> Weekly Torah Portion > Parents & Kids > Family Parsha

- Using Our Talents -

Vayakhel-Pekudei (Exodus 35-40 )

by Nesanel Yoel Safran

We all have special talents -- things that we are good at and know how to do. But it's up to us to choose the best way to use them. The Torah relates how the Jewish people constructed all of the holy and beautiful fixtures and utensils needed for the Tabernacle sanctuary -- their place of connection with God as they travel in the wilderness. God told Moses to give the job to Betzalel and other "wise-hearted" men and women who had special talents in all the crafts needed. We can learn from this to try to search out our own special talents and think of ways to use them to do good.


In our story a girl discovers a way to put her talents to good use.


Joanie was what people called "naturally funny." She just seemed to know exactly what to say or do to make a person laugh. This made her very popular with her friends but not so popular with some of her teachers, because it was very hard to teach a class when everybody was cracking up over one of Joanie's antics.

One day, during a geometry test, all the kids were quietly taking their exams when the teachers suddenly heard giggling from the back of the classroom. She looked up and saw Joanie sprawled out on the floor next to the pencil sharpener.

"Joanie, what's going on? Are you okay?" the teacher asked.

"Oh, I'm fine," smiled the girl. "I was just on my way to sharpen my pencil when my foot fell asleep. I'm just waiting for it to wake up!"

The class who had been pretending not to pay attention, burst into laughter. The teacher's face turned red. "Joanie," she said. "You're disrupting the class. I would like you to 'wake-up' your foot and go to the principal's office right now."

The girl frowned, picked herself up and made the familiar trek down the hall. She swallowed hard as she knocked on the tall frosted glass door.

"Come in," said Mrs. Harris, the school principal.

The girl opened the door.

"Joanie, you've been sent here again!" sighed the middle-aged woman.

Joanie shrugged. "I really didn't do anything," she said. "I was feeling bored and the class seemed so serious. I just wanted to ... lighten things up a bit."

Mrs. Harris raised her eyebrow. "Joanie, you certainly do have a talent to 'lighten things up,' but there's a time and a place for everything. What are we going to do with you?" she asked. Suddenly, the principal's eyes lit up. "I think I have just the idea," she said.

Mrs. Harris picked up the cordless phone sitting on her desk. She went into her back office and a few minutes later came out smiling. "Joanie," she said. "I think we may have found a way to put your comedic talents to good use, and keep them out of the classroom. That is, if you're interested?"

The girl, full of curiosity, nodded eagerly.

"Well," continued the principal. "I just spoke to Mr. Salenger, the director of the Golden Years Nursing Home down the road. In the past he had mentioned to me how sad and lonely some of the older people are who live there. I just told him that I might have the perfect candidate to help cheer them up. If you agree, I'm willing to let you make it your term research project to go there for one class period, three times a week, and spend time with the residents of Golden Years. Your job would be to try to bring a smile and some light to some of these lonely people. What do you say?"

Joanie couldn't contain herself. "I'd love to!" she blurted out.

The next day, Joanie went to the nursing home. At first many of the elderly people hardly even seemed to notice her. But her charm and her talent to make people smile slowly won them over. When the time came for her to leave, one lady in a wheelchair said to her, "Young lady I don't know how you did it. But in no time you were able to bring laughter to myself and some of my friends who had barely smiled in years! Bless you and please come back soon!"

Joanie felt great and realized she had found a perfect way to put her talents to good use.


Ages 3-5

Q. How did Joanie feel when the principal asked her if she wanted to visit the nursing home and cheer people up?
A. She felt very excited because she was going to be able to put her talents to good use.

Q. How did the old people feel after Joanie came to visit them?
A. They were happy and grateful that someone came who knew how to make them smile. Joanie was perfect for the job.

Ages 6-9

Q. Do you think the principal found a good solution for Joanie? If so, what was good about it?
A. It was a very creative and positive solution because it took into consideration Joanie's talents and personality and found a way for her to use them for the good. The principal didn't just tell her to try to be somebody she wasn't, but rather to act like herself, but to direct her talents in a way that was positive.

Q. Do you think that if a person can change his personality if he wants to?
A. Each person is born with certain personality traits, talents, and types of things they are naturally drawn to. It's possible to change parts of our personality if you're willing to put in a lot of hard work. One way to work on becoming a better person is to look at the personality traits we already have and to think of the most positive ways to express them. That is just what Joanie did when she was able to express her need to make people laugh positively by cheering up the people in the nursing home, instead of negatively by disrupting her classes.

Q. What do you think may be your gift to the world? Do you have a special talent that you can use in a positive manner?

Ages 10 and Up

Q. Can every talent or personality trait be used both positively and negatively?
A. Talents and personality traits are neutral. It's how we use them that makes all the difference. Our Sages give the example of a person who has a natural inclination to draw blood. He may choose to become a great surgeon who saves lives or a murderer! In both cases he is expressing his inclination but in totally opposite ways. Even though each of us is born with certain inclinations, God gives us free choice of how we are going to use them.

Q. How can we discover what are our unique talents and abilities that we are meant to uplift for good use?
A. We all have many parts to our personality. Yet each of us, if we really think about it, will discover patterns of behavior we often repeat and feel especially drawn to. One person may feel a need to lead. Someone else a need to help or as in the story, a need to make others laugh. Often God "speaks" to us through these feelings and lets us know that this is our special talent, the special "point of light" that we can develop to bring good into the world.

Q. Illustrate how someone who is naturally quiet, or energetic, or dramatic could use these traits for the good?

Q. What do you think may be your gift to the world? Do you have a special talent that you can use in a positive manner?



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