It's nice to get something for nothing, but somehow we appreciate it more when we work hard for something ourselves. In this week's portion, Moses tells the people about the special new land they are about to enter and how it's already all set up for them to move into without having to do any work to prepare it. There were orchards already planted, and houses already built. But at the same time he warns them not to take this free gift for granted, and to be sure to keep living with the right values, and acting the right way. He understood that it's human nature to appreciate and value things that we've earned, more than those which come for free.


In our story, a girl learns the difference between simply owning something and earning it.


Allison jumped up, as she heard her dad's car pull up into the driveway. He walked into the door, and the girl craned her neck to see: did he have them, or didn't he?

Briefcase ... coat draped over his arm ... and YES! She squealed with delight and hugged her father as she deftly took the CitySports shopping bag from his hand.

"Wow, thanks SO much, Dad!" Allison said, quickly unwrapping the gleaming new, ice blue TXL-Professional roller blades.

That morning, Allison had begged her father to get them for her. And sure enough, even though it wasn't her birthday or anything like that, here they were. The girl wasted no time strapping them on her feet, and practically flew out the door, flashing her dad a quick smile on the way out.

At first, Allison carefully stored the skates under her bed when she wasn't using them, but soon it seemed so much easier to just leave them on the stoop outside her front door. Her parents had urged her to take better care of the expensive skates, warning that they could get lost or ruined out there.

"Of course they're right," she thought. But somehow, the blades just never seemed to make it through the door. After all, Allison figured, they were going to wear out eventually anyway, and if worse came to worst, she could always just get another pair, couldn't she?

The next day, Allison quickly ate breakfast and ran out of the house. She planned to spend the sunny morning roller-blading with her friends. But when she opened the front door, she was shocked. The skates were gone!

"Oh no!" she shuddered.

Allison frantically searched all around the yard, but nothing doing. The blades had disappeared. The shaken girl burst back into the house where her parents were sipping coffee in the kitchen. She told them her sad tale, and ended off by asking, "PLEASE just get one more pair?"

But her mom and dad, though sad about her loss, grimly shook their heads and told her that they felt like she hadn't taken good enough care of her skates. If she wanted a new pair, she would have to do chores around the house until she earned enough money to replace them. Allison was crushed. It just wasn't fair! But she really wanted the blades. With no other choice, she sat down with her mom and decided which chores she would have to do.

Allison worked hard and kept track of the money she earned. Eventually she saved up enough to buy a plain set of inexpensive roller blades. They were nowhere near as nice as the ones she had lost, but to replace those, it seemed to Allison that she'd have to keep on working forever.

It felt good to be back on wheels, even if they weren't nearly as cool or fast as the first pair. Somehow working for them made her appreciate them more. Allison always made sure to bring in the skates when she was finished, and would wipe them clean from even the smallest speck of dirt.

One day, Allison was skating in front of her house when she heard her brother Steve excitedly call out her name. She skated over his way and was amazed to see her beaming brother waving her first pair of skates in the air.

"Great news!" Steve burst out. "I found your TLX's in the garage. The gardener had moved them when he cleaned the yard! I'll bet you can't wait to use them instead of those clunkers you have on now, huh?"

Allison thanked her brother. She took hold of the fancy skates and bent down to strap them on. But suddenly the girl changed her mind. She stood up and handed them back to her surprised brother. "You know what, Steve," she said. "You keep them. I know they're nicer than the ones I have now, but these seem to ride smoother. I think it's all the hard work I put into them that makes them go so fast," she added with a wink, as she skated happily off.


Ages 3-5

Q. How did Allison feel about her first pair of skates?
A. She liked them, but since she got them as a present without earning them she didn't appreciate or take such good care of them.

Q. Did she feel differently about the second pair?
A. Since she had to work for the second pair, they meant more to her and she tried harder to keep them nice.

Ages 6-9

Q. Why do you think Allison preferred the second pair of roller blades if the first ones were so much nicer?
A. Although the first ones were fancier and more expensive, since they came to her as an unearned gift, Allison didn't feel so attached to them. It's human nature to like and value the things that we've earned more than those we get for free. That's why the second pair, which she earned, meant more to her.

Q. Was it fair of Allison's parents not to replace her lost roller blades right away?
A. We might think that they would have been nicer or fairer if they did. But by making Allison earn her second pair, her parents taught her the valuable life-lesson of taking responsibility. This is a gift to Allison that will last forever, and is worth more than a thousand pairs of blades.

Q. Can you think of something you worked hard to get and really appreciate because of the effort you put into it?

Ages 10 and Up

Q. Our sages refer to unearned gifts as the 'bread of shame.' What does this mean?
A. It feels good to get the things we want, and you might think that it will feel even better to get it for nothing. But the opposite is actually true. Getting something we haven't earned or don't really deserve can make us feel uneasy because we are becoming dependent on the giver. God wants us to become independent and actively use our free will to earn the physical and spiritual gifts we attain in life. This way we become like God who is totally independent.

Q. How does this 'bread of shame' concept pertain to our relationship with God?
A. God is the ultimate giver of unearned gifts. Everything is His already, and He doesn't need anything. Everything any of us has is ultimately a free gift from God. Yet when we make a gesture to 'pay God back' for everything He's given us by living the kind of life that He asks of us, and being good Godly people, our relationship with Him grows stronger. It is almost as if we've earned what we have which is a much better feeling.

Q. Can you think of something you worked hard to get and really appreciate because of the effort you put into it?