Vayakhel-Pekudei (Exodus 35-40 )
Each and every one of us has unique talents and abilities. This week's portion teaches us about how Betzalel and others discovered and combined their special talents for the purpose of creating God's beautiful and holy Tabernacle. Today, just as then, one of life's greatest pleasures and most important tasks is discovering our own unique abilities and finding ways to express them positively.
In our story a kid discovers how everyone, including her, has something special to offer.
"IN THE SPOTLIGHT"
When Janet heard about the tryouts for the new drama club production in her school, she signed up right away. Her dream was to be a star and a chance to play the lead in the show would be the first step in making her dream come true.
It felt good to be in the big auditorium and feel the heat of the special stage lights on her face. Soon they would all be shining on her when she would become the star. When it was her turn to try out, the director, Mrs. Ames, asked her what part she wanted to try out for.
"The lead actress, of course," she said. Why should I settle for less? Janet thought to herself.
Mrs Ames handed her a stack of papers. "The lead? Okay then. Go off to the side and memorize the lines from this script. I'll come over in ten minutes to test you."
Janet was confused. "Um, exactly how many of these lines am I supposed to memorize?"
"Why all of them, of course," she said as she walked off.
This is an awful lot to memorize in just ten minutes! Janet thought. Memorization was never her strongest point; she remembered how she was one of the last kids to memorize all the presidents back in second grade. But if that was going to be what it takes to be a star, that's what she's going to do.
She started out confidently, but as the clock was ticking -- five minutes down and counting -- she had barely memorized the first set of lines. Janet started to panic. She plowed on, but it seemed as soon as one of the lines slipped into her mind, it slipped right back out.
"Okay," said the director cheerfully when she showed up a few minutes later. "Let's hear it."
"Um, well, I'm not quite ready. Maybe, I can take this home and have it ready by tomorrow?" Janet asked hopefully.
"Hmm," said the woman, shaking her head. "The lead part has a ton of lines and I'm afraid quick memorization is a must. If you can't manage this amount I'm afraid it's just not going to work out. I'm truly sorry."
Janet felt like she had just got punched in the stomach. She had so wanted to be the star, and now all her hopes to be something important were down the drain.
Just as Janet was just about to walk out of the auditorium and never come back, suddenly all the stage lights turned off. She watched the kids standing around looking confused and Mrs. Ames trying to fix the wiring and looking very frustrated.
Janet's father was an electrician and from all the times she had helped him, she knew just what to do. She walked over to the director. "Um, Mrs. Ames, I think if you just put this plug here and flip this switch..." In a split second all the lights were up and shining.
"Wow!" exclaimed Mrs. Ames, "I can't believe you did that so quickly. It would have taken me an hour to figure out what to do. Last time the lights actually went out in the middle of a show! If we only had someone who... Hey, do you think you would like to join our group as our stage and lighting engineer?"
Janet was about to say no. She had wanted to be the star or nothing. But then again, this was a lot more up her alley than going crazy memorizing lines...
"Okay, I'll do it!"
Although Janet ended up on the other side of the stage lights than she first expected, she had loads of fun and learned how she could be a real 'star' by making the most of the talents she had.
Q. How did Janet feel at first when she found out she couldn't be the lead actress?
A. She felt that only being the 'star' was important and since she didn't have what it took, she was really down.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She discovered that by using the talents she had, that is an ability to fix things, she could be a star in her own way.
Q. What life lesson did Janet learn that day at the tryouts?
A. She had assumed that someone was important only if they had certain 'star' talents. But she came to realize that everyone (including herself) is important as long as they are making the most of whatever talents they have.
Q. How can a person discover his or her special talents?
A. We can list what types of activities do we especially enjoy or feel 'good at'. Then we should try to figure out what these activities have in common. By doing that, we will be well on our way toward discovering our special abilities and be better able to focus on developing them.
Spiritual exercise: Right now, take a few minutes and do the above.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. How do you think the recognition that each person has unique abilities would impact on people's abilities to coexist peacefully?
A. Much of the friction between people stems from a sense of jealousy and projected feelings of superiority and inferiority. Realizing that God has created each of us with our own set of equally valid but divergent abilities will remove the root cause of this friction.
Q. Do you think a person can be truly happy without discovering and expressing his unique abilities? Why or why not?
A. Our unique abilities are more than just external appendages; they express the very essence of our souls. As long as we fail to recognize them or suppress them, we will feel unfulfilled on the deepest level. Our goal as realized humans is to discover our unique abilities and then channel them to bring positivity into our lives and the world.
Spiritual exercise: Right now, take a few minutes and list five of your favorite activities. Now try to determine what these activities have in common. Quite likely you have just discovered one of your unique abilities!