Lech Lecha(Genesis 12-17)
Standing Up For the Truth
This week's Torah portion teaches us about our forefather, Abraham. When Abraham was a child, nearly the entire world was worshipping idols. It was almost impossible not to join them and practice idolatry, but Abraham didn't. He saw that the way they were living was a lie and he wasn't willing to go along with them. He passed on this ability - to stand up for truth - to us, his descendants, forever.
In our story, a kid has to decide whether or not to stand up for the truth.
"We're having a SUB!"
"How do you know?"
"I just walked by the office and heard the principal telling the secretary that Mr. Johnson had to go to some conference and wasn't coming in today."
The word that the class would be having a substitute teacher spread faster than butter on hot toast. Hearing the news, the class's mood went from dark and cloudy to warm and sunny in an instant.
"Great! Now we can play 'sink the sub!' "
They weren't bad kids - but who wouldn't be excited to miss a day of the hardest class in the whole school - Mr. Johnson's geometry. Mr. Johnson was a good but strict and no-nonsense teacher who gave them tons of homework every night and made them take a quiz every day.
Dave looked up in time to see Tim snatch the neat assignment and lesson plan book Mr. Johnson had left on his desk for the substitute. Tim made the daily lesson disappear as he stuffed it into his own desk where the sub had no chance of finding it. Some of the kids had started a crushed-up-paper ball volleyball game in the back of the classroom and a few more had started a water fight. The noise level was over the top.
Just then a friendly, but sort of scared looking young man walked into the room. He had a big smile on his face, which quickly vanished when he took in the zoo-like scene before his eyes.
"Um, okay class. Time to settle down, okay?" Nobody paid him any attention.
"Okay - class is beginning now." he said more strongly, getting the kids to finally look his way. He walked over to the desk, shifted around some papers like he was looking for something, and frowned: "There is supposed to be an assignment book here, but I can't seem to find it..." Dave saw Tim break into a big smile. "Um, until we find it," the substitute went on, do you have homework from yesterday to go over?" he asked, hopefully.
"No, teacher. We never have homework on Mondays!" Kenny lied with a sweet smile on his face.
"Yeah, Mr. Johnson lets us kind of have the day off," Tim added. "If you don't have an assignment for us, maybe you can let us too, okay?" Before he could answer, the class had already started going back to their rowdy fun and games.
The substitute looked totally bewildered. Dave felt really sorry for him. How was he ever going to get through the next hour without the assignment book?
Dave noticed that Tim, the kid who had taken the book, had joined the volleyball game. He looked over at Tim's desk. Should he do it? It would be easier just to go along with everyone...but it was just plain wrong of them to hide the assignment book, to act so rowdy and to lie... Quickly, Dave slipped his hand into Tim's desk, grabbed the assignment book and slipped it back into its place on the teacher's desk while the sub wasn't looking.
"Excuse me," Dave said to the man, who looked really upset. "Isn't that the assignment book right there on your desk?" he asked, pointing.
"Huh? Why, yes it is." His face brightened. "Hmm. Okay class - everyone will now take their seats, turn in your homework which the book says you did have last night. In a few minutes I will pass out the quiz that your teacher has left for you to take today..."
Tim and the rest of the kids, realizing they couldn't fake it and play innocent anymore, grudgingly took their seats and began to work.
"Dave! You jerk! You idiot! I saw what you did," Tim hissed, "WHY did you give him back the assignment book? We finally had one day free from that slave driver, Mister....M-MISTER JOHNSON!?!" Dave saw that the boy's eyes had just grown about three times as big as usual, so he turned around to see Mr. Johnson walking into the classroom! The teacher took a quick glance around the room, saw the kids doing their proper assignment and smiled.
"I forgot something I needed for the conference and had to pop in and get it. Glad to see everything's under control." He gave the class and the substitute a satisfied nod, grabbed some papers he'd forgotten and dashed out.
Boy would that scene have been different if he had found the class the way it had been a few minutes ago. Mr. Johnson would have hit the roof and given us a big punishment... thought Dave, together with just about every kid in the room. He was glad he'd saved the class and the poor substitute from getting into trouble, but he was even gladder he'd stood up for the truth.
Q. How did Dave feel when he saw how the class was acting?
A. He felt like they were doing something wrong and he didn't want to go along.
Q. How do you think it feels to do the right thing when everyone around you is doing something wrong?
A. It might not be easy, but it feels really great after you do it.
Q. Why do you think Dave did what he did?
A. He saw that something wrong and unjust was happening and he decided to stand up for truth. This is a trait we inherited from Abraham, to stand for truth even if it's unpopular.
Q. What do you think can help a person to do the right thing even when those around him are not?
A. The best thing is to try to stay around people whose values you can respect - but if you find yourself with people who are doing the wrong thing, then it can help to remember that it's more important to live for the truth than to go along with the crowd. Though it might not be easy, nearly always we ultimately feel glad that we did.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. What do you think it means to be a truth-seeker?
A. A genuine truth seeker is willing to let go of his preconceptions, objectively evaluate the ideas and, most importantly, change his opinions and even his life if he finds another way to be more true and real.
Q. Do you think there is such a thing as an absolute truth?
A. While many things in life are indeed relative and subjective, there are certain absolute and unchanging truths. A person who finds and taps into these will live a spiritual and deeply satisfying life.