Mishpatim (Exodus 21-24 )
What should we do when we see someone who needs our help, but we don't really feel like helping? According to this week's Torah portion (23:5), we should help them! The Torah way is to help others in distress and not turn our back on them.
In our story, a kid faces a choice of helping out or passing by.
FINDING HER MARBLES
At first Karen, who was finished with her babysitting job and halfway out the door, didn't know what that funny bouncing sound was. But a few seconds later when she heard Greg shouting and racing around the patio, she realized his big cloth bag of marbles -- the ones she knew he'd been collecting -- had somehow popped and dozens of marbles were bounding, bouncing and rolling all over the place.
"Ayy! Oh no! Ayy!" he was crying and desperately trying to round up his runaway -- or make that bounce-away -- toy treasures.
Poor kid, she thought in passing, Hope he finds his stuff. She was about to leave, when she felt a tug on her skirt.
"Ka-wen...h-help me find my maa-bles!" That was just what she didn't feel like doing right then. She was tired -- had a ton of homework to do -- and had made big plans with her friends for later on that she had to get ready for.
"Um, Greggy, don't worry. I'm sure you're going to find them. Karen's got to go home now... okay?"
But the desperate look on the boy's face told her that it wasn't okay at all -- at least with him. "Please, Ka-wen, they're lost! H-help me find them."
The girl was about to give him an 'it'll be alright' pat and dash out the door, when she remembered how she'd felt -- just two weeks before, when to her horror, she'd discovered that one of her absolute favorite and most expensive earrings had somehow fallen out of her ear and ended up...who knew where? She'd combed her room, the school bus and even retraced every step she had taken in school that day. A lot of kids seemed curious about what she was doing, but none of them had been willing to help. How she'd wished back then that they would have -- maybe then she would have found it...
"Okay, Greg. You convinced me. Let's find those marbles," she said with a resigned smile. Bending down she and the little boy searched for and scoped out and scooped up every last marble. Now she could finally go home -- at least that was what Karen had thought...
"Look Ka-wen, dare's a shiny one over dare!" Greg said, excitedly pointing to the grass behind the hammock. He ran over, but his short arm couldn't reach. "Ka-wen help me!"
"Are you sure there's something there, Greggy?" Karen sighed. The boy nodded brightly. Alright, she'd gone this far, might as well look one more time. Getting down on her knees, the girl stretched out her arm, reached, and sure enough pulled out from the tall grass a gleaming, shiny...earring! The one she'd lost!!! It must have fallen out last time she was babysitting and had rocked Greg to sleep in the hammock!
Seeing it wasn't his marble after all, the boy lost interest and ran off to play with his marbles. Karen slipped her earring into her pouch, amazed at the way things worked out, how she'd found her earring -- by finding room in her heart to help someone in need.
Q. How did Karen feel about the lost marbles at first?
A. She felt sorry for the boy, but she wasn't willing to help.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She was happy she'd found her earring and also happy that she had helped.
Q. What life-lesson do you think someone could learn from this story?
A. When people ask us for help, sometimes it can seem like a bother. But it's a great thing to help others and almost always we'll feel good about ourselves when we do.
Q. Is it even okay not to help when asked?
A. There may be times when we simply don't have the time or energy to help someone or they are asking us to do something dangerous or wrong. Then of course we don't have to. But almost always in our daily lives when people need us we can and should be willing to lend a hand.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Do you think whether we like or dislike the person asking us for help should affect our decision? If so, how?
A. We should be willing to help simply because help is needed -- personal feelings aside. We should try even harder to help out someone we dislike. Acting this way will bring true peace into our lives and to the world.
Q. What if we are truly unable to physically help someone who asks us to -- are there any other ways we can assist them?
A. Sure. We can certainly offer sincere encouragement, which is worth its weight in gold. Also, we can try to find others who could help them, as well as to wish and pray for the person's success.