Too Much of a Good Thing
Shmini (Leviticus 9-11 )
If a little bit is good, then a lot must be better, right? Not necessarily. In this week's Torah portion we learn about Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aaron the High Priest. They had the special job of bringing God the various gifts and offerings from the people. They had very specific instructions of just what to offer, and how much. But they mistakenly reasoned that if they offered extra things to God it would be even better. While their intentions were good, they went overboard and ended up causing a lot of damage to themselves and to others. We can learn from here the value of moderation. Sometimes too much of a good thing can make things go bad.
In our story, a boy learns how there can be too much of a good thing.
"THE COOKIE MONSTER"
Bryan Fogel did everything in a big way. He wore big, oversized hats, and rode a bike so big that he could hardly get on it. "The more the merrier, the bigger the better" was his motto.
His favorite food was the huge, chunky, chocolate-chip cookies that his mom would bake from time to time. He liked them so much that his parents would affectionately call him the "Cookie Monster."
One day Bryan came home from school and found a note on the door. His mom was going to be home late from work that day. "Hi Bryan, welcome home!" read the note. "I'll be home in about an hour. Meanwhile help yourself to one of the fresh cookies in the kitchen. Love, Mom."
"Alright! Cookies!!" he clapped, and nearly tripped over his big high-tops as he scrambled to the kitchen. There they were. The cookies, laid out to cool on a big tray, appeared to Bryan like many giant golden coins, and he felt like the pirate who had just claimed a sunken treasure! "Awesome!" he thought as he practically inhaled one of the colossal treats.
Bryan licked the chocolate off of his fingers and started turning to go out to play in his back yard, when he was gripped by a thought: "If that cookie was so good, then two will be 'too' good!" Soon the second jumbo cookie was just a memory. By now there was no stopping the boy. A third cookie, then a fourth. Bryan vaguely noticed an over-full feeling in his stomach, but quickly pushed it aside as he went about his business of demolishing the batch of cookies.
A short while later, the front door clicked open. "Bryan, I'm home. Where are you?" sang out his mom. But Mrs. Fogel was distressed to hear a faint moan as the only answer to her inquiry. Following the sound, she discovered her son lying belly-up on the couch. Writhing and rubbing his stomach, the boy bore a distinct resemblance to a beached whale. "Bryan! What happened? Are you okay?" his mom gasped.
"Cookies ... too many ..." was all the boy could manage to weakly croak.
His mom poked her head into the kitchen and screeched at the sight of the nearly empty cookie tray. "Oh Bryan. What did you do? When I said you could have a cookie, I didn't mean a whole tray of them! No wonder you feel sick!"
The boy rolled his eyes and even managed a weak smile. "Don't worry mom, I learned ... ohhhw ... my lesson. That was way too much of a good thing. From now on this 'cookie monster' is retired!"
Q. How did Bryan feel when he began eating more cookies?
A. He felt that since the cookies were so good, the more he ate, the happier he would feel.
Q. How did he feel after he finished the tray?
A. He felt sick and realized that even though they were yummy, it wasn't good to have too many.
Q. If you were to ask Bryan beforehand, he would have agreed that eating a whole tray of cookies would make a person sick. So how did he ever make that very mistake?
A. A person may have a clear, rational understanding of a situation, yet can still get carried away by the thrill of the moment and do something self-destructive. It is best to ask yourself, "When is the right time to stop?" BEFORE you get caught in the grips of the thrill, and then keep to that line no matter what.
Q. What does it mean to behave moderately?
A. It means to try to act in a way that avoids extremes. Not too much, not too little. In Bryan's case it would have meant enjoying the cookies, eating one or two, and going on with his day. While we may at times feel drawn to extremes, moderate, balanced behavior nearly always leaves a person feeling the happiest.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Which would you say requires more self control: fasting or eating moderately?
A. On the surface it might appear that fasting requires more. After all he's not eating anything. But in fact it, like most extreme behaviors represents a lack of control rather than a mastery of it. Moderation, on the other hand shows that a person is aware of what he is doing, and is constantly making a conscious decision to act according to his act according to his will.
Q. If a person has an extreme behavior that he would like to balance out, how do you think he should go about it?
A. Interestingly, an effective first step is to go to the opposite extreme. An extreme behavior is out of balance and needs to be pulled into the center. Going a bit overboard the other way can accomplish this. The goal, however is to reach a point where he can walk the 'middle path' of acting moderately all the time.