Passover (first day)(Exodus 12:21-51)
All Puffed Up
Why is matzah so flat? The reason is that on Passover we avoid any grain products or baked goods that have risen in any way. This helps remind us of the value of being humble - like the humble, unleavened matzah - rather than all inflated and full of ourselves.
In our story, a kid finds that being puffed up isn't always what it seems.
'Tommy the Tiger punched the world's heavyweight champion hard in the stomach, making him fall back!' the boy said to himself in his best 'sports announcer's' voice as he slugged the huge, inflatable punching bag, shaped like a boxer, that he'd gotten as a birthday present.
'Now a hard punch to the face knocks him over again!'
Tommy swung his fist, making the punching bag fall over, only to bounce up again for more of the same.
'He almost knocked him out with that one. In fact...'
"Tommy, can I come in?"
The boy turned and glared at his younger brother, Jay, standing by the door with a workbook and a pencil in his hand.
"How dare you interrupt 'Tommy the Tiger' - the toughest, leanest, meanest fighter on the planet?" he slammed the punching bag again as if to make his point. "Well, anyway ... what do you want, squirt?"
"My math homework's too hard. Can you help me?"
"Someone as cool as me ... should help a pipsqueak like you? What a joke!"
"Please? I really can't do it," Jay said.
"Here, let me see it." He snatched the stuff out of the younger kid's hand. "Ha! You call this hard?" Tommy let out a laugh. "This is the simplest, most babyish stuff I've ever seen!"
As Tommy went on, he noticed his little brother's face fall, but he didn't care. That was what the brat deserved for daring to disturb him.
"How could you even dream that I would bother to stoop down to help someone like you," Tommy snarled. "You see the champ on this punching bag here?"
"Looks pretty tough, right?"
He nodded again.
"Well he is - and Tommy the Tiger's even tougher. So you know what I'm gonna do next time you barge in and bother me by asking for help?"
Jay, looking a little scared, shook his head.
"I'm gonna..." Still holding onto Jay's stuff, Tommy swung his arm.
Oh no! The pencil he'd been holding popped the punching bag. If it hadn't been such a tragedy, it would almost be comical, Tommy thought, as he watched the big, fearsome inflated champ, turn into a pile of flaccid plastic on the floor!
He'd been feeling so tough and cool while he was pounding the punching bag. But all he'd been punching the whole time was just a puffed up bag of air. Of course, he'd known that, but somehow seeing his opponent get the wind knocked out of him and collapse, made Tommy feel a little less inflated and puffed up, too...
Tommy looked again at the kid's homework. He remembered how hard it had been for him when he was his brother's age.
"You're gonna what?" Jay asked, still worried about his big brother's threat.
"I'm, um ... I'm gonna help you if I can. Come on, Jay, have a seat and let's see if we can figure out this math homework together."
Q. How did Tommy feel at first when his brother asked for help?
A. He felt like he was too cool and important to help him.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He felt more humble and willing to help.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Tommy learned when his punching bag popped?
A. The bag looked really big and tough, but it was just pumped up with air and when it popped, it quickly shrunk down to size. So too, he realized that he was acting too arrogant and conceited with his little brother and decided to be a little humbler and help him.
Q. What does it mean to be humble?
A. It means not looking down on others or trying to put them down. Rather, treating everyone with sincere respect and doing what we can to help them.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. What's the difference between being conceited and having high self-esteem?
A. Having high self-esteem is a positive quality. Unlike being conceited, it doesn't cause us to feel that we are better than others; it just means we feel good about ourselves as well.
Q. Our sages teach that Moses' great humility was what enabled him to come so close to God. What do you think is the connection?
A. A person who is humble is always looking for ways to give to others rather than demanding that others give to him. As God is the ultimate giver, the humble, person comes close to Him by emulating His ways.