When someone asks of us a favor, even one that we could easily do, sometimes we feel torn. We may want to be helpful, but something else inside tells us to hold back and save our time, energy, or property all for ourselves.

In this week's Torah portion, the Jewish people were on their way to the Land of Israel and needed to pass briefly through the land of Edom to get there. Although they offered to pay and promised that they wouldn't do any damage along the way, the Edomites selfishly refused to let them pass. They even threatened to attack them, if they tried. The Torah teaches us to try to overcome our selfish impulse, and be generous and helpful whenever we reasonably can, and to do our part to become kinder people within a kinder world.


In our story, a girl faces the selfishness dilemma.


It was one of those long, summer afternoons that seem to go on forever. Jill and her younger sister Tracy had totally run out of things to do, and were bored out of their wits.

In desperation, they had even dug through their old games closet that was usually used for nothing much other than gathering dust. But even this seemed to come up dry, until Tracy triumphantly pulled something out a wrinkled, old cardboard box.

"Hey, look at this!" she called out with glee.

Jill, hopeful, turned to examine the find and groaned. It was some old picture book of hers. Jill hadn't touched the book or even thought about it in years. "Not interested," she said.

But Tracy was enthralled. "It's so nice. I'm going to look at it, okay?"

Jill was about to shrug and let her take it, when something inside bristled. It was, after all her book. Why should she have to share it?

"Put it back. It's mine," she said authoritatively.

Her sister protested. "Why can't I look at it? You're not even using it!"

The kid had a point, but still, Jill just didn't feel like sharing. "I said 'no', and besides, I changed my mind. That book is one of my favorites, and I want to look at it ... by myself."

With that, she pulled the book out of her younger sister's disappointed hands. Jill sat down on the nearby couch and began to read as Tracy sulked in the corner. The book was way too young for her and not very interesting anymore, but still it was hers, and she just didn't feel like sharing.

She flipped through the pages, and smiled as she came upon a familiar picture that she still remembered after all these years. But her smile soon turned to shock, and embarrassment as she noticed the caption underneath 'SHARING IS CARING!' Suddenly it all came back to her in a flash. The whole book was about how important it is to be kind and share one's things. That was why she used to love the book.

Jill looked over at her sad sister and felt terrible. "What am I doing?" she asked herself. "I'm certainly not acting very sharing now! I don't really care about this old book anymore, but it would mean a lot to her."

"Hey, Tracy!" she called. "On second thought, you're welcome to look at the book, and if you want you can even keep it."

Tracy's eyes lit up as she came over to claim her treasure. Jill smiled as she once again got a lot of pleasure from her old book, not by keeping it, but by keeping its message.


Ages 3-5

Q. How did Jill feel about sharing her book at first?
A. Even though she didn't really want the book, she didn't feel like sharing.

Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She realized what a good and important thing it is to give and to share.

Ages 6-9

Q. Why didn't Jill want to let her sister look at the book?
A. Everyone has part of himself that is stingy and selfish that just doesn't want to give to others. This is a part of human nature. Our job is to try to overcome our selfishness and learn how to give.

Q. How can we learn to build the giving part of our character?
A. One way is to practice being giving, even when we don't feel like it. In time it will become easier. Also we should try to remember that God, Who is the ultimate giver, is always sharing His universe with us, so the least we can do is show our appreciation by sharing with others.

Q. Can you think of a practical way you can give to someone today?

Ages 10 and Up

Q. Can someone be caring without being sharing? Why?
A. True caring is more than just an expression of sympathy or concern. If it's real, it will bring us to action. It requires giving or sharing of ourselves on some level to help someone, or improve a situation.

Q. Why would someone refrain from sharing something he himself doesn't want?
A. God created human beings with a dual nature, with a choice of whether to be givers, or takers. One of life's main lessons, and a major stepping stone to spiritual growth, is to develop the giving side of ourselves, and diminishing our tendency to hold back.

Q. Can you think of a practical way you can give to someone today?