Ki Tisa(Exodus 30:11-34:35)
Sharing the BlameTitle: Sharing the Blame
It's good to stay out of trouble, but it's not enough. When we can, we should try to stop others from doing wrong as well. In this week's Torah portion, even though Aaron didn't worship the Golden Calf, he is considered to have made a mistake because he didn't do more to stop the Jews who did.
In our story, a kid discovers that it's not right to let someone else do the wrong thing.
"What on earth...? Mindy, what happened here? Did a tornado blow through while we were out?"
Mindy's parents stood in the doorway in shock as they stared at the mess facing them.
"It wasn't me!" Mindy gloated. "I had nothing to do with it!"
The way Mindy looked at it, that was the truth. It all started when her parents left early in the morning to go visit their Aunt Hannah in the nursing home. They didn't go very often, but when they did, it was usually a whole day event. Mindy didn't look forward to it much, because she knew that she would be stuck watching her little sister, Connie. Like most little kids, she was okay some of the time, but the rest of the time... watch out!
The morning started off all right: they had breakfast, played some games, and went to the park. By the time they finished eating the lunch their mother had prepared for them, Connie was tired and Mindy was bored.
The combination was not a good one. Connie started "getting into things" and Mindy felt too lazy to stop her. One thing led to another, and before either of them knew it, Connie had managed to empty almost every single drawer, closet and bookshelf in the entire house! "It's not my fault," Mindy said to herself. "Let the little brat get into trouble. That will teach her for next time!"
By the time their parents returned, Connie was fast asleep sprawled out on the living room floor, and Mindy was sitting on the couch reading a book...
"Why are you looking at me?" Mindy asked. "It wasn't my fault! Connie made the mess. She's the one who deserves the punishment!"
"Mindy," said her mom. "It's true that Connie made the mess and I'm going to talk to her about it. But it's not true that she's the only one responsible."
"What do you mean?"
"If we felt that Connie could take full responsibility for her own actions, we would have left her here by herself, and you could have gone out to visit your friends. We trust you enough to leave you in charge, to make sure that things stay under control, so things like this don't happen."
Mindy felt good about the compliment her mother had given her about trusting her enough, so what she said after was particularly painful.
"I'm sorry to tell you that you are going to have to clean up everything today, instead of going to the show tonight at school. We counted on you, Mindy. Just because someone is doing something wrong doesn't mean you should just sit back and let it happen. It's not good for the other person, and it's not good for you, because it teaches you to be passive when you should be active. True, Connie's little, but she still knows that some things are wrong to do and just needed a little reminding from you. Everybody - not just little kids - needs reminders sometimes about what's right and wrong and when we can, we should give them those reminders. I hope you'll remember that for next time."
Mindy got started and managed to clean everything up after a long, long time. She had lots of time to think, and she promised herself that the next time she saw someone doing something wrong, she wouldn't just sit back and let it happen. She would get involved and try to stop it.
Q. How did Mindy feel at first about the mess Connie had made?
A. She felt it was all Connie's fault and not hers.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She realized that when a person sees someone doing something wrong, she should try to get him to stop.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Mindy learned that day?
A. It's easy to look at someone doing the wrong thing and feel that 'as long as I'm not doing it, I'm fine.' But really we should try to take more responsibility and guide others to behave properly whenever we can.
Q. Do you think we do someone a favor by letting him act however he wants, even if it's wrong? Why or why not?
A. While it may be more comfortable for everyone involved, it certainly isn't better. One of the greatest acts of kindness we can do for someone is to care enough about him to try to stop him from acting destructively to himself or others.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Our sages teach that in a sense, we are all responsible for one another. How do you understand this idea?
A. Although we each have our own lives, we are also part of larger groups - our family, community and humanity as a whole. To keep each group healthy and positive, it isn't enough only to care about our own doings, but to try to help others stay on a positive path as well. This attitude of shared, caring responsibility will make the world a better place.
Q. Is there ever a time when we see someone doing the wrong thing that we shouldn't get involved?
A. There may be times that getting involved in a situation can't possibly help, or might seriously endanger ourselves or others. In such cases, generally it's best not to get involved. However, in many of the daily situations we encounter we can often make a big difference by reaching out and trying to encourage people to act properly.