Lech Lecha(Genesis 12-17)
Compromising for Peace
When people make the effort to get along peacefully with each other, they live a happier life. In this week's Torah portion, Lot's shepherds started a quarrel with those of Abraham and then began to justify stealing, claiming there wasn't enough land for everyone. Our sages teach that there was really plenty of land to go around and they only felt so crowded in because they quarreled and didn't try to get along. Next time we're feeling stepped on or crowded out, let's give peace a chance and see how much better we feel.
In our story, some kids realize it's worthwhile to get along.
"A FITTING ENDING"
Four pairs of eyes stared up at their parents with a mixture of shock and glee.
"FUN WORLD??? Did we hear you right?" said Jon, the oldest. "We're going to Fun World? Tomorrow? All of us?"
"Yes," said Jon's mom. "We thought it was time to air everyone out a little, and Fun World is just the place to do it. Get ready for a great time!"
"Great!!" Shouts, jumps, and high fives accompanied this thrilling announcement. Jon and his two younger brothers went wild with excitement. They even picked up the baby and tossed her in the air, until their mom quickly put a stop to that.
"Boys, Dad and I will get everything ready. Your job is to get a good night's sleep and be in a great mood tomorrow."
"You can count on us, Mom."
The next morning, bright and early, Mrs. Schwartz woke up the children. Everyone dressed quickly, sleepily ate their cheerios, and piled into the car.
"Ready?" their dad said. "Here we go..."
As the ignition key sparked the engine of the car, the boys seem to wake up with a jolt. Their sleepiness suddenly disappeared, and as they started driving, a war-like atmosphere took over inside the car.
"Hey," shouted Jon, "Give me some room! How did I wind up in the middle, anyway? I'm the oldest, remember? I get to choose where I would like to sit."
"Excuse me," said David. "You had the window the entire trip last time, and you sat with the window closed the whole time. We could hardly breathe. Anyway, Mom said it's my turn, right Mom?"
Before their mother could say a word, Larry joined in.
"Will you two stop squishing me?! he said, together with a big push to make his point. "And this time, we're listening to the music I like."
With that, the three boys fell on each other in a major brawl -- hands flying, feet kicking up against the roof of the car and the windows. David's shoe flew off, barely missing the baby seated backwards in her car seat.
The noise level in the car had risen dangerously loud when one of the boys finally stuck his head up for air. Looking out the window, a strange look came over his face.
"Hey, where are we? What are we doing back here?"
Two more heads popped up in curiosity.
"What's going on? What happened? Why aren't we moving?"
The three boys, and the baby, found themselves staring at the front of their house. Somehow they had ended up back in their own driveway.
"Well, kids," their dad said, "from the sounds of all that bickering and fighting coming from the back seat, I guess you're all too big to be jammed up back there for so long, even if we're going somewhere fun. I felt bad causing you so much discomfort, so I just turned around and came back home where you can all have plenty of space to yourselves."
"But ... but..."
"The last thing Mom and I wanted was to make you feel so overcrowded and uncomfortable. I guess I'll get out now and start unpacking the car."
"Wait, wait, Dad, wait. We need to have a conference. Don't get out yet."
The three boys went into a huddle, listening intently to Jonathan. They couldn't believe that this amazing trip was about to go up in smoke just like that. After hearing Jonathan's plan, the three boys emerged from their conference, extremely serious expressions on their faces.
"Dad, I respectfully request your permission to speak, sir."
Dad's eyebrow went up in surprise, as he secretly winked at Mom.
"We have come up with a peace plan. Every 30 minutes, the boy at the right hand window will trade places with the one at the left hand window. The left hand window boy will move to the middle. All rotations will be made quickly and efficiently, with the least amount of noise. There will be no complaints whatsoever if one boy accidentally ends up in another boy's lap." Jon paused a minute, a worried look flitting over his face. "That doesn't include the baby, okay? We can't stop her from crying. She does it on her own. Windows will be open and closed at each rotation. Is this plan acceptable to you, sir? Mom, will you be timekeeper?"
"What do you think, Mom?" asked Dad "Should we accept the plan?"
"I think we should give it a half-hour, and see how it goes. It sounds like it could work."
"Okay, boys. Round Two. Here we go..."
This plan worked like a charm. Somehow, once they agreed to stop fighting and start cooperating, there was plenty of room for everyone. The boys sat quietly, listening to their favorite tapes, which they were playing in alphabetical order. The first 30 minutes passed peacefully. So did the second 30. Before they knew it, they had reached their destination and a day of fun, and learned that it's not how much room you have for your legs that makes you feel good, but how much room you have in your heart.
Q. How did the guys feel when the trip first started?
A. They each felt that there wasn't enough room for them.
Q. How did they feel in the end?
A. They saw how once they agreed not to fight they all had plenty of room.
Q. What lesson do you think the guys learned in the car that day?
A. At first they all felt uncomfortable and crowded and thought it was because the car was too small, but after they worked out a way to get along so they wouldn't miss their trip, they realized that when people cooperate and get along peacefully they can feel happy with much less.
Q Why do you think Jon's plan worked?
A. Many times people quarrel because they are afraid that if they don't make a fuss, their needs won't be met. Jon's plan - to agree to a clearly defined pre-arranged time sharing - helped everyone relax and know that by giving in, they too would get what they needed.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Do you think a person will be happier if he fights hard to make sure he always get his way, or if he gives in sometimes for the sake of maintaining peace with those around him? Why?
A. The first way sounds good at first glance - after all, he always gets his way. However, a person who is constantly at odds with those around him will always feel tense and on red-alert for his next battle. A person who makes peace his primary value, compromising and giving in, when able, will feel much more calm and accepting of life.
Q. Is there ever a time when one should fight for what he wants rather than compromise?
A. Compromise and peacemaking is usually the best path. However, if it is a matter of compromising one's deeply felt values and sense of ethics, one should be willing to take it to the limit and not give in.