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Words of Gold

Ha'azinu (Deuteronomy 32 )

by Nesanel Yoel Safran


What's more precious than diamonds or gold? A person's word of honor. Yet it isn't always easy to keep to our word, and we may even feel tempted at times to go back on what we've promised. The Torah portion this week teaches us how great it is to be reliable and keep our commitments. We learn this from God, who is described as the "faithful God" who always keeps to His word, and is 100% reliable. He is an unchanging "Rock" of stability who fulfills everything He says, even if it takes time before we are able to see it happen.

The Torah urges us to make our word into gold, and become the type of person that people know they can count on.

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In our story a girl keeps to her word and shows what it means to be a friend.


      It was the usual rush as the kids all sprinted from their lockers out to the parking lot where the line of yellow school busses were waiting to take them home. Amy Stern felt a tap on the shoulder just as she had closed her locker and was about to dash.

      "Amy, what are you doing this afternoon?" asked a girl in large wire-rimmed glasses.

      "Not really anything, Lori, I guess," answered Amy offhandedly.

      "Well, um, would you mind if we got together to do homework this afternoon? You see, I'm a little behind in math, and, um ... I could really use some help."

      Amy shrugged her shoulders. She wasn't really looking forward to spending the afternoon doing homework with Lori, but why not? Nothing else was going on. "Okay," she finally said. "I can meet you at the Hallmark Library at 3:30 if you want."

      The girl's face lit up. "Gee thanks so much! I can't wait. 3:30 it is!" And with that she grabbed her book bag and rushed down the corridor of their school building.

      When Amy got home she was surprised to see a note on the door to her room. "Jennifer called," it said.

      "Jennifer?!" thought Amy, delighted to see the name of an old friend who had moved away a few months ago. Quickly she dialed the local phone number scribbled on the bottom of the note.

      "Hello?" answered Jennifer's familiar voice.

      "Jenny, is that you? What's up? Where are you?" Amy felt excited just hearing her friend's voice.

      "Guess what?" said Jennifer. "I'm in town! My mom was flying in for her monthly business meeting and I got to tag along. But we're only here for a few more hours. I'm staying at the Siesta Hotel downtown. I called to invite you to join us for lunch. We have so much to catch up on. Whatdya say, Ames?"

      "What do I say?" answered the thrilled girl. "It's a dream come true!"

      Just then Amy glanced down at her book bag. "Oh no!" she groaned, remembering her promise to Lori. She looked at her watch. It was 3:00. "Um... Jenny, let me call you right back, okay?"

      "Okay. Is everything all right? I really hope we can get together."

      "Me too!" said Amy, sounding a little panicked as she hung up the phone. She quickly dialed Lori's number.

      "Maybe I can reach her to cancel before she leaves for the library," Amy thought. But to her chagrin, Lori's mother told her that Lori had just gotten on the bus and was on her way, and she hadn't taken her cell phone. Amy looked up the phone number of the library to leave Lori a message.

      No luck. Her heart sank when a recording came on the line that the library's phone was temporarily out of order. "Now what do I do?" thought Amy. "Lori's going to be waiting for me, I've tried everything to reach her, and there's no time to get to the library to tell her, and to get to the hotel way across town in time. But I guess Lori will just have to understand. After all how often do I get a chance to see Jennifer?"

      She started to dial up Jennifer to tell her she'd come. But then Amy had a second thought. "But I promised Lori I'd meet her. She'll be sitting there just waiting for me. And even if I could reach her and let her know I can't make it, she's counting on me to come. How can I just not show up?" The girl stood there almost trance-like as she pondered her decision. After a moment she took a deep breath. It wouldn't be easy, but she knew what she had to do.

      Hesitantly, Amy dialed her friend in the hotel. "Jenny, I'd love to see you ... but I just can't. I gave my word."

      She explained the whole story, and kept apologizing.

      "Amy, there's nothing to be sorry about," assured Jennifer. "I'll miss you terribly, but I respect you for what you're doing. That reliability is just the kind of thing that made me want to be your friend and makes me want to stay friends with you forever. Hopefully it will work out next month, when my Mom comes back."

      The two old friends enjoyed a quick chat, then Amy grabbed her books, and headed for the library, confident and happy that she had made the right choice.

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Ages 3-5

Q. How would you feel if somebody was supposed to come to your house to play with you but in the end he never came?
A. I would fell sad that they didn't do what they said they would.

Q. Is it okay to promise somebody something and then change your mind and not keep your word just because you don't feel like it? Why or why not?
A. It's not okay, because it's important to be reliable and keep all promises whenever possible.


Ages 6-9

Q. Do you think Amy did the right thing by not going to see Jennifer? Do you think it would have been okay for Amy to phone Lori at the library to tell her that she has to cancel?
A. Amy was certainly in a tough situation. She really wanted to see her old friend, but she had already promised Lori to meet her. Had she been able to reach Lori, she could have tried to explain how something unexpected had come up, and most likely Lori would have understood. But in the case as it was, where she would have left the girl just waiting there, she really did do the ethical thing by keeping her appointment.

Q. Is it a good idea to promise things that we don't intend to keep and to tell people what they want to hear, or is it preferable to only say the truth even if the other person doesn't like it?
A. We may think that we're making somebody happy by telling him or her what he or she wants to hear, but in the end they will likely feel worse when we don't come through than if we never committed ourselves in the first place. Of course, we should attempt to be agreeable with others when we really can. But when people realize that we say what we mean, and mean what we say, they will come to respect us.

Q. What are some ways that you can practice being reliable in your daily lives?
A. You can be careful to keep appointments and to come on time. You should hand in your school assignments when they are due. At home you can act reliably by doing your chores regularly without having to be reminded too many times.

Q. What other traits do you think are important to have in a friend?


Ages 10 and Up

Q. Why is it so important to keep to our word?
A. While somebody's word may seem like a very tenuous and intangible thing, it is in fact a major indicator of the person's character and spiritual makeup. It shows how much respect he has for others - and for himself. A person who keeps to his word is indicating that he is honest, serious, and worthy of trust. Words can be rock-solid, more solid than gold.

Q. Which type of friendship would you value more, one based on excitement and spontaneity or one based on reliability and trust, even if it isn't as exciting? Why?
A. The second type because, while we may feel attracted to friends who seem to be "living for the moment" and who change their minds easily, these types of friendships tend to fade. It is only when we know we can trust a friend does the friendship grow deeper. Life always has its ups and downs, and it's the stable faithful friendship that will carry us through them all.

Q. What other traits do you think are important to have in a friend?

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