Family Parsha Parshat Vayakhel: Working Hard
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Vayakhel(Exodus 35:1-38:20)

Working Hard


Being successful and achieving goals in life requires many things, but one of the most important is working hard. This week's Torah portion tells us about all the hard work that went into achieving the goal of building the Tabernacle and its holy vessels. The Torah way is to find goals worth reaching and then working hard to get there.

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In our story, some kids find out about goals and how to reach them.

WORTH THE CLIMB

Mrs. Jacobs heard muffled giggles as she stood, staring at the posters of the Swiss Alps taped up on the refrigerator and all over the kitchen cupboards.

"Have you guys just been in a re-decorating mood this morning, or is all this supposed to mean something?" she smiled, as the two poster hangers slipped into view from behind the counter where they were hiding.

"Our camp is making a special two-week program in the Alps this summer, Mom!" chirped Debby, excitedly. "Can we go?"

"All campers who want to participate have to register within a month. Can we, Mom ... pleeease?" Alice chimed in, handing their mother a brochure with all the details.

"Hmm, it does look really good, doesn't it?" Mrs. Jacobs nodded as the girls nearly jumped up and down in happiness. "But...it's quite a lot of extra money too. Let me discuss it with your father and then we'll talk more. In the meanwhile, hurry up and get ready for school - the bus will be here any minute."

As expected, the first words out of the Jacobs' kids' mouths when they got home from school were, "Well, can we?" But instead of answering, their mom just smiled and pointed to the refrigerator. The Alps poster was still there, but over it was taped a big, official-looking chart, with the words 'BONUS CAMP TUITION POINTS EARNED' written across the top.

"What's this, Mom?" asked Debby. "Does this mean we can go, or that we can't?"

"It means, you can go ... if you choose to do what it takes."

"Huh?"

"Your father and I are willing to help you, but since it's such a big extra expense, we feel that it's only right that you should earn your way by doing extra chores around the house. Each time either of you does one of the chores on the chart, we check it off under your name and give you bonus camp tuition credits. If you work hard, you should easily have both earned enough by the registration deadline. But, as I said, the choice is yours and if you choose not to do the extra work, you will go to camp this summer upstate as usual, but not on the special trip." With that, she turned and walked into her office to work.

"Okay, let's do it!" clapped Debby enthusiastically. "Hmm, 'vacuum living room' sounds good to me. Mind if I take that one today, Alice? Which one are you going to do first?"

Debby was surprised by her sister's pouting shrug.

"I don't know," she said, "I don't really feel like doing any of these extra things, so why should I?"

"But, don't you want to go to the Alps this summer?"

"Yeah, of course. But, you know, like maybe ... I'll do something ... later. But now it's too nice out to waste the afternoon doing chores. I'm going out to play."

As the days passed, Debby's chart was fast filling up - and Alice's remained empty. No matter how much Debby tried to convince her to join in and work too, Alice always had an excuse - together with a put-down of what a sucker Debby was being, and how she was sure her parents would give in and send them in the end - work or no work.

A few weeks later:

"Oh, I see all the Alps posters are back up in the kitchen this morning," said Mrs. Jacobs. "Does that mean it's sign-up deadline day?" The kids nodded eagerly.

"So then, I guess you'll be needing this," she said as she smilingly handed Debby her registration form to mail in.

"And where's my form, Mom?" Alice asked, in a nervous voice, despite her best try to make it sound confident.

"Well, Alice..." said her mother, softly but firmly, "from the look of your chart, it doesn't look like you chose to earn it, does it?"

"Yeah, okay ... I know, about the chart and everything, but still ... come, on ... you're not really going to just send Debby and not me ... I mean it isn't fair!"

"I'm sorry, Alice. I truly feel bad for you, but Dad and I gave both of you a fair chance to earn your way and only one of you chose to do it. Debby chose to work hard and earn the trip and you chose not to. Do you think it would be fair now - or good for you - to just forget about all that and just send you anyway?"

Alice started to object, but realizing, as much as she hated it, that her mom was right, she silently lowered her head and bit her lip to hold back the tears.

"Life has many good things to offer dear," her mother said, "and I really hope you get lots of them, but like these big mountains in the posters, to get to the good things we have to climb there by working hard and earning them. I hope by next summer, you'll decide you're ready to make that climb."

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Ages 3-5

Q. How did Alice feel at first about doing the extra chores to earn the special trip?
A. She didn't want to and thought she'd be able to go anyway.

Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. When she saw that she really wasn't going to go, she felt like she should have done the work to get there.


Ages 6-9

Q. What life lesson do you think someone could learn from this story?
A. Many of us have big goals and want good things in our lives, but it's important to remember that the only true way to reach these goals is to be willing to work hard and put in the effort to get there.

Q. Do you think Alice's mother was right in not sending her - why or why not?
A. Alice felt like she wanted to get the 'prize' without having to earn it. But life isn't like that and eventually Alice, like everyone, would have to face it. If her mom had just given in and sent her anyway, she would have reinforced Alice's wrong idea about how life works and it would be that much more painful for her to deal with reality as she got older.


Ages 10 and Up

Q. Do you think a person gains anything by earning what they have versus having it handed to them?
A. Even though externally the end result is the same, internally a person feels much better about that which he's honestly earned. He has more appreciation for it and a greater sense of self-esteem.

Q. How do you think this concept might relate to our relationship with God?
A. God loves each of us and wants to give us the best possible good. Therefore he created our lives in two parts. The first part - in the world we live in now - is a world of earning. God wants us to work hard to become the best we can, by studying true wisdom and improving our character traits. This work 'earns' for us a great reward in the second stage of life - the unending world to come, which will give us far more pleasure than if we had just received it as a 'free gift' at the outset.


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Published: March 10, 2007

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