God is Watching.
Vayikra (Leviticus 1-5 )
Everything we do, even if nobody sees us, is being watched and recorded on camera - by God. And our conscience, the part of us that makes us feel guilty if we did something we shouldn't have, is a positive thing. It is God's loving way of reminding us that He knows what we did, and knows that we'll feel better, and become better by coming clean and putting it right. This week's portion teaches us about some of the ways that in the times of the Tabernacle a person could do to put right the mistakes that he made, even those only he - and God - were aware of. Today, the way is to become aware of the fact that we're always 'on film,' and let that motivate us to try our best to act in a way that will make ourselves and God proud.
In our story, a kid sees how her life changes once she realizes the camera's rolling.
"THE MOVIE STAR"
You'd think it was a different class. I had never seen everyone looking as good, and behaving as well. Everybody was tucked in and sitting up straight. The noisy kids in the back row, who usually spent the whole class whispering and giggling, were paying attention - as quiet as mice. Even Becky, the class clown, for once had put her antics on hold. What was the cause of this miraculous turnabout?
It was all because of the woman standing quietly in the corner of the classroom, or I should say, because of the video camera she was pointing our way. They were making a movie of our school to show at the annual banquet, and everybody, from our parents to the principal, would be watching. Naturally, none of us wanted to be caught on film at any less than our very best.
But soon enough the lunch bell rang, and everyone poured out of the classroom, relieved that the 'show' was finally over.
"I bet you'd like it if the camerawoman was here all the time?" I quipped to Mrs. Mark, our teacher, on the way out.
I thought she would just laugh, but instead she gave me a thoughtful look and said, "Tammy, we are always on camera, it's just that the camera is usually hidden."
What? Were there hidden video monitors in the classrooms?
She explained: "God is watching us all the time, and taking pictures of whatever we do. He's recording our every word too. If people would only realize it, they would act a lot differently."
I never quite thought of it that way, and deep down I knew she was right. But soon enough the thought slipped out of my head as I joined the rest of the kids in the cafeteria.
"Oh no," I thought looking at the huge line. I was really hungry, and it was going to take forever to get through.
Just then, I heard someone whisper my name. "Psst, Tammy! Come cut in behind me. Quick, while nobody's looking."
It was my friend Amy. "Great." I slipped into the line, and sure enough no one noticed. There was a strict rule that nobody was allowed to cut into line or save places for anyone else. It made sense - if not, people would always be pushing and fighting. But still, if you could get away with it - why not?
We started to chat. "That was some class today, huh Tammy?" she said. "It's hard to be on camera. I couldn't wait to get out of there and be myself again."
I nodded and smiled, but something inside didn't feel right. I thought about the teacher's words, "We're always on camera..." Did that mean I had just been videoed sneaking into line? That certainly wasn't a movie I'd want anybody to see. We moved forward, and I felt a little guilty as I thought about the 'hidden camera' still running.
"Why so quiet, Tam?" asked my friend. "Anyway, did you hear what Jan did yesterday? You know she..."
I perked up my ears. Amy always had the juiciest gossip. But then I thought, "...and He's recording our every word too..." Was this gossip session also going to be part of the tape? I squirmed. How could I explain to my friend that the video camera was still running?
"You're never going to believe what she did..."
I had to act fast. "You know what Amy, I realize I forgot something," I mumbled as I pulled myself out of line.
Amy protested. "But Tammy, can't it wait a few minutes? We're almost at the front of the line and you haven't even heard the story yet."
"Sorry - gotta go!" I zoomed out and went straight to the back of the line where I really belonged.
You know, the wait didn't even seem so long. In fact, I enjoyed every minute of it as I felt the camera rolling, and making the kind of film that someday, both God and I would enjoy seeing.
Q. How did Tammy feel when she first cut into line?
A. She was happy that she wouldn't have to wait so long, and that nobody saw her do it.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She remembered the God was really watching, and it helped her be strong enough to do the right thing and take her right place in the line.
Q. Why did the class act differently just because they were being filmed?
A. We all have a conflict between how we know we should act and how we sometimes feel like acting. We can convince ourselves that what we are doing really doesn't matter. When someone important is watching, and especially if we are being filmed, we become aware that our actions do count, and are going to leave an impression, and become motivated to connect more with our true inner desire to act properly.
Q. Is God really watching our every move? And if so, does He really care what we do?
A. Absolutely. God is right there with us 24 hours a day seven days a week. He put us in the world, cares very much about us, and wants to help us make the right choices that will bring ourselves, and the whole world to reach our greatest potential for happiness.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Is guilt a positive thing?
A. Guilt has gotten a bad rap. If used properly, a guilty conscience can be one of the most potent tools to help us reach our ultimate goals and desires. Healthy guilt is the tuggings of the Godly, spiritual part of ourselves, working to keep us from straying off the path of spiritual and personal growth. Without guilt, a person would be a slave to his momentary whims, and could really hurt himself and others in the process. Guilt should never make us depressed, but rather empower and motivate us to live by our deepest and truest values.
Q. Is there any way to edit or erase the parts of our "life movie" we're not proud of?
A. Amazingly, God has given us a loophole to do just that. The process is to contemplate the parts of our movie where we blew it, and were untrue to our values. We should speak to God about these incidents, freely admitting our mistake, and affirm our commitment to do better in similar situations from now on. This is called "Teshuva" - repentance. Depending on our level of sincerity, God will 'edit' our movie, and either erase the embarrassing parts, or even rewrite them to show us in a positive light.