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Don't Be Spoiled

Ha'azinu (Deuteronomy 32 )

by Nesanel Yoel Safran

We have to be careful that good things and good fortune don't make us spoiled. In this week's Torah portion (Deut. 32:15-16) we learn how having a lot can sometimes cause people to act haughty and obnoxious. We should try our best to avoid letting the good things we have go to our head.


In our story, a kid sees that better things don't always make for a better person.


The best thing that ever happened to my friend, Debby, was the worst thing that ever happened to me. Let me explain.

You see, Debby and I had been best friends since first grade. I guess you could say we just had a lot in common. We always liked the same foods, music - and even had the same sense of humor.

When we got a little older, we'd go to the mall together, bargain hunting. Both she and I have 'million dollar' taste - but only more like a 'ten dollar' budget. Neither of our families had very much money, so we both did our best to make every penny count.

At least until a little while ago.

I'm really not sure what happened - maybe her mom or dad got a great new job, or they won the lottery - but all of the sudden they're doing all this remodeling on Debby's house, fancy new this - expensive new that. She got all new furniture in her room, really nice stuff.

I was so happy for her, like she deserved it. I mean she was such a good, down-to-earth kid.

Notice that I said 'was.'

Somehow, once her house, clothes and furniture started to change, Debby did too. I understood she didn't want to go bargain hunting with me any more - after all, she didn't need it. But how come whenever we'd see each other in school and I was wearing something new, she had to make sure to ask me loudly - so the kids around could hear - how I'd manage to find something normal looking on the bargain-basement table?

But I tried to let that stuff roll off my back. After all, we were best friends for years and there was plenty we could do together besides shopping, right? For instance, for years, once a week, she would come over to my house for a 'homework date' and while we didn't always get so much homework done - we always had a blast.

Well, one week she came over as usual, but something about her just wasn't the same. She kept looking around my house like there was something wrong, like she was grossed-out or something by it. Now like I said, we live pretty simply and most of our stuff isn't so fancy or new, but our house is always clean and neat and it's not like Debby never saw it before, either.

I tried not to pay attention to her 'act' and thought things would pass, but the last straw was when my mom served us a snack of some fruit and Debby - can you believe this? - looked at it, wrinkled her nose, then looked up at my mom and said in this funny kind of voice, "I don't know why people buy marked-down produce. It's not so fresh and sometimes even tastes a little spoiled."

Well, as my mom turned as red as one of the apples on the plate and hurried out of the room, I knew right then and there that while I didn't know much about produce, my ex-best friend Debby had unfortunately become plenty 'fresh,' and more than a little 'spoiled.'


Ages 3-5

Q. How did Debby act, after getting new, fancier things?
A. She started acting obnoxious and spoiled.

Q. How did that make her friend feel?
A. She felt hurt and embarrassed about the things Debby said to her and her mom.


Ages 6-9

Q. What life-lesson do you think someone could learn from this story?
A. While we should strive to get and have nicer things, we shouldn't let having 'more' make us think 'less' of those who don't.

Q. Why do you think Debby started acting like she did?
A. It can happen that a person makes the mistake of thinking that when she has more, she has become a more important and better person and can start to look down on others. Everything we have is a gift from God and it should make us grateful, not conceited.


Ages 10 and Up

Q. How can a person with a lot, avoid the trap of acting obnoxious?
A. We have to remember that 'what we have' and 'who we are' are two different things. It is only once we identify with our possessions instead of our real self, or soul, that we let our good fortune make us haughty.

Q. A sage once said that no matter what happens to us, it is good to say 'this too will pass.' What benefit do you think there could be in doing that?
A. When we remember that all situations - good or bad - are ultimately temporary, we won't let hard times crush us and we won't let good times make us lose our humility.



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