A Good Home
How we choose to act at home has a big effect on how our home is going to feel. In this week's Torah portion, we learn that in the times of our ancestors, when a person would behave in a negative way, it would not only affect them, but even show up as a stain called a 'negah' on the very walls of their homes. Today, we can use this lesson to inspire us to act in a way that will help turn our homes into positive places that make people feel good.
In our story, some kids learn the true secret of fixing up their house.
Every spring, around Passover time, the Kline family would turn their house upside-down, cleaning, rearranging furniture and generally getting to all those projects they had put off during the cold winter months.
The Kline twins, Danny and Matt, also got caught up in the 'spring fever' frame of mind...
"Mom, Matt and I don't like sharing our room so much. So we decided if we make the room nicer - you know, change around all the furniture and decorate and stuff - we'll like it better."
"Yeah," Matt said, "by the time we're done, our room is going to be so comfortable and look so cool, that we're never going to want to leave it - well maybe to eat, but that's it!"
"Go right ahead," Mrs. Kline said. "But maybe you'll also consider coming out occasionally to go to school and take baths, as well?"
The boys laughed and enthusiastically dove into the task. First they decided that they would clear out all the junk in their room they didn't need.
"Where are you going with that box of good stuff?" Danny asked.
"Good stuff? This is just a bunch of my old baseball cards."
"So if you don't want them - I do."
"Um, never mind ... I want them after all," Matt smirked. "But I see you're throwing out your old football helmet, can I have it?"
"Sorry - I just changed my mind," Danny snipped back. And so it went, back and forth, until they finally began moving furniture.
But that went even worse.
"You want to move the good lamp onto your side of the room? Forget it, jerko!" Matt yelled.
"Why shouldn't I?" Danny bellowed back. "After you suckered me into having the bed next to the window so you get all the sun!"
By the time they finished arguing and got to decorating, there was nothing to talk about - because the boys weren't talking to each other. Each of them was sitting with arms crossed angrily on their own beds, silently staring in opposite directions, until after a few minutes, Danny burst out laughing.
"Hey, what's so funny?" Matt couldn't help asking.
"We really did it, didn't we?"
"Made the room much more nice to be in."
"I mean, we started doing this whole project so we'd like being in our room more, but now we're even more miserable."
"That's only because we're fighting right now."
"Exactly" Danny said. "But not only now - we're always fighting and that's why we don't like being in here."
"Right." Matt had to agree.
"So maybe..." Danny said softly, "we can start changing that. Here ... I decided I really don't need my old helmet, after all." He handed it to his brother.
"Wow, thanks!" Matt exclaimed. "And, um, you know you probably need this lamp more than I do," he said. "So go ahead and take it back..."
A little while later, the guys came down for lunch - all smiles.
"How did the redecorating go?" she asked.
"Great!" the boys said. After lunch their Mom poked her head into their room. "You guys seemed so happy with your redecorating job that I just had to take a look ... hey, the room looks like always - did you change your minds?"
"Well not exactly, Mom." Danny and Matt smiled "But instead of making the room nicer, we decided to make ourselves nicer and now the room's a whole lot nicer - just the way it is."
Q. How did the boys feel about their room at first?
A. They felt that if they made their room nicer, they would be happier there.
Q. How did they feel in the end?
A. They saw that what would really make them happier in their room was to treat each other nicer.
Q. What life-lesson do you think the boys learned that day?
A. They had thought that they weren't happy in their room because of the room itself - the furniture, etc. But they realized that how they treated each other affected how they felt at home more than how things looked or were arranged.
Q. What could people do who wanted to make their home a more pleasant and enjoyable place to be?
A. One of the most important things is to try hard to treat each other right. That includes speaking respectfully toward one another, refraining from fighting and trying to find ways to help each other out. While it might take time, after a while they would almost surely see and feel a big difference.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. There is a teaching, that if two people are in harmony they could feel comfortable living together on something as thin as the edge of a sword - and if they are not, the whole world will feel too small to share. How do you understand this?
A. More than our physical environment, it is our relationships with those around us, that determine our level of comfort. Therefore, a person who seeks comfort and happiness, shouldn't invest in decorator furnishings, but should invest in trying to bring harmony to their relationships.
Q. Does a person's physical environment have any bearing on their happiness?
A. Obviously, unless a person has a certain basic level of cleanliness and comfort, it is going to be difficult to feel positive. Even more, our sages teach that pleasant surroundings can expand our minds and lift our spirits. However, none of this will make a person happy unless he or she works to maintain a positive attitude and healthy relationships with the people around them.