Chayei Sarah(Genesis 23:1-25:18)
Doing another person a favor is one of the holiest, most spiritual acts we can do. In this week's portion we learn how it was Rebecca's willingness to go out of her way to do a favor for Abraham's servant, Eliezer, that showed she was fit to be a matriarch of our people. The Torah way is to care about others and be willing to lend them a hand.
In our story a kid struggles with the call to lend a helping hand.
"THE FLAVOR OF A FAVOR"
As their mother sat in the kitchen with Aunt Melissa who was visiting, three pairs of eyes turned away from the kitchen door in real distress.
"Who asked Aunt Melissa to come anyway?" Jason whispered. "Now we're gonna get stuck doing all kinds of stuff for her. Up the stairs. Down the stairs. Out to the car. 'Can you just get this one little thing from my room, sweetheart?' I remember from last time. You guys were too young, but I remember. It was slavery!! I'm warning you. Don't fall for it."
"I don't know," said Pam, his sister. "She looks kind of nice. You know, sweet."
"I'm with Jay," said Neil. "I'm outta here! No one's gonna be telling me what to do. C'mon… let's make a run for it."
Pam looked at her two brothers thoughtfully. She thought that you were supposed to help people if they asked for it. What was so wrong with that?
"You guys can go. I'm going to stick around a little," she said.
"Up to you," said Jason. "But don't say I didn't warn you."
A little nervous now, Pam made her way into the kitchen where her mother and Aunt Melissa were drinking coffee and chatting.
"Pam," said her mom, "you remember Aunt Melissa, don't you? She's Grandma's big sister! She came all the way from New York to visit us for a few days. Isn't that nice?"
Pam took a deep breath and held it. "Hi Aunt Melissa! Welcome! It's so nice to see you!"
"Hello darling. It's so nice to see you again too. You've grown so much since I last saw you. Say, Sharon," Aunt Melissa turned to Pam's mom. "Where are the boys? I was going to ask if one of them could run out to the car for me for a minute. I think I might have left something behind in the back seat."
"They were right," Pam fumed silently. "Why didn't I listen to them? Here I am, trying to be nice and pleasant, and now she's going to think I'll do anything for her. What am I going to do?"
"Pam, you go ahead," her mom prodded. "Aunt Melissa is waiting."
Pam practically stomped out of the kitchen, boiling mad. She'd calmed down a bit by the time she got to the car. After all, doing favors for people was a good thing - but nobody said it was easy. She saw a big cardboard box on the back seat and figured that must be what Aunt Melissa forgot. She wondered how she could forget such a big thing, but who could figure out adults anyway?
She pasted a smile on her face as she walked back into the kitchen. "Here you go, Aunt Melissa."
"Thank you dear. Shame your brothers aren't around. What's inside isn't going to last until they get home. I guess you're just going to have to enjoy the whole thing!" With that, she whipped off the cover, and inside was a huge round of pink, glistening cotton candy. Pam knew that cotton candy doesn't last too long… Aunt Melissa must have picked it up on her way over.
Now Pam's smile was real. As she sat at the table and licked the sticky candy to her heart's content, she realized that a person will never go wrong by helping people - even without cotton candy waiting for them as a special reward.
Q. How did Pam's siblings feel about helping their aunt?
A. They didn't want to help and tried to get out of it.
Q. How did Pam feel about it?
A. She felt it was hard, but wanted to do it anyway because it was the right thing to do.
Q. What lesson do you think someone could learn from this story?
A. Helping others often isn't easy. Like Pam's siblings, a person could want to run away from helping. However, helping people is a great mitzvah and sometimes, like Pam in the story, when we do it, we can even see good things happen right away.
Q. Suppose Pam wouldn't have gotten a treat in the end, would her decision to help her aunt still have been a good one? Why or why not?
A. Although in this case she got rewarded immediately, even if she hadn't, she would have made the right decision. Helping others is one of the most noble and spiritual things a person can do and bring both the doer, and the world, a lot of positive energy.
Spiritual Exercise: Do someone a favor today.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Our sages teach that giving to others is one of the strongest ways to become close to God. Why do you think that's so?
A. Coming close to God doesn't mean being closer physically. After all, God is everywhere. It means bonding to Him by acting more and more as He does. Since God is always giving and helping His creations (including us), when we help others we act as He does and thus bring ourselves closer to Him.
Q. If someone asks of us a favor and we don't feel like doing it - is it hypocritical to do it anyway?
A. Many times we feel inner resistance to doing things we know are right. This is natural and we gain tremendously when we can overcome this resistance and 'do it anyway.' As long as the favor is reasonable and not asking us to go against our values, we should do it whether we feel like it or not.
Spiritual Exercise: Do someone a favor today.