When 'No' Means 'Yes'
Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89 )
Sometimes saying 'no' to ourselves can make us even happier than saying 'yes.' In this week's portion, we learn about a Nazarite - someone who commits to abstain from wine, in order to achieve a higher goal. We too can achieve more of our important life goals if we find the inner strength to say 'no' to things that will distract us from getting there.
In our story, a couple of kids have to choose when to say 'yes' and when to say 'no.'
"Hey, good catch!" Mark called out to his buddy, Hal, who'd fielded the fly-ball his friend had batted to him as they practiced together to prepare for tomorrow's start of the junior-league baseball season.
"I'd call it more of a 'miracle' catch," Hal laughed, tossing the ball back to his friend and shaking his head, "with this small, worn-out baseball glove of mine."
"Yeah, I know what you mean," said Mark. "I've had my glove since little league and if barely even fits on my hand anymore. That's why I'm going today to buy a new Pro-Star baseball glove. Wanna get one, too?"
"Sounds great," Hal said, "but Pro-Star gloves cost a fortune - and my fortune is a little 'un-fortunate' at the moment, if you know what I mean."
"Sure do," smiled Mark. "But the sports store at the mall is having a 70% off sale one day only, so I figure even I should be able to afford that."
"So what are we waiting for?"
Each of the boys rushed home, emptied out their allowance savings banks - which had just about the same amount of money in them - and biked out to the mall.
"Hey, the sports store's this way," Mark said, as Hal slowed down in front of the mall's food pavilion.
"Yeah, I know, but the bike-ride made me hungry. Let's get some burgers."
Mark shook his head. "I'm also kinda hungry, but I wanna save my money for the glove. We can eat lunch when we get home."
"You can deny yourself if you want - not me!" Hal waved him off and lined up at the fast-food counter and placed his order. Mark, his mouth watering, waited for his friend to eat.
"Okay? Let's go," Mark said.
"Not so fast," said Hal, lining up at the counter again. "A meal like that has to be washed down with a jumbo fruit shake. Want to get one, too?"
Mark shook his head and took a tepid sip from the mall water bubbler as Hal gulped down the fruity froth. Finally they'd set out for the sports store, when Hal made a u-turn.
"What now?" Mark asked.
"Didn't you see that poster?" said Hal, "A hot new music disc just came out. Let's go check it out."
"But what about the baseball glove?" Mark protested.
"I didn't say I was gonna buy the disc," Hal said. "You go to the sports store and I'll meet you there. Okay?"
Mark shrugged and walked on. Sure enough, he found a great baseball glove that would last him for years at a price he was able to afford. He waited for Hal to show. But after a long time and no Hal, Mark just bought the glove and went home.
The next day at baseball league practice, Mark who was already there, waved at Hal, whom he saw walking slowly to the field.
"Sorry, I missed you at the store, buddy," Mark said. "I waited, but you were a no-show. Anyway," he held up his baseball-gloved hand, "I ended up getting a Pro-Star 201, which model did you get?"
Hal winced. "Um, I couldn't really afford any of them. I guess I'd spent too much on the junk food, the music disc - which wasn't even that good - and all the other junk I bought along the way." He opened up his equipment bag and pulled out … his small, beaten up, old glove. "So I guess it'll be one more baseball season with this." Hal eyed his friend's great new glove and tried to smile, but inside he had the feeling that he'd somehow 'struck out.'
Q. How did Hal feel at first about buying things for himself at the mall before he got to the sports store?
A. He felt good that he was getting whatever he felt like getting.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He felt like he'd blown it by getting junk instead of what he really wanted much more.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Hal learned from what happened?
A. While it seems more enjoyable to always say 'yes' to oneself instead of 'no' -sometimes holding back on the small things is what it takes to make the big things happen.
Q. Do you think Mark 'denied' himself by not getting the food and other stuff with Hal?
A. While he did have to hold himself back from some immediate pleasures, the long-term pleasure of having a long lasting, top-quality baseball glove, more than made up for it.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Supposing a person can really afford all of his desires, do you think there's any reason he should ever tell himself 'no'?
A. Perhaps on an immediate, practical level he won't lose out by always saying 'yes,' but he will miss out on the valuable character trait of self-discipline, which allows a person to truly grow and feel content.
Q. If so, is it better to always deny oneself everything beyond one's basic needs?
A. No. The Torah way is to achieve balance. To enjoy the pleasures of the world - yet not at the expense of our deeper values and goals.