.
Q. What life-lesson did the girls learn that day?
A. They had thought that the best way to succeed was to compete with each other and make the other one lose, but they discovered they were much happier once they found a way to cooperate and help each other win.
Q. Do you think people are happier when they compete against each other or cooperate and work together for a common goal? Why?
A. While there is a certain thrill in competition (when you win, that is), that thrill is short term and at the expense of someone else. Working together to achieve a common goal gives a person a much deeper and more spiritual sense of satisfaction.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. The receiving of God's Torah that we celebrate on Shavuot was the highest God-connection experience in history and it happened specifically at a time when we were all united and at peace with each other. What do you think is the connection between unity and being close to God?
A. God is one. The more we make ourselves one, the more we resemble and can be more open to connecting with Him.
Q. While it is a positive value to cooperate, is there ever a time that competition can be a win-win situation and good for everybody involved?
A. Usually competition is about winning by making someone else lose, but if two people are each striving to reach their personal potential, they can use the motivating feeling of competition to each accomplish more. That type of competition is in a sense cooperating to help each other grow.