We Are Equal
Because some people are wealthier and have more than others, it's easy to forget that deep down we are really all equal. The holiday of Sukkot is a special time when God helps us to unite and melt our differences away. He asks everyone - rich or poor - to leave their homes for a week and dwell in an outdoor sukkah, a simple, temporary hut with a roof made out of branches. Being all under the 'same roof' of the sukkah is a mitzvah that helps us remember that we're all really equal and to treat each other with equal kindness and respect.
In our story, a kid gets an eye-opening Sukkot surprise.
"DRESSED FOR SUCCESS"
Mike sulked as he went through his closet for about the tenth time. How was he ever going to wear any of these junky clothes to visit someone so important?
He'd been feeling really excited and nervous ever since he got the invitation a couple of days ago from Jeremy, a new kid in his class, to come to his house for what he'd called a 'sukkah party.' Though he had heard of the holiday of Sukkot, Mike really didn't know too much about it.
But whatever the reason for the invite, Mike was happy. After all, it wasn't every day a regular kid like him got invited to spend time together with someone like Jeremy, whose father was a very wealthy and famous executive who was even on the cover of Time magazine. Mike had wanted to make the 'right' kind of impression by buying and wearing the latest new designer shoes and clothing - but his mom had said no way.
"But Mom," he'd pleaded, "rich, important people like Jeremy and his family aren't like we are. They won't even look at me if I'm dressed in plain, old clothes."
"I'm sorry, Mike but clothing like that just isn't in our budget," she'd said. "Besides I'm sure Jeremy doesn't want to be your friend because of your clothing. It's who you are inside that's important."
Seeing that there was no more room for argument, Mike put on his best pants and shirt, shined his old shoes, combed his hair, and hoped for the best.
Riding over on his bike, Mike was surprised to see that while the houses were somewhat bigger than average, they in no way resembled the huge mansions he had imagined Jeremy's neighborhood would include. Leaning his bike carefully up against the stone staircase, Mike's hand was a little sweaty as he knocked on the door. He was nervous to face the butler he was sure was waiting on the other side of the door for his arrival, and was surprised when his knock was answered by Jeremy's mom.
"Hi there. You must be Mike. We've heard so much about you from Jeremy and we're happy to meet you."
"Hey Mike!" Jeremy appeared behind his mother's shoulder and the two of them smiled at each other as they welcomed Mike inside the house.
Their house is so regular, thought Mike. They probably keep it that way so their sukkah house can be really fancy. They must spend all their money on that.
"C'mon in, I can't wait for you to see our sukkah. It's out back." Jeremy led him through the house, which was actually a lot bigger on the inside than it seemed to be from the outside. They finally came to a glass door that led out to a huge yard. In one corner, Mike could see a wooden shack with leaves spread all across the top.
"Hey what's that, the servants' quarters?" he asked.
Jeremy laughed. "No. We don't have any servants. My mom has a cleaning lady a few times a week but she doesn't live here."
"So what is that, then?"
"That's our sukkah!"
Mike opened the door to the wooden hut and his jaw dropped in surprise. He felt like he had stepped into another world, but not the way he thought it would be. Inside was a long table, beautifully set with all kinds of candy, cake and nosh. There were all kinds of decorations and fruits and artwork hanging from the walls, and the branches that he now saw from the inside formed an open-air roof. Seated at the table were Jeremy's dad and two of his brothers, all reading from books with Hebrew letters. They all wore nice but simple clothing, and everyone looked very happy. Mike even felt a little overdressed.
Jeremy's dad stood up. "You must be Mike. Welcome to our sukkah. Would you like to make a blessing on the special etrog fruit and lulav branch? Then afterwards, you can sit down and eat some of these delicious treats. Sukkot is a time for being together and enjoying each other's company."
Mike couldn't get over how friendly and nice everyone was, and how comfortable he felt. Even though they were very wealthy, Jeremy and his family were regular people, just like his family. Under the leaves and the blue sky, he realized that deep down, people are all pretty much the same.
Q. How did Mike feel when he was first invited to Jeremy's house?
A. He felt nervous and that he had to look and act fancy for them to like him.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He felt that they liked him and weren't really so different from him, after all.
Q What do you think Mike learned that day?
A. He had thought that his wealthy friend and his family would be somehow 'different' from him and that he had to do things to impress them. His experience visiting them and seeing how down-to-earth they were, taught him that people, deep down are really all the same.
Q. What if Jeremy and his family had really acted snobby instead of so nice, would Mike then have been right to want to try to impress them?
A. God wants us to act humble and nice, no matter how much wealth or importance He gives us. Fortunately, Jeremy's family understood this. But even if they hadn't acted properly, Mike should remember that we are all equally precious in God's eyes and there is no reason to change who we are just to impress other people.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Why do you think God gives some people more and some people less?
A. We are all in this world to improve our character and grow spiritually. There are many ways to do this. For instance a poor person grows by remaining honest and not bitter despite his poverty; a rich person grows by remaining humble and considerate despite his wealth. God gives each of us the life situation our particular soul needs to grow maximally.
Q. What does it mean that we are all equal? How, if at all, is that different from being all the same?
A. The spiritual concept of equality means that we are all precious children of the One God and are all equally worthy of respect. It doesn't mean that we all have the same life mission to do. Each of us should look at our unique circumstances and talents and try to make the most of who we are rather than imitate someone else.