What Makes Us Special
Sukkot (Leviticus 22:26-23:44 )
Sukkot is a fun holiday when we all 'camp out' for a week, leaving our homes and moving into small, beautifully-decorated outdoor sukkah. However, we don't do this just to get a change of scenery, but to remind ourselves that it's not our homes, our possessions, or anything else outside of ourselves that really say who we are, but our character and what kind of people we are inside that count.
In our story, a kid discovers what makes him special - and what doesn't.
IT'S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME
Recess for most kids meant a time of playing ball, catching up on the latest 'news' or just hanging out. But ever since Mike had shown up with his extra-advanced handheld Gamemaster - he was the only kid in the class who owned one - all the kids spent the precious 30-minute break each day either lined up waiting their five-minute turns at the control panel or excitedly looking over the shoulder of the one whose turn it was.
Mike didn't mind sharing - he felt it was the right thing to do when you had something others didn't. Besides, he loved all the attention it got him. Before he got the expensive game as a birthday gift from his uncle, he'd had just been a regular kid, part of the crowd. But now he was Mr. Popular, and the coolest kids in the class would rush up to him the first thing in the morning so he could write down their 'appointments' to play the game in his little red notebook.
Yup, for Mike it had all been great - that is, until yesterday. That was the day Rich, a new kid, had joined the class. At recess time - when he saw the commotion in the corner of the schoolyard centered around Mike - he walked over to check it out. Mike wanted to make the new boy feel welcome, because it was the right thing to do, so he asked the other kids to let Rich skip the line and take a turn with the Gamemaster right away. But when he handed Rich the toy, the boy had laughed in his face...
"What do I want to play with that dinosaur for?" he sneered. "At home I have a brand new, Super-Advanced, Ultra-Gamemaster-Plus that makes this thing look like tic-tac-toe board. I'll even bring it in tomorrow, so you can put this old one in the junk heap."
With that, he turned and walked away, leaving the kids with their mouths open and Mike with his heart broken.
That was it - no more Mr. Popular. No more friends probably at all. After all, they hung out with him because of his Gamemaster and now that Rich had the latest, more advanced model, what would anyone want to do with him?
The next morning when the alarm clock rang, instead of popping out of bed, as he had been lately, Mike pulled the covers over his head.
After a few minutes, his mom came in.
"Hey, I expected to see you up-and-at-'em. Are you feeling okay?" She placed her hand on his forehead. "Hmm, no fever. What's up, Mike?"
Mike explained what happened when he tried to share his game with the new kid and how there was no point going to a school where he'd have no friends. His mother gave him an understanding nod but said he still had to go to school. So, reluctantly, the boy dressed, forced down a quick breakfast and shuffled out the door.
"Hey, you forgot something." his mom smiled, holding the Gamemaster in her hand.
"Like I said, Mom, there's no point. Nobody's going to want to play with it - or me."
"Don't be so sure, Mike," his mom said, handing him the game. "You have a lot going for you. Maybe take it today, just in case."
Mike got to school and while he usually couldn't wait for the recess bell to ring, today he wished it never would.
When the bell rang, Mike slowly dragged his feet out to the schoolyard. Sure enough, Rich was standing there looking smug with his super-game surrounded by all the kids. Oh well, thought Mike, I guess I really didn't need to bring mine after all. He hung his head sadly. Suddenly he felt a tap on the arm. He looked up.
"I think I'm first today, right."
"To use the game. I'm on the list."
"Yeah, and I'm second." called out Jon. "You brought it, didn't you?"
Mike couldn't believe it. Except for one or two kids looking still looking over Rich's shoulder as he played, all his classmates had flocked over to him just like before.
"But I thought you all just wanted to play with Rich. After all he has a better game..."
"Nah, we were just waiting for you to come out," laughed Steve. "Rich's game looks fun, but so is yours. Besides, you know, you've been so generous sharing it with us every day and we saw how nice it was of you to offer to let Rich use your game yesterday..."
"Yeah, and the way he spoke to you and is acting so conceited about it, just isn't cool..." Jon added.
"I guess what we're trying to say, Mike," Steve went on "is that you're our friend, not just a kid with a game. That means we'd still want to hang out with you even if you didn't have any Gamemaster. But, um...since you do, could you hurry and turn it on before we have to go back in?"
Q. How did mike feel when Rich said that he had a better game than his?
A. He felt worried that now all the kids were going to play with Rich and not him.
Q. How did his friends feel about it?
A. They liked Mike because he did nice things like share and they wanted to play with him even though he didn't have as good a game as Rich did.
Q. What life-lesson do you thing Mike learned from what happened?
A. He had assumed that what made his friends like him was that he had a cool game. But he found out that it was really his good traits, like sharing and caring, that won him friends.
Q. Do you think someone would be friends with someone else just because of what he had?
A. He might act like a friend, but he wouldn't really be a friend. Real friends like you because of who you are inside, not just what you look like, your talents, or what you own.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. What effect, if any, do you think leaving our homes for a week on Sukkot might have on our relationship with God?
A. Living in comfortable homes, surrounded by familiar possessions can make a person grow complacent and take his things - and his life - for granted. By leaving our homes and moving into the thin walls and thatched roof of the simple Succah-hut, we come to realize that it's not our possessions that protect us, but God. And not our externals that define who we are, but the amount of Godly good traits we try to incorporate in our lives.
Q. If that is so, wouldn't it be better to live in a simple hut all year round?
A. God gave us the world and all our possessions as a gift and He wants us to enjoy them, within reason. But from time to time, like each year on Sukkot, He wants us to step away from them a bit to remind ourselves where they came from and to keep things in perspective.