Different Kind of Greatness

June 24, 2009

5 min read


Va'eira (Exodus 6:2-9:35 )

How many of us can be truly great? The Torah's answer is: everyone! In this week's portion, the Torah (Shmot 6:26) mentions Aaron's name before Moses' to teach us that Aaron was as great as Moses. But how can this be, since Moses was the greatest prophet who ever lived? The answer is that Aaron lived up to 100% of his potential, just like Moses did. We can also live up to our full potential - and be great too!

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In our story, a kid finds a different kind of greatness.


"Test me next!"

"No, me! Me!"

Jason watched his classmates waving their hands fighting for the teacher's attention and thought he was going to be sick. Ever since that dark day last week when they'd announced the 'by heart' contest to give a special t-shirt to whoever memorized a whole long chapter of the material they were studying, his life had taken a sharp turn for the worse.

Sure, he'd been excited at first, too. Who wouldn't be? It was only once he sat down and tried to do it that things fell apart. Although he would try and try to remember, it just didn't happen. As soon as he'd get to the second line, the first line he'd been working on memorizing for so long would just evaporate from his brain.

He hadn't felt so bad the first day or two when only super-brain kids like Charles, who seemed to remember what he learned before he even learned it, won the prizes.

But then when the other 'regular' kids were starting to win too, that's when it really started to hurt.

Finally the lunch bell rang to end the day's torture session. The kids - now most of them in their 'winner's' t-shirts - poured out of the classroom and Jason was about to join them when he figured he'd hang back and just give this memorizing thing one more try.

Over and over he repeated the first paragraph out loud and over and over it slipped out of his mind. Oh, why do I have to be so dumb! He gave it another couple of tries and finally remembered it. But what about all those other paragraphs in the chapter he was supposed to memorize still in front of him, looking higher than Mount Everest and wider than the Pacific Ocean?

The boy put his head down on his desk in despair when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He looked up.

"This is for you, Jason." It was the Mr. Abrams, the teacher, holding out a 'winner's' t-shirt.

"B-but, I didn't take the test today. I didn't memorize all the material. Maybe you've got me mixed up with someone else."

"It's no mix-up," the teacher smiled. "I happened to be listening in while you were just studying and I heard how you were putting all of your heart and soul into trying to remember it. And I think you worked harder to get that first paragraph down than most of these guys did to learn the whole thing. Succeeding in school - and succeeding in life - isn't about doing what comes easy. It's about putting in a 100% effort using the abilities you have. So you should put on this t-shirt and wear it with pride, because from what I can see, you're a big winner!"

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Ages 3-5

Q. How did Jason feel at first?
A. He felt like he wasn't succeeding.

Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He felt like a winner because he'd done his best.

Ages 6-9

Q. What life-lesson could someone learn from this story?
A. We can feel that success is based on how much we accomplish, but true success is, rather, based on how hard we try and how much we fulfill our potential.

Q. Do you think Jason deserved the t-shirt? Why, or why not?
A. Even though he didn't memorize all the material, since he put in his best effort he was definitely a winner too.

Ages 10 and Up

Q. Why do you think fulfilling one's potential is a true measure of greatness?
A. Most of the talents and abilities we have, such as intelligence, good looks, or athletic talent, are gifts from God - things for which we never had to work. While these can be positive, they don't define greatness. Greatness comes from the effort we put in to make the most of our abilities, be they large or small.

Q. Besides 100% effort, is there any other factor required for true greatness?
A. An important factor is what we choose to apply our efforts to. That is, if a person uses 100% of his potential to become a great criminal, he certainly isn't truly great. The 'greatness' formula is to apply true values to form our goals and then give it everything we have, to succeed.

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