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Chayei Sarah(Genesis 23:1-25:18)

Giving More than Expected


OVERVIEW

Somebody who helps when asked is a kind person. But there is an even higher level of kindness. That is someone who opens his heart, considers what people need, and does even more for them than what they originally asked. This is the trait of our Rebecca, our matriarch. In this week's Torah portion, she encounters Eliezer, an old man who is thirsty from a long trip in the desert. He asks her for a drink of water from the well. But Rebecca notices that the old man is leading a whole caravan of thirsty camels. So rather than just bringing Eliezer a drink, she begins to voluntarily bring water for every single camel, and doesn't stop until every last one has plenty to drink! Her great kindness is recorded for the ages, and serves as an inspiration to help us grow into kinder, more compassionate people.

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STORY

In our story, a boy expands his kindness boundaries.

"DOUBLE-TAKE, DOUBLE-GIVE"

      "Brad" his mom called out, "I just found out that Mrs. Sommers, our neighbor, is going to the hospital for a few days. She needs someone to feed her two cats. Do you think you could help her out?"

      "Sure Mom, no problem," shrugged the boy as he headed out the door. "I can stop by on my way home from school, I guess."

      Later that day, Brad made his way to the elderly widow's house, and let himself in with the key that she had left under the welcome mat. The door opened with a loud squeak, alerting the two Calico cats who purred with gratitude as their visitor graciously filled up their bowls with generous portions of food and water.

      "Okay - good deed for the day accomplished," Brad thought with a sense of satisfaction.

      Just then he noticed a strange dripping sound coming from the kitchen. Curious, Brad went to investigate and discovered the culprit - a leaking faucet, that by the looks of the water stain on the sink, had been dripping for quite some time.

      For a brief moment, the thought flashed through Brad's mind: "I could fix that..." But he quickly dismissed the idea. After all, he was just there to feed the cats. And besides, he knew that all of his friends would be out playing ball and he was anxious to join them.

      He turned to leave. As he stepped out the door Brad nearly tripped on the tall, overgrown grass. "Wow, this really needs trimming. In fact, this whole place is falling apart. It was never like this when Mr. Sommers was alive. But that's none of my business."

      Brad started on his way, half jogging, toward the park. But he had hardly gone a half a dozen steps when he stopped in his tracks. "Maybe I really should go back and take care of some of those problems," he thought to himself. "But, then again", he countered, "I did feed the cats like she asked. What do I need to get so involved for?"

      Brad took a few more steps, and stopped again. He imagined the poor, old widow all alone, and how big these "little" problems must seem to her now that her husband was no longer around to take care of them.

      "I'm gonna do it!" he resolutely decided. Without delay, the boy ran home, grabbed a few tools. After an hour and a half of spraying, wrench-twisting, and weed-trimming, Mrs. Sommer's house was starting to look like new. The door stopped squeaking, the faucet stopped dripping, and the grass looked neat and trim again. Even the cats seemed somehow more content.

      A few days later after Brad had forgotten about the whole thing, his mom called him out from his bedroom. She had a big smile on her face and seemed to be glowing with pride. "I just got off the phone with Mrs. Sommers. She told me that an 'angel' had visited her house while she was away. She was crying with joy as she told me about how overwhelmed she had been by all the creaks and leaks since Mr. Sommers passed away, and that your surprise good deed made her feel like a new person!"

      Brad blushed. He was glad that he had been able to open his heart and make the extra effort to do even more than he had been asked.

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QUESTIONS

Ages 3-5

Q. How did Brad feel when he first noticed that his neighbor's house needed repairs?
A. He felt like he didn't have to help her with them since he had only been asked to feed the cats.

Q. How did he feel about it at the end of the story?
A. Brad was very happy that he had decided to do more than what he had been asked, since he saw how much joy his extra effort had brought to a poor widow.

 

Ages 6-9

Q. What shift in attitude made Brad decide to help out, when at first he wasn't willing?
A. When Brad first got to the widow's house, his attitude was, "I have an obligation to feed the cats - and that's it." His concern was finish doing what he had agreed to do and be done with it. But when he really considered how much help the woman needed, he realized he should care more about Mrs. Sommers' needs, and his attitude changed to one of '"What can I do to help this person out?"

Q. Why should we bother trying to help others? Isn't it more fun to focus on doing things for ourselves?
A. One of the deepest and most lasting pleasures a person can have comes when he focuses on giving to others rather than taking for himself. Try it out. Next time you're in a situation when you aren't sure whether to give or take, try giving - and see how good you feel afterwards.

Q. Can you think of a time when you extended yourself and gave to another person? How did it make you feel?

 

Ages 10 and Up

Q. Our sages teach, that there are two ways to give of ourselves. One way is to "give like an servant." The other way is to "give like a son." What do you think might be the difference between the two?
A. A servant is in the business of giving to his employer. He's giving because he has to - he wants to keep his job - not because he wants to. Generally his attitude is to give enough to keep his boss satisfied, and no more. A child loves his parents and intrinsically wants to give them pleasure. His giving will be much deeper since it's from the heart. His motivation isn't to simply fulfill an obligation, like a servant, but to genuinely do his utmost to make his parents happy. The Torah says we should strive to relate to everyone on this higher level of "giving from the heart."

Q. How can we apply this idea to our relationship with God?
A. It's a matter of attitude. God has given us many Mitzvot to fulfill. Are we doing them because we feel we have to, and if God somehow weren't looking we would act differently? Or are we doing it on even a higher level, because we love God and want to please Him with all our heart?

Q. Why should we bother trying to help others? Isn't it more fun to focus on doing things for ourselves?

Q. Can you think of a time when you extended yourself and gave to another person? How did it make you feel?

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Published: October 26, 2002

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