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Seeing Things Differently

Behar-Bechukotai (Leviticus 25-27 )

by Nesanel Yoel Safran

It's good to try to see the good in everyone. The holiday of Lag B'Omer celebrates, among other things, the life and teachings of the great Talmudic sage and kabbalist, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who hid in a cave for 14 years to escape anti-Semitic Roman persecution. When he was finally able to come out, one of the first lessons he taught was that we should always try to see the good in what people do even when at first it's not apparent.

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In our story, a kid comes to see…that there's more than one way to see.


Brad looked at the list on the classroom wall and frowned. The teacher, Mr. Gable, had split the class into research teams to work together on their month-long science project about the five senses, and from the looks of it, it was going to be a month of misery.

His group was supposed to study the sense of sight. The problem was who he'd been assigned to work with. First on the list was that bossy kid Kevin who just couldn't stop telling everyone what to do. Next, and even worse, was Larry, who drove him crazy by always asking a million questions about everything. Then -- oh, no! -- was Jack the joker -- how were they ever going to get any work done with him cracking jokes all the time? He scanned the rest of the names. The only decent kid on the whole list was his pal, Mike.

"Mr. Gable, you've got to switch me to a different team!" Brad begged. "Switch me to Hearing, Smell, Touch! I don't care which. But I just can't work a whole month with those guys on the Vision team. I'll go nuts!"

"Going nuts, that would be quite serious, Brad," the teacher agreed, with a bemused look over the tops of his glasses. "But do you think you could retain your sanity for just one day? Class is just about to start. Come see me again after class and we'll discuss it further, okay?" .

Without much of a choice, Brad glumly nodded and shuffled over to the corner of the classroom where his team was supposed to meet. He grabbed the chair next to Mike -- at least his friend could help share in his misery.

Sure enough, things went as expected, as bossy Kevin stood up, appointed himself group leader and began giving a speech. That is, when he didn't have to stop every two minutes to answer one of Larry's constant questions or to wait for the group to stop cracking up over one of Jack's jokes.

"Pretty bad, huh?" Brad whispered into Mike's ear.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean it stinks that we got stuck on the terrible research team. The teacher said that I could maybe switch tomorrow -- maybe we can ask if you can too."

Brad expected Mike to readily agree, but instead the kid gave him a confused look. "Why do you want to switch? This is a great team. Kevin's already agreed to take charge, which will make sure things get done. Larry's questions will keep everything clear and make sure we stay on track. And in case it gets too heavy, we've got a guy like Jack around to keep things light. All the other kids fit in perfectly too, so why in the world would you want to switch?"

"Um, well, I guess when you look at it that way…"

Just then, the bell rang to go to the next class. Brad gathered his stuff and began dashing out when the teacher waved him over to his desk.

"Okay, Brad, you mentioned that you wanted to switch teams. Let's see, there''s…".

"Uh, that's okay, Mr. Gable," Brad cut in with a nervous smile. "I don't need to switch anymore."

"You mean you want to stay on the 'Vision' team, after all?"

"Yeah," Brad smiled. "I'm learning so much about vision. Just one day on the team, and I'm already seeing things differently!"

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Ages 3-5

Q. How did Brad feel at first about the kids on his team?
A. He felt they were no good and he didn't want to be with them.

Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. His friend helped him see what was good about everyone, so he wanted to stay in the group.

Ages 6-9

Q. What life-lesson do you think Brad learned that day?
A. He'd been focusing on what was bad about the traits of the kids on his research team. But from the way his friend was able to see the good in each kid and how he acted, Brad learned a valuable new and positive way of seeing things.

Q. How do you think focusing on people's good traits could enhance your life?
A. A lot of the way we feel comes from how we look at the world. If we try to see the good in others, we will find ourselves surrounded by people we enjoy being around. Also, positivity is contagious—the more we see the good in others, the more they will see the good in us.

Spiritual exercise: At least one time today, try to see something good in a person around you.

Ages 10 and Up

Q. Whose way of looking at things was more accurate—Brad's or Mike? Why?
A. In one sense, they both were accurate. The kids had the traits they observed in them. Yet their interpretations were very different. By choosing a positive interpretation, we are creating a brighter world for ourselves and the positive energy we emit helps the people around us bring out their best too.

Q. Is there ever a time when we shouldn't strive to see the good in others?
A. While searching for the good in others is generally a positive value, we mustn't to people or situations which could place ourselves or others in danger.

Spiritual exercise: At least one time today, try to see something good in a person around you.

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