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Good Choice

Matot-Masay (Numbers 30-36 )

by Nesanel Yoel Safran

Our choices and decisions don't only affect ourselves. They have an influence on others as well. In this week's Torah portion, the Jewish people were all set to move into the Land of Israel and settle there, when some of the people came to Moses and told him that they would prefer to settle by themselves outside of the land. Moses wanted to accommodate them, but realized that this would make the remainder of the people feel hesitant and scared about going into Israel. So he gave them permission to do as they wanted, but only if they would first come into the land together with everyone else and help the others get settled. Only then could they go back to where they wanted to be. We learn from here the importance of considering how our choices are going to affect those around us.


In our story, a boy learns a lesson about pitching in for the good of the group.


As it did every Wednesday afternoon, the Blakefield Day School Environmental Club was having its weekly planning meeting. "Good news guys," smiled Seth Stewart, the club's leader. "I just heard from Mr. Lawrence, our principal, that the town council has given us official permission to clean and renovate the old abandoned playground on Coolidge Street!"

The kids cheered. They had started the club to improve the environment in their town, and they had unanimously voted to try to take this on as their major summer project.

"We'll paint all the playground equipment with bright new colors, plant flowers and trees, and clear out all those cans and broken bottles and the rest of the junk around there." Seth explained. "The council even gave us a budget to pay for the paint and the other stuff we'll need. I'll come around and pick up everyone Sunday morning at 9 a.m. sharp. My mom volunteered to drive us in her van."

Everyone was really into it, and came up with lots of good ideas how to make the project a success.

Soon enough, Sunday came along and Seth went around picking up the club members. Each kid piled into the van eagerly, armed with rakes, shovels, and paintbrushes. They made sure to bring plenty of good snacks and drinks as well, to feed the hungry work crew.

The group pulled up to Danny Folger's house, the last stop. They honked the horn, then again... and again, but no Danny. After a few minutes Seth jumped out of the van to find out what was holding him up. He knocked and rang the bell. Finally Danny answered the door, still in his bathrobe! He yawned and said, "Sorry Seth, I can't make it. I changed my mind about going."

"What do you mean?" asked a surprised Seth. "Everyone's waiting outside. Why don't you want to come?"

Danny blushed. "Well, what difference does it make if I come or not, anyway?" asked the boy, defensively. "Even without me there are plenty of guys left to get the job done."

Meanwhile the van was honking in the driveway as the kids sitting inside it were growing impatient. Seth was upset about Danny's decision, but tried to reason with him.

"Listen Danny, its not the point whether or not we could manage without you," he explained. "Its that we're all part of a group. If you decide not to come, it won't only affect you. It's going to make the others kids have second thoughts too. Soon nobody's going to feel like pitching in. It's important that we're all in it together."

"But it's going to be such a big job!" objected Danny.

Seth smiled. "I know how you feel. It is a big project, but it's a worthwhile one. And if we all do it together, it won't feel so big either. But if one guy backs out it will make it harder for everyone. So what do you say?" he asked.

Danny thought about it, smiled and said, "Okay. Count me in! I'll just run upstairs and get into my work clothes."

A few minutes later Danny joined his friends, jumped into the van, and off they sped to the playground. Once they got there and they immediately got working. After a while Seth came over to Danny, who was painting a seesaw. "How's it going?" he asked.

Danny smiled. "It's going great. You were right. Even though it is a mountain of work, with us all working together, it's a mountain that's fun to climb!"


Ages 3-5

Q. Imagine if you're playing a nice game with a few friends. All of a sudden one of the kids grabs the ball and decides he just wants to play by himself. Is this right? Why or why not?
A. No, because if he grabs the ball it means nobody else gets to play with it, and it makes everyone else feel bad.

Q. How did Seth feel when Danny decided to come with the boys after all?
A. He felt happy because he knew all the rest of the guys would feel better about the work if everybody pitched in.

Ages 6-9

Q. Why do you think it is important for a group's morale to have everyone participate?
A. There is a certain power and excitement involved with doing something as a group, or team. When everyone works together, they are highly motivated and can do more than they could by themselves. But this type of feeling is only created if everyone is really willing to participate. Each member of a group contributes to it more than he is aware.

Q. What special responsibilities does a person have when he or she becomes a member of a team?
A. Being part of a team means you should become a "team player" -- this means you go out of your way to pitch in to the group effort, even if you don't particularly feel like it. It means focusing on the needs of the team and trying to help to fill those needs as best you can. If everybody on the team were to be only concerned about himself or herself, the group would never get anywhere. Team players help everyone else get into the "team spirit."

Q. Can you think of a time when you were part of a group and felt that kind of high energy?

Ages 10 and Up

Q.Why did Moses think that the rest of the people would feel hesitant to settle without the presence of the others? How does this relate to our story?
A. Since the tribes had come out of Egypt, they had been planning to enter into the Land of Israel. They had all been of one mind. When someone changes his mind at the last minute after agreeing all along, the people left behind feel betrayed. Danny had chosen to be a part of the environmental group and had sat in on their planning meetings. He had made himself part of the group. By not showing up, it makes the other people in the group feel uncomfortable and may cause them to question themselves and the validity of their goal.

Q. There are times that we truly want to participate and be part of the group, but we feel that our own individual talents and strengths don't fit in with the group needs. How can we bridge the gap to participate and still feel fulfilled?
A. One thing we could do is try to find a way to use our unique talents for the benefit of the group. For example, in our story, a boy who is better suited for playing music than cleaning the park, could offer to play music for the group as they work to entertain and motivate them.

Q. If one's values clash with those of his society, is he then still obligated to participate in such a society? A. Certainly one must answer to his own conscience and is not allowed to blindly follow a misguided society. Yet if possible one should try to work within the structure of society to improve it rather than simply placing himself outside of it. In this way he is in fact being a productive member of his society and at the same time true to his ideals.

Q. What special responsibilities does a person have when he or she becomes a member of a team?

Q. Can you think of a time when you were part of a group and felt that kind of high energy?


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