> Weekly Torah Portion > Parents & Kids > Family Parsha

Encouraging Words

Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26 )

by Nesanel Yoel Safran

Just as healthy food and exercise gives physical strength to one's body, hearing words of encouragement gives a boost of emotional and spiritual strength to one's soul. This week's Torah portion is the last one of the book of Genesis. There is an ancient custom to exclaim at the completion of one of the five books of Moses the following encouraging words, "Be strong, and may we be strengthened!" We can light up people's lives and do a great act of kindness when we use our words to give them a boost of strength.


In our story a kid discovers the power of positive speaking.


"Sorry kid, I can't help you." The door slammed closed before Matt even had a chance to say, "Thanks anyway." It had been one hard afternoon. He and his friend, Gary, had been so full of energy and enthusiasm when they began their rounds trying to sell raffle tickets to raise money for their school's annual charity drive for the local children's hospital.

The pair who sold the most - besides doing a good deed - would also win a big prize. But it had been a lot harder than they thought, and two hours later the guys had given up on the prize and were feeling pretty down about the whole thing.

"What do you say, Gary? Should we just call it quits?" Matt asked.

Gary shrugged. "I don't know. We have one more street we're supposed to do. I don't imagine we'll do any better here than the other streets, but we might at least try and do a few more houses, don't you think?"

"Yeah, I guess so," Matt reluctantly agreed and the two of them decided to save time by splitting up, each taking one side of the street.

Matt took a deep breath as he shuffled up the driveway of the first house on the street. He still had so many unsold tickets. A few people had bought them, but a lot of people seemed really annoyed when asked.

Matt hesitated as he nervously got ready to ring the doorbell. He pushed the small red button and braced for the worst.

The door slowly opened. "Why, hello there!" came a surprisingly cheerful voice.

Matt looked up to see an elderly woman with smiling eyes. She didn't look familiar, but from her greeting, Matt wondered if she knew him.

"And how can I help you today?" she asked.

"Um, I, I'm selling raffle tickets for our school charity drive," he quickly stammered. This was the point where a lot of people had closed the door on him.

"Really?" she smiled, "That's fantastic. A young fellow like you would take off from a whole day of playing to do such a good deed!"

Matt was taken aback by the lady's comment and felt himself straightening up as she continued to speak. "Now you stay right there, young man. I'll be right back."

Maybe I'm actually going to sell a ticket, Matt thought to himself.

A moment later the woman returned. "I'm sure you must be pretty hungry and thirsty after working so hard for such a good cause. This nice cold drink should hit the spot! And you came at the right time - these cookies are straight from the oven."

Matt's mouth watered as the lady invited him to sit down.

"You should be so proud of yourself to be working hard to help make sick children's lives more pleasant. Would you like another cookie?" she asked.

Matt looked at his watch. "No thanks. They were great but actually I've got to get going," he said, standing up and turning to leave.

"Not until I buy a ticket first." The lady smiled and pulled a bill out of her handbag. Matt blushed, he had felt so good just being there and hearing all her encouragement that he had forgotten even to ask. She wished him the best of luck and waved to him as he walked down the driveway. The snack and drink - and especially the lady's kind and encouraging words - made him feel so much better than he had just a few minutes ago.

He got to the sidewalk to find his friend, Gary, sitting on a bench, his head hanging down. "How'd it go?" asked Matt with a new sense of energy and excitement.

"Not good," Gary replied. "They wouldn't even open the door. Let's just call it a day. Hey? What are you so happy about? You just sell all your tickets or something?"

"No, only one. But the lady was so nice and encouraging..." Then, looking at his down-looking friend, Matt got an inspiration. If positive, encouraging words helped him so much, why not pass them on?

"Hey Gary, do you realize what a fantastic thing it is that you're trying to do, even if it's hard? What do you say we finish it out to the end of the street? Let's give it our best shot!"

Gary sat up a bit straighter and smiled for the first time in hours. "Okay," he said.

Matt didn't know how much money they would raise, but he already felt rich from learning from that special lady the secret of how to raise another person's spirits.


Ages 3-5

Q. How did Matt feel about what he was doing before he got to the lady's house?
A. He felt down and disappointed that things weren't going well.

Q. How did he feel after going to the lady's house?
A. The lady said encouraging things to him that made him feel more positive and full of energy.

Ages 6-9

Q. What do you think Matt learned from his experience that day?
A. He discovered a big secret - the power of kind and encouraging words to strengthen a person and help them get up when they're feeling down.

Q. Why do you think encouraging words are so powerful to lift a person up?
A. A big part of how we feel depends upon how we view ourselves and our accomplishments. A person often feels down because he's focusing on the negative. Encouraging words help a person to re-focus on the positive side of himself, and this makes him feel much better.

Spiritual exercise: Give someone a smile and an encouraging word today.

Ages 10 and Up

Q. Our sages teach that giving someone a smile is even more valuable that giving them a material gift. How do you understand this?
A. A smile is magic. God created us in a way that it's almost impossible not to feel better after receiving a sincere smile (or giving one, for that matter). Getting a material gift may make a person feel good, but a smile is like a ray of sun that reaches deep down into a person's soul and can fill the darkest mood with light.

Q. What are some ways to encourage people?
A. As we said, smile! Also by expressing appreciation for anything that they do for us-even the little things. We can look for other people's good traits and abilities and point them out to them. Sometimes even just a listening ear to let them talk things out is a big boost.

Spiritual exercise: Give someone a smile and an encouraging word today.


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