Commit To It!
Matot (Numbers 30:2-32:42 )
We should keep to our commitments and not try to get out of them. In this week's Torah portion (Num. 32:6), Moses tells the leaders of the tribes to stick to their commitment of helping others settle in the land, even if they, themselves, have decided to settle elsewhere. We too should take our responsibilities and commitments seriously.
In our story, a kid has to choose whether to keep to a commitment - or get out of it.
Jon was getting ready to go out for his weekly volunteer session at the local children's hospital, when the doorbell rang.
"Hey ... Jonnie!" his buddy, Greg, greeted him with a high-five. He had a bottle cooler strung over his shoulder and a baseball cap on his head.
"What's going on, Greg?" Jon smiled.
"Not going on," the boy answered, "but going out! You and me, that is."
"What are you talking about?" Jon said. "We didn't make up to go out today. Besides, I already have something I have to do..."
"Well, whatever it is - cancel it," Greg grinned, pulling some printed tickets out of his pocket, "'cuz I've got us two bleacher seats to today's big ballgame at the stadium!"
"You're kidding me!" Jon said, wide-eyed. "I read in the paper that that game's been sold out for over a week."
"Well, why shouldn't it be? Two best teams in the league are playing head to head. But, I - make that we, managed to get tickets, and I only had to pay the regular price - which we can both afford. They're not the greatest seats, like box seats or anything - but we'll be there! So what do you say, bud?"
"I say ... I say," Jonnie looked at the tempting tickets and scrunched up his face, "I say, I would absolutely love to go ... but I can't."
"What?! Why not?"
"Because, I have this, you know ... commitment. I go every week to the children's hospital to take some kids, who aren't well enough to live at home, but who are well enough to go out from time to time, on outings - you know, picnics and stuff."
Greg waved his hand. "That's really nice of you," he said, "but this week you're going to just have to take the day off."
"I can't do that," Jon said. "The staff is counting on me. Besides..." he looked at the precious tickets and felt his willpower weakening," what could I tell them, so they won't get disappointed, or upset at me for not coming?"
"That part's easy," Greg smiled, "Just hold your nose, like this," he pinched his two nostrils shut, "an tehl dem you cand cub b'cause you godda bad code."
"Tell them I can't come because I've got a bad cold? That's a great idea!" Jon agreed. Greg picked up Jon's cell phone and handed it to him, "Okay, dial away," he rhymed, "and soon the ballgame we'll both watch play!"
Jon started to dial, a smile on his lips, but then started to think. Should I really do this? For sure the hospital staff would understand if I said I'm sick. They'd even insist that I don't come for the safety of the kids. But, on the other hand, it isn't true - and even more, they are counting on me to come ... canceling out at the last minute really isn't right...
"Um, hello," Jonnie muttered as the hospital's volunteer coordinator secretary answered the phone, "This is Jon Randal, I just wanted to tell you..." he paused and took a deep breath, "that I plan to be there on time today to volunteer," he said, relieved.
Greg's face fell, as Jon's rose to the sky at what he heard next over the phone...
"It's amazing you called, Jon," the secretary said. "I was just about to call you! You'll be taking the kids on a special trip today - to the baseball stadium. The team donated free box-seat tickets for the hospital's kids who are well enough to go and for those taking care of them. The players will also be having a special pre-game autograph session for our group. I just wanted to make sure you brought whatever you needed to be comfortable at the game. See you soon!"
Jon's head spun as he clicked off the phone. Instead of throwing them a 'curveball' and ducking out of his commitment, he'd decided to 'pitch straight' - and because he did, he'd hit a 'homerun' - in more ways than one!
Q. How did Jon feel when Greg offered him a ticket to the ballgame?
A. He felt like he wanted to go, even though he had a commitment to do something else.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He'd decided to keep his commitment, and was glad that he did.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Jon learned that day?
A. He'd been tempted to get out of a commitment he'd made, but in the end, he chose to act responsibly and was glad that he did.
Q. Do you think Jon would have felt good about his decision, even if he hadn't ended up going to the game anyway?
A. While he would have felt disappointed about missing the game, deep down he would have felt good about himself and the decision he had made. When we make choices - even hard choices -to do the right, ethical thing, we will always ultimately feel good that we did.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Is it ethical to break a commitment, if one has committed to do something against his values?
A. While it is important to keep commitments, it is even more important to live according to our values. If we have committed to do something genuinely wrong - and not just unpleasant or inconvenient - the right thing to do is break that commitment.
Q. What if a person feels that keeping a commitment is too hard for him - what should he do?
A. In that case, one should at least try to be truthful about it and be willing to face the consequences, rather than act deceitfully.