Help Our Friends
Re'eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17 )
Sometimes we get a chance to help out a friend. Whether it's to lend him something we have or just to "lend him a hand," it's a wonderful thing to do. But at times a "little voice" inside of us tries to convince us not to. And when that happens we feel selfish. The Torah portion this week teaches us how God wants us to look after each other. It tells us that when we get the chance to help our friends, we should always open our heart and our hand.
In our story, a girl reaches down within herself and learns to do just that.
"THE END OF THE RAINBOW"
It was a warm but rainy afternoon. Shevy was on her way home from the Metro Mall and had missed her 3:00 bus. She didn't know what to do.
She knew her mom was counting on her to babysit and since the next bus wouldn't be coming for an hour, she would now get home too late. Her only choice was to take one of the many taxis that were sloshing their way down the busy street, but she didn't have enough money for a cab.
She stood at the bus stop dodging the flow of people passing by with their open umbrellas, and started to despair. Then suddenly she recognized Yael, a girl from her class, walking by. "Hey Yael!" Shevy called out, to get her attention above the traffic noises. The girl turned around. Shevy waved. "Over here, it's me, Shevy," she said.
Yael gave a slight smile. It seemed as if she was in a rush. "Oh, hi Shevy," she said. "What brings you to this part of town?"
"I had to go shopping for my sister's bat-mitzvah gift," she said. "But I missed my bus and I'm going to be late. I'm glad to see a friendly face in the crowd. Could you please do me a favor and lend me money to take a cab home and I'll pay you back next week?"
Yael bit her lip and seemed hesitant. Shevy continued to look at her hopefully.
"Well, um, I'm not sure if I can..." Yael mumbled.
"Oh," said Shevy, obviously disappointed.
Yael started to walk away, thinking to herself, "I do have enough money with me to lend to this girl. But how do I know I won't need it. Also, who's to say she'll remember to pay me back, or even want to..."
Then Yael looked back at the crest-fallen face of the other girl, who was now looking at her watch nervously, rain soaking her hair. She kept walking but started having second thoughts. "How can I not help my friend?" she thought. "Shevy obviously needs this loan and I'm able to help her. It would be cruel for me not to."
Then and there she turned on her heels and headed back to the bus stop, hoping Shevy would still be there. When she got there she didn't see her. "Oh no," she thought. "I missed my chance. I hope she's alright."
But then she noticed a girl sitting huddled on the last bench. It was Shevy! Yael ran over to her and sat down next to her. Shevy hadn't noticed her among the crowd of people.
Yael tapped Shevy on the shoulder. The startled Shevy looked up. "Oh, Yael, why have you come back?" she asked with surprise.
Yael smiled. She opened her purse and pulled out cab fare plus enough extra for her friend to get a warm drink. "Here," she said, handing the money to the grateful girl. "I just came back to finish some business," she said softly. "Have a safe trip and stay dry."
Q.How did Shevy feel when she missed her bus and suddenly saw her friend Yael?
Q. If someone asks us for a favor and we're able to do it, should we?
A. Yes. It's a wonderful thing to be able to help another person.
Q. What if we don't feel like it? Should we still do it?
A. Even though it is hard, yes we should still help. In fact, it's even better since it took more effort.
Q. Yael had second thoughts and turned around to help her friend, even though at first she decided not to. What was her struggle and what made her change her mind?
A. Alot of times a person has to struggle with two sides of himself or herself. There is the side that wants to give to others and the side that wants to be selfish. Yael was strong in the end and listened to her inner voice to do good even though at first she felt otherwise.
Q. There is an old English saying "neither borrower nor lender be" is this a proper code of behavior?
A. No. The Torah teaches a person to open his hand and be ready to lend to someone in need. Nobody likes to have to ask help of another, and indeed when we can avoid it, it's best not to borrow. But to refuse to lend when one can is selfish. The Torah teaches us to "open our hand (to another in need) and lend him what he needs." This is the Jewish way.
Q. What are some ways that you could put this to practice in your own life?
A. When appropriate you could lend out some of your things. If you have something you know others could benefit from, you could even publicize that you have it to lend out. Besides this, you could give of your time to help out the poor or elderly. Even a warm smile to the people you meet can give them a real boost.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Are we being hypocritical if we don't really feel like helping or lending to someone else and do it in spite of this feeling? Perhaps it's better to wait until we really feel it and can do it with a full heart?
A. Of course we aim to be able to give with a full heart. However quite often a person's actions have to precede his or her feelings and not the other way around. It's normal to feel a resistance. To try to make ourselves into more giving people is never hypocritical; it can even be called noble.
Q. Zoologists tell us that the "law of the jungle" is that only the strong survive. Do you feel that this is a proper philosophy of how one should live one's life? Why or why not?
A. There is a natural drive to live one's life this way. But our mission as human beings, and as Jews, is to elevate ourselves to a higher level. When we give of ourselves to help someone "weaker" than we are, we become less animal-like and more spiritual. This is one of the major lessons of life.