> Weekly Torah Portion > Parents & Kids > Family Parsha

Give or Take

Bereishit (Genesis 1:1-6:8 )

by Nesanel Yoel Safran

Do we give or do we take? It's a choice we all face. And it's sometimes hard to know what to do. Our Torah portion, the first of the entire Torah, teaches us about God creating the universe and everything in it. God didn't "need" the world. He only created us in order to be able to give to us. When we act as "givers" we are doing something great and acting like God. It's a wonderful feeling when we are able to choose to give.


In our story, a girl chooses to be a giver.


Devorah looked, wide-eyed, around at the school chemistry lab. She felt dazed by all the fancy looking equipment. There were beakers and test-tubes of all shapes and sizes. The walls were lined with special tables with built-in sinks. Up at the front of the room, in a glass case, was a big electron microscope! The whole room looked more like it belonged in a space station than a day school.

Mrs. Stern, the science teacher, looked on bemused as the 20 or so kids in the class gawked around, whispering and giggling excitedly. After a few minutes, when everyone settled down, the teacher began her lesson, the first of the term. She explained what all the equipment was and what they would be doing that year.

At the end of the lesson she smiled and said, "Starting tomorrow we will start our lab work actually doing experiments! You will work in teams of two. So by tomorrow I'd like all of you to pair up with another student who will be your 'lab-partner' for the coming term."

The bell rang ending the class.

Devorah picked up her notebook and turned to leave when the teacher called her over. "Devorah, could you please stay a minute? I'd like to speak with you."

"Sure," smiled Devorah.

The teacher went on: "Devorah, I know you well from our last year together. And I think you're just the kind of girl who can help. You see, there is a new girl in the class named Sara. She was sitting by herself in the back. She's very nice, but a bit shy and not too sure of herself. Perhaps you would be willing to team up with her as a lab partner? I think you could do a lot to help her adjust and keep up with the work. You don't have to do it if you don't want to. I'll leave it up to you to decide."

With that the teacher stood up and started greeting the next class that was beginning to file into the room.

Devorah walked out, a little stunned from the suggestion. As a popular girl, she assumed she would be partners with one of her friends.

She barely had made in into the hall when she felt a tug at her sleeve. She looked up to see the bright, smiling face of Yael, a close friend of hers. Smart and popular, Yale was the "star" of the class. "You and me, right?" smiled Yael.

"Huh?" said Devorah, her head still swimming from her talk with Mrs. Stern.

"Wake up!" teased Yael. "I'm asking you to be my lab partner. Five kids have asked me already, but I'd rather be with you. I think we'll have a blast together."

It was true, thought Devorah. They would have a great time together. They got along so well. Plus Yael was a serious student who would help her make the grade. They were a natural team. And, she thought, it sounded a lot better than spending the term paired up with some shy new girl.

"OK, we're partners, right?" said Yael, breaking up Devorah's thoughts.

Devorah was about to agree. But then she thought about what her teacher had said. "Maybe I really should team up with Sara," she told herself silently. "After all, Yael has a lot of kids who would love to be her partner and Sara doesn't have anybody. I really could help her get off to a good start, too."

"De-vo-rah," whined Yael with mock impatience. "I've got to run to my next class. Tell me, yes or no?"

"Look, Yael," answered Devorah. "You know I'd love to team up with you. But I think this one time there is somebody who needs me more. Will you forgive me?" she added with a smile.

"No problem," answered Yael. "I guess I'll just have to 'live without you' for an hour a day. See you at lunch," she smiled and dashed off to her class.

Devorah went to look for Sara to ask her to be lab partners. She felt really good, and that even though the term had hardly begun, she had already passed a big test.


Ages 3-5

Q. How did Devorah feel when Mrs. Stern asked her to be partners with the new girl instead of one of her friends?
A. She felt surprised and upset because she thought it would be more fun for her to team up with a friend instead of helping a new girl.

Q. Is it always better to only do things for ourselves that are fun for us, or is it sometimes good to do things to help other people even if we feel it won't be as much fun?
A. It's good to be able to give to and help others. In the end we might even have fun when we do it anyway. But even if not, it's a good thing to do.

Ages 6-9

Q. Do you think Devorah would have had more pleasure by being partners with Yael?

Q. What do you think is the difference between the pleasure of taking and the pleasure of giving? Which one is a greater pleasure?
A. There is a pleasure in taking. There's a certain thrill in getting what we want. But this pleasure often fades pretty soon after we get it. This is especially true if we had to take it from somebody else. The pleasure of giving is more subtle. At first we may even not feel like giving. But usually when we do, we receive a warm glowing feeling of the pleasure that we've done the right thing.

Q. Can you think of a time when you gave even though you didn't feel like it? Why didn't you want to at first? How did you overcome your resistance?

Ages 10 and Up

Q. To whom would you say a person feels more love, to one from whom she receives or to one to whom she gives? Why?
A. One to whom she gives. Giving is itself an act of love. Even when the feeling of love doesn't exist from the start, eventually the feeling grows. The classic illustration is the love of a parent to a child to whom the parents constantly gives. On the other hand, while we should be grateful when we receive, often the embarrassment we naturally feel at having to take from others makes it hard to love the other person and can even bring us to resent him or her. A great piece of advice to someone who wants to learn how to love, is to learn how to give.

Q. It has been said that the recipient is really the giver and the giver really the recipient. How would you understand this statement?
A. When we have a chance to give, we get the chance to become a more spiritually oriented, Godly person. This is a great opportunity since this is really one of life's primary goals. People in need "give" us this opportunity, which is in a real sense, more valuable than anything we could possibly give to them.


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