Making a Return
Mishpatim (Exodus 21-24 )
This week's Torah portion is very important. It's about how to live peacefully with the people around us. We all naturally get along better, if each person is treated properly by others, and the Torah tells us just what that means. One way is that when we find something that belongs to somebody else, we should be careful to return it to him or her, even if we don't like the person who owns it.
The Torah teaches us to return lost objects. In our story, two brothers have a chance to do just that.
THE WAY THE BALL BOUNCES
Sam and Dave were walking down their favorite trail in the woods behind their house when suddenly Dave saw something bright orange behind a bush.
"What's that?" he thought, as he bent over to check it out.
It was a brand new basketball.
"What a find!" said Sam as his brother picked it up.
But the boys hearts sank when they saw the name "Wally Krieger" written on the ball. Wally was a nasty kid who lived on their block.
"The ball must have gone over the fence while he was shooting some hoops in his back yard," said Dave.
"Well that's his tough luck" sneered Sam. "Finders keepers losers weepers," he added with a grin.
But Dave shook his head. "No way Sam, we can't just take a ball that isn't ours."
"Well, okay," said Sam. "I guess we shouldn't take it. We'll leave it here and let mean old Wally look for it himself."
"Uh uh," Dave said. "Let's give the guy back his ball. We found it and we'll return it. It's only right."
The brothers knocked on Wally's door.
"Whadda you guys want?" grumbled Wally as he opened the door.
"I think this belongs to you," said Dave. "We found it in the woods out back."
Wally couldn't believe his eyes. "Wow, thanks guys!" he said "You wanna come out back and shoot some hoops?" he added with a smile.
Sam and Dave had returned a ball and found a new friend.
Q. How did Wally feel when the guys returned his basketball?
A. He felt really happy to get his ball back, and he felt good about the boys who returned it.
Q. What should we do if we find something that is not ours? Why?
A. We should try to return it because we cannot keep something that is not ours.
Q. Why wasn't it enough just to leave the ball where they found it?
A. Because it's important for people to care about each other, and also each other's property. In our case, the boys knew to whom the ball belonged; to leave it there would have been uncaring and irresponsible.
Q. Wally was grumpy when the boys first came to his house. Why did he become friendly when they returned his ball?
A. He saw they cared about him and he felt grateful.
Age 10 and Up
Q. How does respecting someone else's property affect society?
A. When people know others respect their property, they are likely to respond in kind. They don't feel as insecure about their possessions and are willing to share more. In the end, everyone gets along better.
Q. How far should you go to return something you find? What if:
1) There's a name on it you don't recognize. Should you try to find him?
2) There are only initials, or no name at all. Should you try to figure out who it is? What should you do?
A. The answer depends on what is possible to do:
1) If there is a name on the object, the right thing to do would be to try to find the owner. Perhaps you could try to look up his name in the phone book, or report it to a local "lost and found." You can put up a notice where you found the object.
2) If there are only initials or no name at all, you could put notices up in the neighborhood, or put an ad in the local paper. When somebody comes to claim the object, you should ask him or her to describe unique details of the lost object before showing it to them -- that way you can know he really is the owner.