Getting What You Need
Beshalach (Exodus 13:17-17:16 )
It is not always easy to feel satisfied with what we have. Even if someone has more than he could possibly use, he can feel like he wants to grab even more. In this week's Torah portion, as the Jewish people were sojourning in the desert, God wanted to teach them the important lesson of trusting Him and being content with whatever they had. He provided them with special food called manna. But they only received exactly what they needed for that day alone.
Some people worried. "What will be for tomorrow?" they asked themselves. They tried to grab more than their fair share and hide it away. But God miraculously made it that when they brought the food home it only measured out to one portion and no more. As time went on and the people realized that they were only getting what they needed each day, they stopped grabbing and began to feel much more happy and content. We can also learn to live this way, and feel more contentment in our lives.
In our story a boy teaches his friend a lesson in contentment.
"OUT OF LINE"
The normally quiet dining hall of the River Valley Summer Camp had erupted into a frenzy of activity. While nobody complained about the food, it certainly wasn't anything worth running after. But today the word was out that a group of the camp's directors who had visited earlier that day had left extra-special snack food super- packs for all of the campers as a special treat. They were giving them out to the kids today in the dining hall with lunch!
Although the staff kept assuring everyone that there was plenty to go around, the kids made a mad dash to get to the front of the line and there was a lot of pushing and shoving. Aaron Segal and his friend Scott found themselves in the middle of the fray. Scott was really getting into the pushing, his eyes lit up with fierce determination to get ahead. He turned around and noticed that Aaron was lagging behind and not shoving ahead.
"C'mon Aaron, you're stronger than me. Push ahead!" he said, diverting an elbow away from his face. "Don't you want to get a super-pack?"
"Sure I want one. Why do you think I'm standing in this, uh ... line?" answered Aaron, managing a smile from within the crush. "But why should I push and shove like a maniac? Either way I'm going to get one. They have plenty. I saw them unloading the cartons behind the dining hall."
As he spoke, an excited redhead pushed ahead of him. Scott rolled his eyes. "But what if they run out? The only way to get ahead is to push. You can hang behind if you want, but I'm going to make sure that I get what's coming to me!"
Aaron, who was already falling further and further back in the line, just shrugged. "Everyone here is going to get what's coming to him no matter what," he repeated and remained standing patiently in line.
Later on the two friends met up again outside the dining hall. Scott was licking chocolate off of his hands, but he looked really unhappy. "Are you okay?" asked Aaron.
Scott, breathing hard from the scuffle, huffed. "What do you think? When I got to the front of the line, all of the super-packs were crushed from the pushing and grabbing. The one they gave me was missing half the stuff, and had fingerprints all over it. Yuchh! But at least I got one. I can't imagine what they looked like by the time you got to the front of the line. Did you even get one at all?"
Aaron blushed. He hesitated a moment then spoke. "Well, actually, I got ... two. By the time we stragglers made it to the front of the line, the place had pretty much cleared out. The kitchen staff had found a couple of extra cartons of the super-packs tucked away. They were in perfect shape. They wanted to give them all out before there was another stampede, so they gave us each two."
Scott stared at his friend in wide-eyed disbelief. "Looks like all my pushing actually led to nowhere."
Q. How did Scott feel when he saw that Aaron wasn't pushing like he was?
A. He felt that his friend was going to miss out getting what was coming to him.
Q. How did he feel after he met up with Aaron again?
A. He realized that even without pushing, Aaron had gotten even more than he, himself had. God will give us what we need without having to push others away to get it.
Q. Which boy had a better approach toward getting what he needed? Why?
A. Although at first look it seemed as though Scott was more clued in than Aaron. He was pushing ahead and grabbing what was rightfully his. But actually in the end he was just wasting a lot of his time and energy. Aaron also put in an effort. He showed up and endured the line. But he trusted that God would give him what was coming to him without having to act wild and possibly injure himself or others to get it. In the end he was proven right.
Q. What could someone learn from the experience of having just what he needs and not more?
A. It might seem scary at first. A person likes to feel the security of having more than enough. But after a time he will be able to see how whenever he really needs something, God will send it to him in the most amazing ways. He will start to feel less dependent on his possessions and more connected to God's unceasing care. Like Aaron in the story he will realize that he needn't abandon his principles in order to get what he needs.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Our sages teach, "Somebody who has one hundred will crave two hundred. If he has two hundred he will want four hundred." What does this statement mean to you?
A. This reveals a profound insight into human nature. A person tends to never feel satisfied with what he has. No matter what, the feeling will always creep in 'If I only had one more (fill in the blank: thousand, million, or even billion!) then I would be content.' But this contentment never lasts. This is because true contentment isn't a product of our possessions. It is a spiritual feeling that results from a trust in God's unlimited ability to fulfill our needs and to appreciate what one has. Therefore a person will discover that building up his spiritual 'bank account' will prove to be a far wiser and more fulfilling investment than any other kind.
Q. How can internalizing this idea change your relationships?
A. A lot of the tension that exists between people is a sense of lack -- a feeling that somehow I must grab from the other guy to get what I need. We should realize that God's resources are unlimited. This would lead to treating each other fairly, the way He wants us to, and we will never lose out in the end.