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V'etchanan(Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11)

When Times Are Tough


When things get tough, there is always one place we can turn for whatever help and support we need - that place is God. In this week's Torah portion (4:29-31), God assures us that even in difficult times He is always with us and wants us to make our relationship with Him real. By turning to God, we come to feel close to Him, which is the most pleasurable and empowering feeling there is.

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In our story, a kid going through tough times finds help from where he least expects it.

"OUT OF THE WOODS"

Steve tossed and turned in his bunk. He'd laughed when his sister, Liz, had teased him that he'd miss them all once he got to sleepover camp. He was sure he'd have nothing but good times away from home and surrounded by activities, sports and fun. But now almost a week had gone by and there hadn't been one night he hadn't practically cried himself to sleep with homesickness.

Suddenly in the midst of his tossing, he heard a kind of humming sound. At first he thought it was one of these monster-sized mosquitoes that seemed to be everywhere, but then he realized it was the whispering of Dave, the kid in the next bunk.

'Well, at least,' thought Steve, 'I'm not the only one still awake.' He looked again and noticed how strange it was that although Dave was whispering, no one else was there next to him.

"Hey, Dave, who are you talking to?" asked Steve quietly.

At first the boy looked surprised, but then he smiled. "I didn't realize anyone was still up," he said. "I was just feeling a little homesick so I decided to talk with someone who would help me feel better."

Steve was confused. "But who are you talking to? Do you have one of those new micro hands-free cell phones? I didn't see any wires."

Dave sat up on his bed. "No," he gently laughed "I meant I was talking to God."

"To God? Oh, you were praying?"

"Yeah, sort of. Whenever I'm having a hard time, I just talk it out with God. I tell Him about how I feel and ask Him to help me out."

Steve shook his head doubtingly. "Do you think God is really there and is really listening to you?"

"I don't just 'think', I know." said Dave confidently. "Ever since I was a little kid, whenever I feel sad or scared or lonely, I talk to God about it and He always helps me somehow and makes me feel better. Hey," he added, "I notice you're still awake too?"

"Yeah, I have to admit I'm also pretty homesick.

"So, why don't you try talking to God about it?" Steve shook his head.

"I don't think so. I'm not really the praying type, you know what I mean?"

"It's up to you," smiled Dave, "But remember what I said. God is always right there and ready to help."

With that the two boys said goodnight, turned on their pillows and went to sleep.

Well at least Dave went to sleep, that is. Steve heard him snoring after a few minutes. But no matter how hard he tried, Steve just couldn't sleep. His mind kept going back to how lonely he felt.

After what seemed like forever, Steve couldn't take it anymore. He jumped out of bed and decided to take a little walk outside. He had intended to stay right near the cabin but as he breathed the fresh outdoor air he got carried away and walked and walked until before he knew it he was lost and couldn't even see the bunk anymore.

Steve began to panic as realized he was out in the woods all alone in the middle of the night and absolutely lost!

WHOO, HOO, HOO. Steve shuddered at the scary sounds that surrounded him. He had heard there were even bears in these woods. Why had he ever done such a dumb thing? What could he do?

'...remember what I said. God is always right there and ready to help...' Suddenly Dave's words popped into his head. It would feel funny to talk to God. He hadn't really prayed since he was little. But it was worth a try. Steve took a deep breath.

"God, if you can hear me, I really need you now." As he spoke, it occurred to him that talking to God didn't feel as funny as he thought it would. In fact it felt like he was really talking to someone close by who cared. He went on, "God, I feel so lonely and lost. Please help me and show me which way to go..."

Suddenly Steve heard voices. At first he was scared, but as they drew closer, he recognized them as two of the camp counselors heading to the bunks for night patrol.

"Hey, it's way past curfew," one of them said when they saw him. "You've got to go to your bunk and go to sleep. Come with us right now."

Steve more than happily complied.

'Wow, God really heard me!' Steve thought. "Thank you," he whispered softly, as he followed the counselors right where he needed to go.

Steve lay down on his bed and thought about what happened and how God was really with him in the woods. 'That means,' he realized, 'God is also with me here in the bunk and everywhere else.' As he drifted off to sleep, Steve felt happier than he could remember feeling in a long time. It looked like it wasn't going to be a lonely summer after all.

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Ages 3-5

Q. How did Steve feel at first?
A. He was lonely and homesick.

Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He felt much better after he realized God was with him everywhere.


Ages 6-9

Q. What life lesson do you think Steve learned that night?
A. He hadn't realized that God was right with him and could be a real and meaningful part of his life until his talk with Dave and the frightening experience in the woods showed him the truth.

Q. Do you think God only wants us to talk to Him when we're in trouble?
A. God loves us more than we can imagine and wants us to come closer to Him by sharing and talking with Him about all parts of our lives, both the happy and the challenging.

Spiritual exercise: Right now and once each day, take thirty seconds to talk to God about how you're feeling.


Ages 10 and Up

Q. Our sages describe God as a 'personal God.' What do you think this means?
A. God is much more than a force that created everything and left it to run on its own. God is also much more than a universal spiritual life force. God is actively involved with every detail of each of our lives. He loves us and has an intimate personal interest in each of us and wants us to realize this and develop this amazing relationship to its full potential.

Q. If God is already with us and cares about us all the time, why should a person pray?
A. Even though God is always connecting to us and ready to help, we are not always open to Him. Prayer and even just speaking to Him, helps us to stay God-focused and opens us up to receive all the incredible goodness He is waiting to give us.

Spiritual exercise: Right now and once each day, take thirty seconds to talk to God about how you're feeling.


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Published: July 29, 2006

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