Family Parsha Parshat Vayakhel: The Power of Cooperation
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Vayakhel(Exodus 35:1-38:20)

The Power of Cooperation


Goals that would be overwhelming or impossible to reach alone can become easier to reach when we cooperate. In this week's Torah portion, we learn about the precise and very complicated construction of the Holy Tabernacle in which the Jewish people connected to God after they received the Torah. This amazing and beautiful structure was built through the power of many people cooperating to reach a common goal - which is a power we can tap into today!

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In our story, some kids discover the power of cooperation.

OPERATION COOPERATION

Jack jumped out of bed and peeked out the window. "Yeah!!!" he exclaimed at the sight of the thick, white blanket covering the ground, and began to get into his snow gear.

Though many adults, who had to drive through the snow to get to work, didn't necessarily appreciate it when a heavy snow fell, for Jack and the rest of the neighborhood kids, it was a wonderful dream.

Not only was school closed, but the whole neighborhood turned into one giant white playground, which they would quickly fill up with snowmen, sled-tracks and best of all, snow forts that became for the guys like little castles all their own.

After his mom had approved that he was bundled up warmly enough, Jack bounded through the knee-deep white stuff to the end of his yard and began to build his fort. He wasn't surprised to notice that Kenny and Rich, his two friends that lived next door, were also building forts. They would always compete to see who could make the biggest, strongest one, so he wasn't surprised when the taunts began to fly.

"You call that a snow fort, man?" Rich yelled out. "It looks more like a snow doll-house to me!"

"Oh yeah?" Jack shot back. "Well at least my walls don't look like they'd fall down if you look at them wrong, like yours do!"

The semi-friendly competition motivated Jack to work harder and faster to make a really big, fancy fort. But the harder he tried, the more frustrated he got. Picturing in his mind big, thick walls, he rolled out huge snow boulders to stack up. But then after sweating to make them, he had to chop them up into much smaller, less impressive pieces, to be able to lift them up. Then, even these smaller bricks were difficult to stack high. He found out that his hopes were much higher than his arms could reach.

Dejected, Jack sat down on one of the snow-boulders he had rolled out. It just seemed like it wasn't possible to make the kind of super snow-fort he had dreamed of. Suddenly a snowball smacked him in the back. "Hey!" he said, turning around and getting ready for a snowball fight.

"Relax, I come in peace," Rich smiled." I just wanted to get your attention. Your snow-fort's lookin' pretty good."

"Thanks. I guess so, but I kinda hoped it would come out, you know, bigger."

"Yeah, I know what you mean. Mine too - that's why I came by. I have an idea."

"Idea? What?"

"What do you say about, instead of us competing and building three pretty small forts like always, let's team up and make one huge super-fort for all of us? Kenny and I already started - and it's working out great - but with all of us doing it together, it will come out even more amazing."

"Why shouldn't I just do my own? What difference will working together make?"

"Come on and take a look."

Jack followed, figuring it couldn't hurt to look. He hadn't expected to see anything special, but was surprised and impressed by the size of his friends' fast-growing fort. He watched Kenny rolling a huge snow-boulder their way.

"Forget about using one like that," Jack said. "It's way too heavy to lift."

"For one kid, sure," Kenny smiled. "But two together can lift it. And if you join us, we can make and lift boulders even bigger than this one." Jack shrugged. 'Why not?' he thought, and started pitching in.

The three of them were soon rolling out huge snow-boulders one after the other and boosting each other up to stack them high and strong. The work went fast - especially since they were having fun, talking and joking together and soon, they'd finished building a big, beautiful super snow-fort, the likes of which, none of them could have ever done alone.

The three boys sat like kings, enjoying their castle, they had built from snow - and the power of cooperation!

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Ages 3-5

Q. How did the kids feel about building snow-forts at first?
A. They each wanted to work alone and compete with each other.

Q. How did they feel in the end?
A. They saw how by teaming up they were able to make something much bigger and better.


Ages 6-9

Q. What life-lesson do you think Jack learned that day?
A. He had wanted to accomplish something big, but felt frustrated that it was beyond his reach. Then he learned that by cooperating with others he could reach his goal and make his dream a reality.

Q. What conditions do you think are needed to make cooperating a success?
A. For one thing, people must have a common goal. If everyone wants different results, cooperation won't happen. Besides this, it's important to split up the tasks according to abilities and try to focus on what's best for everyone involved. Cooperating isn't always easy, but it's almost always worth the effort.


Ages 10 and Up

Q. How do you think the world would change if people willingly shared their talents and cooperated with each other?
A. It would be a completely different world. God has given each of us certain abilities, or strengths as well as certain deficiencies, or weaknesses. If people freely cooperated, offering to give to others with their strengths and would receive help with their weaknesses it would be like paradise on earth.

Q. Why do you think things are not like that now?
A. There is a part of human nature that wants to get ahead of others - to take and not to give. It is part of how God made us, however, He also wants us to try to overcome that part of ourselves, as much as we healthily can, and try to give and cooperate more. Our sages teach that someday the world will indeed transform to a beautiful place, where we will all cooperate freely and happily for each other's good. Yet we can bring that ideal world closer by cooperating more now, even when it's difficult.


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Published: February 23, 2008

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