Acharei Mot(Leviticus 16-18)
Ask the Question
Passover is a time of asking questions. One of the highlights of the Passover Seder is when kids ask their parents the 'four questions': 'Why is this night different from all other nights?' We can learn from this the Torah way of learning through questioning and never being afraid to ask a sincere question.
In our story, some kids learn that sometimes it pays to ask.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
"Come on Cindy, hurry up, we don't want to miss our train!" Megan called out. The two sisters, clutching their suitcases, rushed through the revolving door of the busy train terminal, excited to be spending Passover with their out-of-town cousins. Memories of last year's Passover with Uncle Jack's lively impression of the plague of croaking frogs jumping all over Egypt as he told the Seder story, and of Aunt Rebecca's delicious, golden, matzah-ball soup - not to mention all the fun trips they all took together - were fresh in the girls' minds.
"Two round-trip tickets to Parkwood, please," Megan asked the man at the ticket counter, who without looking up, wordlessly scooped up the money she'd placed down under the glass window of his ticket booth and slid back two printed cards together with their change.
"Okay, let's go!" Megan said, as she placed the tickets into her carry pouch.
"Shouldn't we ask him which track we have to go to and how to get there?" Cindy asked her older sister, tugging the sleeve of her sweater.
Megan thought a moment, glanced up at the ticket seller, then said, "What for? We took the train last year and we found it, didn't we? I'm sure we can figure it out - and besides, he doesn't look like the type who enjoys being asked questions … I'd feel kind of silly, asking, you know what I mean?"
"Yeah, but it's something we need to know, so, why not ask?" Cindy insisted, but Megan had already tugged her away from the line and the next customer had already taken their place.
After a good bit of meandering around, the kids finally found the track number that was printed on their ticket and boarded the train.
"Hey Megan," Cindy said as they sat down. "Are you sure we're on the right train? I mean, I don't remember it being on this part of the tracks last year. Maybe we should ask the conductor before the train starts to go?"
By now, Megan was getting annoyed. "Will you cut it out! Of course, we're on the right train. Why shouldn't we be? This was the train number printed on our ticket. If you want to go make yourself look like a jerk by asking him a stupid question - be my guest. But I'm not going to."
Cindy sat down. She certainly didn't want to look like a jerk. Who would? But still, it just didn't seem like they were on the right train. And what would be so wrong with asking? How else are you supposed to find something out if you don't ask about it?
"LAST CALL - ALL ABOARD!" the conductor shouted out from the front of the train, as the doors slid closed and the engine began to rev.
"I don't care - I'm asking!" Cindy said, springing up from her seat, ticket in hand. Megan looked on, amused, as her sister approached the conductor, certain that the man would simply smile condescendingly and wave her back to her seat.
So she was especially surprised when the conductor quickly grabbed Cindy's ticket, stared at it and then pushed a button to re-open the train doors. Cindy, looking distressed, waved at her to come.
"This train isn't to Parkwood," Cindy sputtered, "it's coming from Parkwood and heading out-of-state. We must have looked at the wrong side of our round-trip ticket."
"Wow, I guess it's a good thing you asked after all!" Megan gasped.
"You don't know how good, young lady," the conductor added. "Because from this stop on, it's an express train. That means once the train starts it doesn't stop for another three and a half hours. And since it's the last train of the day, you'd be stuck way out there all night."
The sisters looked at each other, relieved that they just avoided a disaster as the man continued. "Now the both of you get hoppin' to track 17 like you're supposed to. You should still be able catch your Parkwood train - if you rush. And from now on, if you're not sure about something, instead of trying to play smart - be smart and ask."
Q. How did Megan feel at first when Cindy wanted her to ask about things?
A. She felt silly and embarrassed to ask.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She felt glad that her sister had asked a question and saved them from making a big mistake.
Q. What life lesson do you think Megan learned from Cindy that day?
A. She, unlike Cindy, had felt that it was better not to ask a question if you were unsure about something, if it meant feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed. But after seeing how Cindy's asking saved them from a serious problem, she realized her sister was right.
Q. Why do you think it can be hard to ask questions?
A. To ask a question is to admit there is something we don't know and that can be uncomfortable to admit. But the truth is, no one knows everything and one of the best ways to learn things is not to be afraid to ask.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. What is the difference between a sincere and an insincere question?
A. A sincere question comes from a place of not knowing or not understanding something and being open to learning something from the answer or arriving at the truth. An insincere question is when one really has no interest in learning anything but is rather asking to either flatter or, worse, to mock.
Q. Who do you think is a better student: one who questions things or merely accepts what he is taught? Why?
A. Someone who questions what he's taught (as long as the questions are sincere) is showing more real interest in the subject and once his questions are answered will be more committed to what he's learned than one who merely unquestioningly accepts.