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How to Look at Life

Be'halot'cha (Numbers 8-12 )

by Nesanel Yoel Safran

Life is how you look at it. On the one hand, there's always a reason to appreciate what we have. On the other hand, we can always find a reason to complain. When the Jewish people were traveling to the desert after they escaped the slavery of Egypt, God gave them a special miraculous food called manna. The manna came down each day fresh from the sky! It tasted delicious! Even though it was so wonderful, some of the people started to complain. "We miss our life and our food from Egypt," they said. Even though life was so terrible in Egypt and so much better now, they found a reason to complain! God told Moses to educate the people to look at things differently -- to always remember to look for the good in whatever happens.


In our story, two sisters have very different ways of looking at life...


Karen and Gail were twins who looked almost exactly alike. They both had reddish-blond hair, blue eyes and a ton of freckles.

But Karen and Gail were very different.

Whenever you would ask Karen how she was, she'd smile and say, "I'm doing great!" and mean it too.

Gail would always answer the same question with "Things could be better."

When they would walk to school together, Karen would always notice how beautiful the weather was that day. Gail would always be too hot or too cold.

One day the sisters were out for a walk in the woods. They got to a picnic bench and sat down to eat lunch. "Wow, aren't these sandwiches delicious?" said Karen.

"Actually mine is kind of dry," said Gail, and she suddenly burst into tears.

"What's wrong?" asked Karen with a worried voice.

Gail looked up from her tears. "I don't get it," she sobbed. "You have such a great life and mine is so awful. I'm miserable."

Karen looked her sister in the eyes. "Listen, sis," she said with a sympathetic smile. "You and I have almost the same life, but we live in two different worlds."

"What do you mean?" sniffled Gail.

"I mean we have the same parents, the same looks, we go to the same school with the same friends. We even eat the same sandwiches, don't we?" Gail nodded as Karen continued. "But the difference is that I try to see what's right with everything and you look at what's wrong. Let's face it, nobody and nothing is perfect. But everything does have something good about it. You just have to look for it. When you do that, and try not to complain, life becomes just wonderful. You can do it too. Start by telling me about one good thing in your life."

Gail thought a minute, smiled, and said, "One good thing for sure is that I have a sister like you."


Ages 3-5

Q. Why is Karen always happy?
A. She always tries to look at what is good in every situation, and that makes her happy.

Q. How do you feel when you get some of the things you want, but not all of them?
A. It's good to try to feel happy about what you did get, and not think too much about what you didn't.

Ages 6-9

Q. Imagine that the two girls in the story were both about to go outside to play and it started to rain. (A) How do you think Karen would react? What types of things would she say? (B) What kind of things would Gail say?

Q. Do you think that what a person has or owns is what makes him happy?
A. No, because as much as a person has, he can always think of something more that he'd like to have -- but doesn't.

Ages 10 and Up

Q. The Mishna defines a rich person as someone "who is happy with his portion." What do you think this means? Do you agree with the definition?
A. It means that the feeling of being rich isn't measured in dollars and cents. It's a feeling of satisfaction with one's life and taking pleasure in what one has.

Q. Can you think of an example how a "bad" situation can be made "good" by how we feel about it?
A. If you miss a bus, you can either be sad and upset that you have to wait for the next one. Or you can choose to be happy about the fact that you have some extra free time to read a book, while you are waiting for the next bus. The same situation, but with very different reactions. It's our thoughts that make us happy or sad.

Q. Do you agree with the statement that "happiness is dependent on our thoughts." Why or why not? A. We are often not in control of what happens to us in life. But we are in control of how we will react to what happens. This has a lot to do with how happy we feel.


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