Getting all arrogant and full of ourselves is never a good idea, especially when we didn't do anything to deserve it! In this week's Torah portion (Deut. 8:14) Moses warns the people not to get arrogant when they see how much wealth and success God gives them when they enter the land of Israel. We can learn from here the value of not puffing ourselves up.
In our story, a kid puffs himself up, only to discover that things un-puff very fast.
"You won't mind switching to the bottom bunk bed, right Jason?" Ron asked, more like an answer than a question. "I'll breathe so much better up next to the window."
"Um ... okay, I guess so," Jason replied, not looking at the short, skinny Ron in front of him, but rather at Ron's BIG, strong counselor brother, Jack, on the other side of the bunk.
"Thanks, chum. I thought you'd understand," Ron said as he began moving his stuff.
Jason sure did understand - because Ron had made it very clear to him and everyone else from the moment he'd shown up on this, the first day of camp, that he was the counselor's younger brother and that starting up with him was as good as starting up with the counselor. And who in his right mind would want to do that?
Later on that day...
"Okay, guys! Here we go!" Ron cried out from the pitcher's mound as he banged the softball hard into his stiff new glove. Though the scrawny kid didn't have much of a curveball, or a fastball either ... when he'd grabbed the bunk team's coveted pitching position for himself, none of the other kids dared to object since he was the counselor's brother. It seemed the other team didn't mind, either, as they went to town on Ron's powder-puff pitches and ended up beating the guys - 20 to 6!
After a long, sunny, sports-filled day, the guys dragged their sore but happy bodies back to their cabin to wash up and turn in for the night.
Ron, prancing in with his head-high 'I own the place' strut, got ready to grab the best shower when he noticed his 'brother-the-counselor' swinging his full duffle bag over his shoulder. He raced over to him.
"Hey, Jack - what's goin' on?"
The tall teenager shrugged. "Just part of camp life, kiddo. The counselor for bunk six never showed up, so the head counselor switched everything around, so I'm going to be with them this year instead of with you guys. Don't worry, your new counselor will be rolling in any minute."
"Bunk ... six?" Ron stuttered at the edge of the small circle of campers who'd gathered around to see what the commotion was about. "But that's way on the other side of the camp - across the lake!"
"Yeah, I know," Jack said, giving Ron a playful punch on the arm. "Guess that means we won't be seeing too much of each other, after all. But you're probably going to have more fun that way anyhow. Who wants to be stuck around his big brother all summer?"
Ron's eyes flashed nervously around the smugly grinning circle of bunkmates all nodding their heads in agreement with Jack.
"Guys, it's been short, but it's been real," Jack said, tipping his baseball cap and bounding out the door.
Ron felt like the floor of the cabin had just opened up, sliding him into a pit of alligators.
"Just part of camp life, right guys?" he smiled sheepishly.
"Uh, huh," Jason answered. "Now can you be so kind as to give me my top bunk bed back, little guy?"
"Yeah, yeah - sure, no problem," Ron said to the hefty Jason as he began stripping off his sleeping bag.
So long air, he sighed as he waved goodbye to the window next to his former bed. And so long to the haughty-HOT air I've been puffing myself up with all day.
It was definitely going to be a different kind of summer than Ron had counted on, but somewhere deep inside, he knew it was going to end up being better.
Q. How did Ron feel about the fact that his big brother was the counselor?
A. He felt he could boss everyone around because of it.
Q. How did he feel when he found out his brother was changing bunks?
A. Like he had to act less puffed-up from now on.
Q. What life lesson do you think someone could learn from this story?
A. It's never nice to act puffed-up and arrogant (the way Ron did), especially since many times the thing we feel conceited about can disappear (like Ron's counselor brother did) and we can end up looking - and feeling - pretty foolish.
Q. Do you think Ron's summer is going to be better or worse now? Why?
A. While it might not be as easy - in the end It's likely to be better. This is because acting conceited and pushing people around would not only make people resent him, but would turn him into a crueler, less spiritual person. This way, though he may have to take some lumps at first, he'll likely become one of the crowd and learn to be humble - which is a valuable tool for life.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Is it ever okay to be arrogant?
A. Although we can - and should - feel good about ourselves and even appreciate what special gifts we have that others may lack, we shouldn't act arrogantly or look down at others.
Q. Do you think that how we relate to the good things we have can affect whether or not they will remain?
A. Judaism teaches that our thoughts and attitudes affect reality. If we are humble and appreciative of what we have, these gifts are more likely to remain with us than if we flaunt them and relate to them haughtily.