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New and Better People

Vayishlach (Genesis 32:4-36:43 )

by Nesanel Yoel Safran

One of the best ways to grow is by facing and overcoming challenges. In this week's Torah portion, Jacob faces the struggle of having to defend himself from an attack by an evil angel. He triumphs, and grows so much from the experience, that God grants him a special new name - Israel. So too, we can grow into new and better people by facing our challenges head on.

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In our story, a kid faces a big challenge and comes out ahead in an unexpected way.


Kate struggled to swing her left foot in front of her right. The last thing she ever thought was that she'd have to learn how to walk all over again!

How could it be that one day she was on top of the world, happy, popular and just about the best athlete in her whole school, and the next day after that stupid car came and hit her, she felt like she was back in kindergarten?

Sure, the doctors had told her she was lucky to be alive - and she knew it, too. And they said that if she worked really hard on her physical therapy, although she wouldn't go back to being star of the track team - and probably not even make the team - she'd be able to walk normally.

Kate lifted her right foot to take another step... Whoa!" Losing her balance, the girl twirled around and just caught herself on a chair before she fell.

"Hey, nice pirouette! I didn't know you knew ballet too!" Liz, her friend who was helping her try to exercise, joked.

Kate didn't find it funny and plunked down onto the chair and shook her head. "I just can't take this anymore!" she huffed. "I can't stand being such a basket case!"

"Come on, Kate I know it can be rough, but let's just try..."

"No, really!" she interrupted. "I'm just like one of those losers in gym class I used to like to laugh at, who could hardly chug once around the track while I was breezing through my third lap."

"You mean like me?" the non-athletic Liz asked.

"Well, I hope you didn't take it personally, did you? It's just that those things you and the others would work so hard at, just came so easily to me - it was hard not to laugh. But don't worry. Now that I can't go three steps without falling over like a bowling pin, I'm not making fun of nobody no more."

Kate struggled to get up off the chair. "Okay, here we go again. Can you believe I've been working harder to walk just a few steps since the accident than I used to work to run 1500 meters?"

"I do believe it, Kate. You've been doing great."

"Thanks to your help - I appreciate it sooo much. But face it, but no matter how hard I work, I'm never going to be a winner again."

"I can't and don't believe that!" Liz shook her head.

"Oh, come on. You know what the doctors said about running..."

"That's not what I mean," Liz smiled. "Since the accident you've been trying harder than you ever had before, right?"

Kate nodded her head as Liz went on. "And ... if you don't 'take it personally,' you've become a lot nicer, too. Almost like a new person."

Kate smiled, knowing her friend was right.

"Yup, Kate, I'd say you've become a much bigger winner than ever before, wouldn't you?"

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Ages 3-5

Q. How did Kate feel at first about her accident?
A. She felt like it made her into a loser.

Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. Her friend helped her see that she'd grown a lot from what happened.

Ages 6-9

Q. What life-lesson could someone learn from this story?
A. We could look at struggles and challenges as negative set-backs, but really they are the things that help build us into better people.

Q. Why do you think Kate became nicer after her accident?
A. Before that, she had been conceited about her talents that came so easily to her and would look down on others. The struggles and challenges she faced made her more humble.

Ages 10 and Up

Q. How do challenges help a person grow?
A. Just like the strain of exercise builds a person's body, the strain of life-challenges are like exercise to the character and soul. Though it's not always pleasant, when we look back in life we will see that it was the struggles of life that made us better people.

Q. Do you think someone can grow so much that he becomes like a new person?
A. Although we always keep certain parts of ourselves and our personalities, a human being has almost an infinite ability to grow and this is one of the most amazing and enjoyable parts of life.

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