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Shmini(Leviticus 9-11)

Right or Wrong


Some things are right to do and others are not, and one of the most important tasks in life is learning to tell the difference. In this week's Torah portion we learn about distinguishing between things that are permitted and those that aren't (Lev. 11:47), a lesson that can help us live a happy, successful life.

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In our story, a kid gets a new outlook on right and wrong.

VISION QUEST

"Oh, no! Not a dumb crossing guard waiting to hold me up!" Glen snarled as he got close to the street corner. Glen was a fast-moving kind of kid, and if there was one thing he hated more than getting slowed down, it was being told what he could and couldn't do.

Waiting until the crossing guard was looking the other way and seeing there were no cars coming, Glen quickly sprinted behind her back to the other side of the street.

"Hey! You can't do that!" the woman shouted, as she noticed the tail end of Glen's dash. But it was too late. He was already halfway down the next block, wearing a smirk nearly a half-block long, too.

People always wanted to tell him what was right and wrong - 'do this', 'don't do that.' But his motto was 'if I want to do it, it must be okay.'

To his relief, he could see there was no crossing guard at the next corner. Just a stoplight that would be even easier to run across.

He skipped up close to the curb and realized he wasn't alone. An older man was standing there, looking very confused.

Glen was about to shrug off his encounter and dash across the street, but something about the fellow made him curious.

"Are you okay?" he asked.

"Oh, I didn't see you, son. I'm so glad you're here."

"You are?"

"Yes. Now I can finally cross the street. Can you please tell me when the crossing light turns green?"

Glen looked at the man - and at the red crossing light which he was itching to ignore, and said, "Mister you're asking the wrong person, because to me the light always looks green."

"Really, you too?" the man asked.

That wasn't the answer Glen had expected as the man looked like he could hardly walk - never mind jaywalk. "I'm not sure I follow," Glen said.

"Well that's why I've been standing here so long, waiting for someone else to come. You see, I'm colorblind, and I can't tell the difference between red and green. I was hoping you'd help me, but if you're colorblind, too, I see we'll have to wait together until a third person comes."

Glen tried not to laugh.

"I'm not colorblind, mister. I meant, I don't care if the light's red or green - I just cross when I want. You're welcome to join me, though."

"Not if you can't see!" the man said, agitated.

"But mister - I don't think you heard me. I just told you I'm not colorblind."

"I heard you - thank goodness my hearing's fine. I meant you're blinder than I am."

"Come again?"

"It's true, I can't see the difference between red and green, but it seems you can't see the difference between right and wrong - and there's no blindness worse than that. You run along. I'll wait for someone else to help me."

The man's words seemed to go straight into Glen's gut. He'd never looked at his attitude that way before.

"Um, mister. Please, let me help you cross the street. I promise I'll wait for the light to turn green."

"And you'll begin seeing right from wrong?"

"Well ... I really will try. After all - who wants to be blind when he doesn't have to be?"

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Ages 3-5

Q. How did Glen feel at first about jaywalking?
A. He felt like he could do whatever he wanted.

Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He felt that seeing right from wrong was important.


Ages 6-9

Q. What life-lesson do you think Glen learned in the story?
A. He'd felt that having things he wasn't supposed to do was a hassle, but the man's words helped him understand that recognizing right from wrong was an important way of 'seeing.'

Q. How are we supposed to know what's right and what's wrong?
A. One way is to ask people we trust and respect, like parents or teachers. Also each of us, deep down, has a built in sense of what is right or not. The Written and Oral Torah is the ultimate guidebook of right and wrong - as it was given to us from God, Who sees things clearer than anyone does.


Ages 10 and Up

Q. Is there such a thing as an objective right or wrong?
A. There certainly is - but it's often hard to determine. Each of life's situations is vastly complicated and has to be looked at from a wide perspective. In fact the Torah, especially the Oral Torah and its commentaries, is filled with thousands of pages analyzing just what's right and wrong in every conceivable situation!

Q. Why do you think the man in the story referred to recognizing right and wrong as 'seeing'?
A. Besides our physical senses, each of us has a spiritual 'sixth sense' called the soul. Our ethical choices move us spiritually forward or backward and to grow we have to develop a spiritual 'eye' to see what's right and what's not. This is one of the most important tasks of life.


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Published: April 15, 2009

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