A test isn't only something we take at school - it can be something that makes us choose between right and wrong. In this week's Torah portion (Gen. 22:1) we learn how God tested Abraham. And in our lives, too, we can become better people when we 'pass the test' and choose to do what's right.

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In our story, a kid discovers there's more than one way to 'pass a test.'


Robbie had just settled in, placing his textbooks, notepad, calculator and pencils neatly on the smooth, white desk of the library study cubicle. Though he was a good student, he knew he'd have to really dig in and put in a full day of cramming if he was going to ace his geometry mid-term test.

He opened up his book and dug into the first practice example when he heard some loud talking on the other side of the cubicle. He was about to go ask whoever it was to quiet down, when he thought he recognized the voices. Curious, he listened in:

"Please, Kevin, you've gotta help me get ready for this test!" It was Mike, that skinny guy in his class who always looked nervous and never raised his hand.

"No way! I'm too busy studying myself to waste time helping you."

"But you don't understand," Mike was pleading, "If I flunk another math test, my dad said he was going to give away my bike!"

"Your bike?"

"Yeah. He said I waste too much time riding and not enough time studying, that's why I mess up in school. But it's not true - I really try. I just can't lose my bike. I can't! It's the only good thing I have!"

"Hey, look, Mike," Robbie could hear Kevin say, "I'm sorry you're in trouble and everything, but I simply can't spare the time to help you. Now please leave me alone."

Then there was quiet. Robbie could see Mike, holding his textbook, shuffle away from Kevin's desk and go sit by himself at a table at the far side of the room.

Okay, Robbie told himself, let's get studying.

As he started on the examples, Robbie saw that although he remembered how to do most of them, he was definitely rusty and this last-minute study session was just what he needed to make the difference between doing good and doing great.

He shot another glance over to Mike's table and saw him open the book, stare at it a few seconds, then put his head down on top of it like he was sleeping. But Robbie knew he wasn't sleeping because he could see the kid's shoulders shaking every few seconds - as if he was crying.

Poor kid, Robbie thought. Too bad I don't have the time to help him. There's just no way I could - not if I want to ace the test...

* * *

Mike, head still down on the table, was in the middle of a miserable daydream about how lousy life was going to be stuck at home all the time without his bike, when he thought he felt someone tapping him on the shoulder. He looked up with a start through red-rimmed eyes.

"Hey, sorry to bother you, Mike … but I was sitting by myself trying to study for the midterm and for some reason I just can't concentrate. Would you mind if we, like, worked together on it?"

Mike wanted to pinch himself to make sure he wasn't dreaming. Here was Robbie, one of the class brains, asking me to study with him!

"If you get stuck on something I'll help you, and if I get stuck, you can help me. What do you say?" Robbie asked.

Mike didn't have to say anything, because his amazed, thrilled and grateful eyes said it all.

As the two boys sat down together, Robbie had no idea what kind of grade he was going to end up getting on the midterm, but one thing he knew for sure - he had already passed his test with flying colors.

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Ages 3-5

Q. How did Robbie feel at first about helping Mike studying for his test?
A. He felt like he didn't have time to help him.

Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He felt good that he passed the test of being selfish and decided to help a kid in trouble.


Ages 6-9

Q. What life-lesson do you think someone could learn from this story?
A. Many times in life, we are tested to choose between right and wrong, generous and stingy, kind and cruel, etc. When we pass our tests and choose properly we grow into better, kinder and more spiritual people.

Q. What do you think was Robbie's 'test'?
A. He had in front of him a choice whether to help a sincere, but unfortunate classmate whose quality of life really depended on his passing the math test - or merely devoting all his time efforts to himself, knowing full well that he was going to do reasonably well on the test either way. He chose kindness over selfishness and doing so, passed his test.


Ages 10 and Up

Q. Does passing our tests always mean not doing for ourselves?
A. Not necessarily. Although many times the proper choice is to be altruistic, there are times that we must take care of our own legitimate needs and thus passing the test might mean saying 'no.'

Q. One of our sages once said 'Life is nothing but tests.' What do you think this means?
A. God gave us life and put us in the world to grow spiritually. This growth comes when we freely choose to do, say and even think the right thing. Therefore, we are constantly placed in situations where we can make those choices.


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