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Use Your Talents Properly

Chukat-Balak (Numbers 19:1-25:9 )

by Nesanel Yoel Safran

Everyone has talents and strengths. These are gifts that God gave us. But abilities alone aren't what makes for a good person. It's how we choose to use them that counts. In this week's Torah portion, Bilaam, a wicked prophet, tries to curse the Jewish people as they travel in the desert. Bilaam had an awesome power of prophecy, the ability to communicate directly with God. Nobody, except Moses, could match him. But Moses and Bilaam were as different as day and night. Moses chose to use his power to do good, to help save and protect the Jewish people, and guide them in the right path. But Bilaam chose instead to use his power for his own personal gain, and to hurt others. It's wonderful to be strong, rich, smart or talented, but only if we use these gifts the right way, to do good.


In our story, we see how two boys with the same abilities put them to very different uses.

"Land of the Giants"

It wasn't hard to see that Abie and Jake were brothers. They were about a head taller and much stronger than anyone else in the neighborhood. It seemed like they were made out of steel. They could hit a baseball a mile and kick a football into the next county. They had loud booming voices that suited them very well.

Everyone in the neighborhood loved Abie. "The gentle giant," they called him. And Abie loved people, especially when he could help them. If he saw any frail kid struggling to carry home a really heavy book bag or package he would jump up and appear out of nowhere. "Let me lend you a hand," he would say with a smile. With just one of his huge hands he would lift the heaviest load off of your shoulder like it was a feather. "I have to use all these muscles for something!" He would joke as he walked us all the way back to our houses.

Jake was different. As much as everyone loved Abie, they were all afraid of Jake. He was the neighborhood bully. "Hey pipsqueak," he would say with a snarl. He would just hang around showing off his muscles to whoever came by. And if anyone dared to look at him wrong, he could expect to get his arm twisted or worse.

One day a moving van appeared in front of Abie and Jake's house. Word quickly spread that their dad had gotten a new job and they were moving out of state. The brothers were out on their front lawn helping to pack their boxes and furniture, which of course wasn't hard for either of them.

As the kids in the neighborhood walked by, calling out, "Bye Abie, we're really going to miss you!" Abie gave one of his great big smiles.

Sometimes Jake would look up and say "Hey, what about me?" The kids would get scared and quickly answer back, "Oh ... and you too, Jake." But they really were going to miss Abie and were really happy and relieved to see Jake go.

In his heart of hearts, Jake knew it too and wished he had tried to be a big friend, and not just a big bully.


Ages 3-5

Q. How did the kids feel when they saw Abie moving away? Why?
A. They were sad because he was a good friend who used his strength to help them.

Q. How about when they saw Jake moving also?
A. They were happy he was going away. He had always tried to bully them and use his strength to hurt and frighten them.

Q. Who would you rather be: Abie or Jake?

Ages 6-9

Q. Let's say a kid in class is a real genius. How could he use his talents in a way to help people and cause them to like him?
A. He could offer to help them with their homework, or think of ways to help them solve their problems. This would be the right way to use his brains, for the good.

Q. How might he misuse his talents to hurt people?
A. He could tease the other kids about how he's so much smarter, or use his brains to fool people.

Q. After seeing how the kids in the neighborhood were happy to see him move away, do you think Jake might act differently in his new home? How?
A. He might try to act nicer to the new kids he meets. He saw that being a bully only made people afraid of him, and that Abie had made real friends by using his strength to help them.

Q. What's one of your greatest strengths? How can you use it for good?

Ages 10 and up

Q. Do you think that having a lot of "natural gifts" (i.e., being athletic, intelligent, good looking,) makes someone a "good person?"
A. No. These things can be great assets, but they're not enough to call someone a "good person."

Q. If not, what defines a "good person?"
A. A good person is someone who uses his gifts to do good; it doesn't matter if he is very talented or not, the main thing is how he chooses to use his talents.

Q. What's one of your greatest strengths? How can you use it for good?



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