To Trip Someone Up
Acharei Mot-Kedoshim (Leviticus 16-20 )
Everyone would agree that purposely putting something in the way of a blind person to make him trip would be cruel and wrong. But there are other ways to 'trip people up' that may be less obvious, but no better. This week's portion teaches us 'not to place a stumbling block before the blind', which our sages explain means to be careful not to do anything that could indirectly cause people to act in self-destructive ways.
In our story, a kid gets a new perspective on what it means to 'trip someone up.'
"Don't you know it's bad for you, guys?" Steve said to them. Actually, he could relate to wanting something he wasn't supposed to have. He'd been on a special diet for a week now since the doctor told him he should lose some weight. He'd being doing okay with it even though it was hard. That was, until on the bus earlier today on the way to the zoo...
"Hey Steve, want some? They're on your diet, right?" laughed Harry, his seatmate, waving the super-sized bag of barbeque chips under his nose.
"Hey, cut it out! Get that stuff out of my face," Steve protested, pushing his hand away. "I told you I'm not supposed to eat any junk food!" He had to admit that it looked and smelled a lot better than the bag of carrot and celery sticks his mom had packed for him.
"Oh, come on. It's healthy - just potatoes. Or here, have some of these chocolate chews!" Harry thrust the bag forward. "I learned in science class that chocolate is a fruit that grows on a tree. It's gotta be good for you," he winked.
"Stop it, man. That's the worst thing for me ... but you know, maybe just a couple for the ride wouldn't be so bad..." But with Steve, it was never 'just a couple' - that was one of the main reasons why he was so overweight - and by the time the bus ride was over his carrot sticks had been flung out the window and he'd mooched about half of his seatmate's huge stash of junk food.
And since he was off his diet anyway, Steve had figured he might as well take advantage of the tempting stuff the zoo snack-bar had to offer and had loaded up his pockets and later his mouth and stomach.
Now he was feeling really queasy from all the junk he ate and sat down on the ledge in front of the railing in front of the monkey exhibit. As he sat, he felt a crunch and pulled the pack of cheese-puffs, the last of his junk food, out of his pocket and looked at it. Now it looked anything but tempting to him and he felt so bad that he'd blown his diet so badly. If only Harry hadn't tempted him like that on the bus, he knew he would have been able to hold out.
"Ooch, eech. eeechhh!" Steve looked up at the screeching monkey who'd drawn close to him and obviously had much more interest in the package of cheese puffs than Steve did now.
"Don't you know this isn't good for you?" Steve laughingly scolded. "It's not on your diet either." But the cute monkey only jumped up and down more excitedly. "Okay, if you decide to eat it, that's your business..."
Steve was about to make the monkey's day and flip him the whole package when he stopped himself. The zoo guide had stressed that most human food was very bad for the animals even if they ate it and acted like they wanted it. If he gave his junk food to the monkey, he'd be doing the same, hurtful thing Harry had done to him.
"Sorry big guy, but I care about you too much to trip you up like that." He got up and threw the package into the trash bin, feeling sad about blowing his diet. He decided then and there to start it again and to make sure to sit next to someone else on the ride home. "Well at least I learned how important it is not to tempt someone - even a monkey - to do something that could mess him up."
Q. How did Steve feel when he was about to give his snack to the monkey?
A. He felt like it was okay, since the monkey was acting like he wanted it.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He realized that if he gave it to the monkey, he'd be tripping it up to do something bad for him, which was wrong.
Q. What life lesson could someone learn from what happened in the story?
A. When we know that something is bad for someone we should go out of our way not to 'trip him up' by tempting him in any way to do it.
Q. Harry didn't force Steve to eat the junk food, he chose to do it on his own. So did Harry really do anything wrong?
A. True, he didn't force him. But he knew Steve was trying to avoid that food and it was tempting to him, so he should have tried to keep it away from Steve and certainly not talk him into it.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. How do you think the principle of 'not tripping someone up' might apply to the business world?
A. Often advertising and marketing tries to convince people to buy or invest in things they really don't need or can't afford. This can tempt people into doing things that can cause them much anguish.
Q. Why do you think the Torah and our sages refer to tempting people into destructive things as 'putting a stumbling block in front of the blind'?
A. In a sense, we all have 'blind-spots' to certain things, to negative behaviors that we can't properly 'see' the consequences of, or we wouldn't do them. Therefore setting people up to fall into these negative behaviors is like 'tripping' the blind.