Shmini (Leviticus 9-11 )
When is it right to get involved in other people's business? When we can help them. In this week's Torah portion, (Lev. 10:16-20) although Moses is criticizing the actions of Elazar and Itamar - and not his own - Aaron steps in and speaks up in their defense. So too, we should be willing to speak up and defend others.
In our story, a kid has to choose whether to speak out or sneak out.
Jeff looked out over the white, snowy horizon. The unexpected snowfall had turned his usually 'blah' looking neighborhood into something right out of a greeting card, with sledding kids, hanging icicles and jolly snowmen. Deciding it was a scene he'd like to see again - especially on a hot, summer afternoon, Jeff took his camera out of his carry bag and started to take a short video of the serene surroundings.
Suddenly, he was almost knocked over by the commotion as a large dog blustered by, kicking up snow with all four legs as he went along, until ... boom! -the dog ran smack into a snowman, knocking it over onto its back.
Jeff chuckled at the comical scene, put his camera away and went on, when he heard some yelling from behind him.
"I should bury you in the snow for doing that!"
"But I didn't t-touch your snowman, I p-p-promise," Jeff heard a young voice quiver.
Jeff turned to see Larry, one of the neighborhood big kids, standing over a smaller boy and waving the snow shovel he had in his hand like a club.
"I'm going to teach you a lesson for busting my snowman you're never gonna forget!..."
Picking up the pace, Jeff began to hightail away from the scene that could be turning quite nasty any moment. Jeff felt sorry for that younger kid - and knew he was innocent, but 'not getting involved' was something Jeff always figured was the best policy and there was no reason to change that policy now... Or was there?
"Um, excuse me," Jeff said, hardly believing he was saying the words.
"Huh? Yeah?" the menacing-looking Larry turned his way.
"Uh, I was watching and I saw that the kid," he pointed to the trembling younger boy, "really didn't bust your snowman."
"Yeah, right. You're just trying to get him off the hook," the big kid bellowed. "Now get outta here before I teach you a lesson, too!"
Jeff, seeing he wasn't going to change the kid's mind, was about to take his advice and turn on his heels, when he remembered... He pulled out his camera and pushed a couple of buttons.
"I've got it all on video. See, look, it was that big, black dog who wrecked your snowman," he said.
"Wow, I can't believe it. Betrayed by my own dog!" the big kid looked up from the display screen and shook his head. "Hey, sorry kid," he said to the younger boy, who gratefully went on his way.
As Jeff put his camera away, he was glad that he'd gotten the picture in focus -and that he had the right focus about not being afraid to speak up to help someone in trouble.
Q. How did Jeff feel at first about going to help the younger kid?
A. Although he felt bad for him, he didn't want to speak up to help him.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He was glad he had been able to help him.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Jeff learned that day?
A. He had shied away from getting involved and helping people when he could, but he rightly decided to speak up and saved an innocent kid from getting hurt.
Q. How can we encourage ourselves to speak up for others?
A. One way is to put ourselves in the 'shoes' of the one who needs help and think about how much we would appreciate someone who cared enough to speak up.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Our sages teach that each of us is 'a guarantor' for one another. What do you think that means?
A. We have to look at the next person not as a detached stranger whose problems don't concern us, but rather as someone we care about and are willing to help if and when we can.
Q. Should one get involved to speak up for someone if by doing so we put ourselves in danger?
A. Certainly we shouldn't foolishly endanger ourselves. However we should be willing to face a certain amount of stress or discomfort in order to help someone else in need.