Sometimes the good things that come our way are very clear and easy to see. However, there are other times when the good that God sends us comes in a way that at first glance doesn't seem to be good at all. This is what happened to the Jewish people, as God was preparing to take them out of their slavery in Egypt.

In this week's Torah portion, when Moses and Aaron approached Pharaoh to set the people free, not only did he refuse, but he even threw them out of the palace, and threatened to have them killed if they dared to appear to him again! It seemed like things were getting worse instead of better. But this was really all part of God's plan, and in the end, He brought the people out of Egypt with great miracles. We can learn from here that even when things in our lives seem to be going wrong, don't panic. Realize that things often seem to get worse before they get better, and if we're patient and see it through, we will ultimately come to see the good that's on the way.

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In our story, a boy sees how good can come from what seems to be bad.


      Michael sat staring at his teacher with a look of total shock on his face, not believing what he was hearing.

      "Another exam?" he thought. "How can that be? We just had a huge test. What more is there possibly to learn?"

      The whole class was buzzing and reeling over the announcement. Seventh graders were extremely busy with all their activities. Constantly studying for geography tests was not among their favorite pastimes. Some of it was interesting, like learning about all the different kinds of rock formations and mountains, but enough was enough.

      "I just don't know what's gotten into Mr. Barker. He's usually pretty easy-going. What could he be thinking about, giving us another big test only three days from now?"

      Joe and Manny, his two buddies, just shook their heads with a forlorn look on their faces. "I don't know," said Joe. "But there goes baseball practice this week." The boys groaned and tried to settle down to do their homework.

      Michael just couldn't concentrate. "I don't want to study again and you know what? I'm not going to. Just because Mr. Barker got in a bad mood doesn't mean that I have to suffer for it. See you later guys. I'm going to ride my bike!"

      Joe and Manny were speechless. The three boys had been best friends since second grade, and did most things together, including studying for tests. They all took their schoolwork seriously, even though they liked to play. This was the first time anything like this had happened and they didn't know what to do. They decided to wait and see if their buddy Mike would change his mind.

      The next day on the bulletin board in the lobby of the school, the boys saw a notice addressed to the eight graders. They were going to be having a great trip to the big mountain range upstate to explore all the different rock shapes and types. There would be a special guide, a big tour bus, and the best of all - there would be a helicopter ride to see the mountain range from above! The school had never made a trip like this before and the boys wondered excitedly if they would have it again next year when they would be eighth graders.

      That day Mr. Barker mentioned the upcoming exam again and told the kids how important it was that they all do well. "You won't regret the extra work you put into it," he promised.

      Joe and Manny passed a meaningful glance between them. Would Mike take the teacher's words to heart?

      That afternoon Joe and Manny seriously hit the books and Mike was seriously hitting the ball at baseball practice. He had a good time, but it was boring without his pals. Being alone gave Mike plenty of time to think. He thought about how strange it was having another test so soon, and about his teacher's cryptic comments. It all really didn't make sense. He was right to blow it off. Or was he?

      "There must be some reason this is happening," he thought. "This is also part of God's plans, and it must be for the best. I can't really change the situation, so maybe I really should just try to see it through." Mike pictured his friends, and thought about them studying together and how great they would feel, and how he would feel too when they pulled good marks. The more he thought about it, the more convinced he got. He decided to run over to Joe's house to see if they were still studying.

      "Hi guys..." he said, as he walked into Joe's room. "Got room for one more?"

      The three exchanged hi-fives all around and settled down to study. Only one more day until the test, and Mike had a lot of catching up to do. Later that night, Mike went to sleep happy.

      The day after the test, Mr. Barker was all smiles. "Good news!" he said. "I'm sure you all saw the poster for the school trip planned for the eighth graders. When I heard about it, I asked the principal if I could bring the 7th graders since we were learning the same thing and we all enjoyed the material so much. The principal wasn't sure, but finally he said to me, 'Look. Let's see how seriously they take it. Give them a test, and any student who scores above 90 will be welcome to come on the trip.' I couldn't tell you because the principal warned me not to. I'm happy to say that every single one of you will be going on the trip!"

      Mike breathed a big sigh of relief. Now it all made sense. Was he ever glad that he had decided to study after all. He had almost missed this great trip. Mike realized that even if we sometimes don't understand it, everything that happens is truly for the best, as long as we don't get in our own way!

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Ages 3-5

Q. How did Mike feel when his teacher announced they were having another test?
A. He was angry and confused. He thought it wasn't fair and didn't want to study.

Q. How did he feel about it once he found out that the reason they had to take the test was so they could go on the great trip?
A. He understood that it had really all been for the good, even though he hadn't seen it. He was glad that he had studied after all.


Ages 6-9

Q. What made Mike change his mind and decide to study?
A. He considered the situation, and realized that even though having to take a second test seemed strange, and unfair, that it must be concealing some sort of hidden good that God wanted him to experience. He followed this intuition, studied hard, and ended up winning in the end.

Q. Does this mean that a person should simply accept whatever happens to him, and not try to change things for the better?
A. Not at all. God wants us to be active participants in our lives, and the world. However, there are times when there is really nothing practical to be done to change what is going on. In such cases, rather than panicking, or letting ourselves get down, we should surrender our will to God's, and the situation He has given us, and rest confidently knowing that it is truly for the best.

Q. Can you think of something that seemed bad at first but then turned out to be good?


Ages 10 and Up

Q. Why do you think that God often conceals the good things He's doing for us, rather than giving them to us straight out?
A. A lot depends upon how you define 'good'. If we equate good with being easy or comfortable, indeed it would seem like the straight path would be preferable. However a much deeper and more satisfying form of 'good' is attaining character development, and a spiritual outlook on life. The very process of grappling with challenges, holding strong to our trust in God, and seeing the good emerge, is a sure fire formula to develop and acquire this ultimate spiritual good.

Q. What personal qualities do you think would help a person to be able to successfully navigate through confusing times, when the good in his life is hard to see?
A. One very important quality is humility, or an ability to admit to one's self that there are things that are simply beyond our capacity to understand. By realizing that we can't understand the reasons for everything that happens and building a more trusting relationship with God, we will have achieved a much deeper spiritual outlook on life that will serve us well, both in good times and times of darkness.

Q. Can you think of something that seemed bad at first but then turned out to be good?


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