Life's meant to be enjoyed. This week's Torah portion disapproves of someone purposely depriving himself of enjoyment (Num. 6:11,Rashi). The Torah way is to enjoy and appreciate God's beautiful world.
In our story, a kid discovers how to have some 'serious' fun.
"What do you mean, 'you'll pass'?" Sandy asked her friend, Laura, in astonishment. They were sitting on the bus, with Sandy holding a beach ball and Laura balancing a school textbook on her lap.
"What part don't you understand?" Laura answered, annoyed. "You asked me if I was coming out to join you and the rest of the class on the lake and I said 'I'll pass.' I prefer to stay in the bus and prepare for next week's class assignment."
"But this is a beeeeeeeach!" Sandy squealed. "The bus is stopping for a whole hour before going to the ecological museum, just so we can have some fun!"
"That's because you probably pestered the bus driver so much that he had no choice. As for me, this is a school educational trip and I plan to use it - all of it - for educational purposes."
Sandy rolled her eyes, looking at her friend as if she was from Alpha Centauri, then, not wanting to waste any more precious beach time, she bounded off the bus.
Laura didn't care. Just because her classmates needed to waste their time with silly distractions it didn't mean that she had to do so. She pulled the notebook closer to her face, trying not to let the laughing and noise outside distract her from her serious studies.
Some time passed and Laura heard the sound of someone stepping up onto the bus. She looked at her watch. Had an hour passed already? No... From the corner of her eye, she could see that it was Ms. Evans, their ecology-studies teacher.
At least she must appreciate that I'm the only one using my time wisely, Laura told herself with pride as she tried to look even more studious and serious than she already did.
She felt a light touch on the shoulder and looked up.
"Laura, is everything okay?" her teacher asked.
"Sure, perfect. Just trying to get ahead on the next assignment," Laura smiled, expecting the teacher to smile back in approval. But instead, she appeared concerned.
"I understand...," she said "but now everyone's taking some time to enjoy the lakeside. Don't you think..."
"Oh, don't worry," Laura cut in. "I don't mind if they need that kind of recreational stuff. Me, I can take things seriously." By now, Laura was sure she'd get approving smile. The teacher frowned.
"I know you're a serious student," she said, "and that's great. But there's also time to step back and relax. That's one of the reasons we take class trips from time to time."
Laura was getting upset. "But isn't this supposed to be an 'educational' trip? Isn't it better for me to use the whole trip for serious, educational purposes?"
Now the teacher did smile.
"Well I can't argue with you there." Laura was glad she'd won her point. But then the teacher went on, "So put down your book and come on out."
"This is an ecology class, remember?"
"So there's no better way to study the ecology than to come out and experience it! Enjoy its beauty. Experience first hand how good it can make you feel and why it's worth protecting. Come on!"
Laura could tell the teacher wasn't taking 'no' for an answer, so, reluctantly she stepped out of the bus.
Right away, the wind hit her hair. Laura drew a deep breath. The lake breeze smelled so ... refreshing.
"Hey, you're just the one more we need for the volleyball game!" Sandy cried out, seeing her. Laura looked at the teacher.
"Go enjoy yourself," she smiled.
The next 45 minutes passed like five. As the thoroughly refreshed, happy and relaxed kids climbed back up on the bus, Laura knew she'd just gotten an important lesson about ecology - and about life.
Q. How did Laura first feel about going out to join the others?
A. She didn't want to do it or feel like it was important.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She was happy she went out and let herself enjoy life.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Laura learned that day?
A. She'd felt that the 'right' way to be was always be serious and do 'serious' things. But she discovered that an important and worthwhile part of life was to devote time to relaxing and enjoying life, too.
Q. Do you think taking time to relax would lead a person to accomplish more, or less?
A. A person's not a machine. If he is just super-intense all the time, he's bound to burn out. By taking time once in a while just to relax and enjoy life, we'll have much more energy to accomplish our goals.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Do you think God wants us to be happy and enjoy life? Why or why not?
A. There is no one who wants us to be as happy as God does. He's the ultimate giver and gave us life as the ultimate gift. Don't you think a giver wants his gift to be enjoyed?
Q. If so, why are there so many sad things in life?
A. This is a deep question and there are no easy answers. But there are answers and one of them is that the ultimate pleasure that exists and that God wants to give us spiritual pleasure and sometimes that can only be acquired through struggle and looking beyond the apparent.