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Shmini(Leviticus 9-11)

Inside and Out


It's an important value to be genuine and not hypocritical. This week's Torah portion discusses what physical signs make an animal kosher. One of these signs is on its outside and can be seen - but that isn't enough. The animal must also have a second, internal sign that cannot be seen in order to be kosher. So too, our sages teach, it's not enough for us to only act and appear proper on the outside, but we must also really be that way on the inside too, if we want to be 'kosher' good people.

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In our story, a kid has to decide whether being good on the outside is good enough.

BADGE OF COURAGE

Barry locked his bike in the nursing home parking lot, looked at his watch and got ready for a long and difficult day. In order to earn his scout troop's 'kindness-doer' badge - and qualify for a free trip to the Big Attraction amusement park - he had volunteered at the local nursing home to help take care of and entertain the elderly patients. He had to work as a volunteer four times to earn the badge and he had already done three.

The boy walked into the nursing home lobby and looked around at all the busy nurses, the old people with walkers and canes. He tensed up as he thought of all the work he'd have to do here today. Even though he knew it was a good, kind thing to volunteer, he didn't really enjoy having to take care of the sick, elderly people for four whole hours, and would be relieved when he finished this last visit.

He went to sign in the official 'volunteer book' his scout troop leader had put there. The book recorded all the days and times each kid in the troop had come and left, and was signed by the head receptionist.

He turned the pages and got to his name and was getting ready to check in for his fourth and final visit when he noticed something very strange. Somehow, instead of only three times marked down and signed, four were already marked down! It had the receptionist's signature and everything.

There must have been some mix-up. But mix-up or no mix-up, he was off the hook! Now he'd earned his 'kindness' badge without even having to do any more kindness! Barry turned on his heels, strode happily back to the parking lot and jumped on his bike for a day of fun instead of hard work.

But as Barry rode, his happy and carefree feeling began to fade. True - he had been marked down in the book as having done that last day of volunteering, and there was no way anyone would ever find out he hadn't... But he hadn't really done it. Wouldn't accepting the 'kindness-doer' badge now make him into a hypocrite? How could he accept and wear a badge that said he'd done something that he hadn't?

As he rode up to the playground where he knew his friends would be hanging out having a good time, Barry tried to forget these thoughts ... but he just couldn't. He turned his bike around and rode back to the nursing home to begin a full day of volunteering...

* * *

"Okay, we will now present the 'kindness-doer's' badges to those young men who successfully completed our volunteer program," the scout troop leader smiled, at the awards banquet. He named off all the names, including Barry's. "You should all feel very proud to wear these 'kindness-doer's' badges," the leader beamed.

And Barry was proud - not only for the badge on his chest, but because he knew that what it said on the outside was really inside of him, too.

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Ages 3-5

Q. How did Barry feel at first when he found out he could get away without doing his job?
A. He felt happy and was ready to leave.

Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He felt like it wasn't right for people to think he had done something good that he really hadn't, so he went back and did it.


Ages 6-9

Q. What life lesson do you think someone could learn from this story?
A. When Barry saw that he could be rewarded and thought of as a 'kindness' doer, without really doing what he had to, he was tempted to go along. Why not? But he realized that it's not enough to just appear as if we've accomplished something good on the outside, but we must really do it, too.

Q. Do you think Barry would have enjoyed the award and the trip if he had just faked it and pretended he had done the kindness? Why or why not?
A. It might have been fun for a little while, but a person can never really feel good about being praised and rewarded for something he didn't really do.


Ages 10 and Up

Q. Our sages teach that a person's 'heart and mouth should be consistent.' What do you think this means?
A. It means that we shouldn't merely 'talk the talk' and present ourselves in a positive light as good people, but should actually 'walk the walk' and strive to feel and live by those principles too.

Q. Is there ever a time that it's all right to act hypocritically?
A. One type of 'hypocrisy' (that is, being different on the inside from the outside) is not only all right, it's recommended. That is that when we don't feel inside like doing something good, though we know it's right - we should go ahead and do it anyway - and almost always in the end we'll feel good about it too.


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Published: March 23, 2008

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