Family Parsha Parshat Shmini: Giving a Fair Hearing
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Shmini(Leviticus 9-11)

Giving a Fair Hearing


The sign of a wise or strong person isn't that he wins every argument, but that he's willing to hear out the other person's side of things and admit when the other one is right. In this week's portion (Lev. 10:20), Moses, after hearing out Aaron's reasoning in a matter in which they disagreed, accepted Aaron's opinion as right. We can learn from this to be willing to hear people out.

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In our story, a kid stops to hear some others out.

ORDER IN THE COURT

"Pass the ball, I'm open!" Larry called across the schoolyard basketball court. He and his friends were having a great game of hoops during recess and Larry got ready to catch the ball soaring his way, when suddenly a big hand shot out in front of him, grabbing it away.

"Game's over, squirt," Jack, an older kid, said with a smirk. "Me and the guys," he pointed to a few of his equally big friends standing behind him, "are taking the court now." He tossed the ball to one of his buddies, who dribbled around the dumbstruck smaller kids as if they were plastic highway pylons.

"Hey! That's not fair!" Larry yelled out, but Jack and the others just ignored him as if he were air.

The younger boy and his friends gave a few more token protests but seeing that they were getting nowhere, glumly slunk to the side of the court and watched jealously as the big kids had fun at their expense.

As Larry stood there, he thought the sunny sky had turned cloudy as a big shadow passed over him, but looking up, he saw what was blocking the sun was Sky-High Hank, one of the biggest, toughest kids in the school and star of the basketball team, making his way onto the court, obviously to join his friends.

The living skyscraper had almost walked out of earshot, when Larry called out, "Not fair!" His friends looked at him like he was crazy, hoping that big Hank hadn't heard, or would at least ignore them.

But that didn't happen.

The big guy turned on his king-sized heels and walked their way.

"Did one of you say something to me?" he asked.

The little kids cowered, but Larry leaned forward. "I ... I said it's not fair. We were on the court already playing a game and your friends just came and kicked us off, taking the ball and everything."

Hank stood there without saying anything. Meanwhile, Jack and the other big kids noticing their 'star' friend talking with them, came over to see what was happening.

"These guys say they were playing here first," Hank said. "That so?"

"And if those little squirts were keeping the court warm until the real men arrived, so what?" Jack shrugged, laughing as he tossed the ball Hank's way. "Come on, big guy - let's play ball."

But Hank didn't move. He held the basketball like a softball and passed it back and forth between his oversized hands, as he seemed to be thinking.

Jack and his buddies were rocking on their heels impatiently wanting to get back to their game, while Larry's friends shuddered nervously at the thought of what this kid - who more or less 'ruled' the playground - would do.

"Okay - time to play ball," he said. He held out the basketball. Jack went to take it, but Hank pushed past him and handed the basketball to Larry!

"But Hank..." Jack sputtered.

"But nothing," Hank said, furrowing his brow in a way that made all backtalk out of the question. "It's time for them to play ball. These guys are right. They'd win their case if they were in court - so the court belongs to them."

 

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Ages 3-5

Q. How did Jack feel about taking the basketball court away from Larry and his friends?
A. He felt it was okay and he could do whatever he wanted.

Q. How did Hank feel about that?
A. He listened fairly to Larry's side of the story and was willing to let them have the court back when he realized they were right.

 

Ages 6-9

Q. What life-lesson could someone learn from what happened?
A. When Hank showed up, the other kids assumed that since he was so big and popular he'd just ignore a bunch of younger kids' complaints. But he was willing to hear them out and admit that they were in the right, while his buddies were wrong. Being willing to admit to the truth is very positive and important trait.

Q. Do you think it's a greater sign of strength to always insist you are right, or to admit when you're wrong?
A. Strength is not being afraid to look at things through the eye of truth and when one discovers he's erred, admit it.

 

Ages 10 and Up

Q. Why do you think people sometimes defend their opinions even when they realize they're wrong?
A. A person tends to become invested in his opinion. He's concerned that if he admits to the opinion of another, he'll be looked down upon. But in truth, it will only gain him greater respect.

Q. Is there anything wrong with 'playing the devil's advocate,' that is, arguing for a point one doesn't actually believe in?
A. It can be a stimulating intellectual activity, but in general it's better to stick to the truth - to say what you mean, and mean what you say.

 

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Published: April 6, 2010

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