Right Makes Might
Mikeitz (Genesis 41:1-44:17 )
The story of Chanukah tells how the Jewish people faced an enemy that was trying to force them to act just like them, even though what they were doing was wrong. The people resisted and won. We can also win when we stand strong and not let anyone convince us to do what's wrong.
In our story, a kid discovers the might in doing what's right.
THE CHANUKAH MIRACLE
It wasn't one of the most serious days of the school year. Not only was it the last day before winter break, and not only was the regular teacher out with a substitute in his place, but it was also Chanukah and the kids' minds were much more filled up with thoughts of presents and dreidels than multiplication tables.
It was during recess that the guys had found the big, black, ugly giant beetle ambling its way across the schoolyard and caught in a broken soda bottle. Some of the kids wanted to crush it, while others demanded to let it free. A big brouhaha was starting to shape up, until Chuck came up with the brilliant idea that stopped everybody in his tracks:
"Well, doesn't the substitute teacher deserve a Chanukah present, too?" he asked.
"What does that have to do with anything?" asked Zach.
"Everything! We just wrap up this black bomber and leave it on her desk and then when she opens it and either faints or freaks out we'll all have a great big laugh to send us off on vacation in the right frame of mind."
"Amazing idea!" Zach agreed.
"Brilliant!" Bill billowed. Everyone thought it was a great idea, everyone but Josh. Josh thought that not only was it dumb, it was a downright mean thing to do. To the bug - and especially to the poor substitute teacher.
But once the guys got going, there was no stopping them. Somehow they produced a real-looking gift wrapped box one of the kids had brought in to show off one of his Chanukah presents - a watch, just like the kind Josh also got and was wearing on his wrist.
The beetle was boxed and re-wrapped and bowed and a note "For today's teacher: Happy Chanukah from the class" was taped on top. The kids quickly snuck back into the classroom to leave it on the teacher's desk before the bell rang. That way it would already be on the teacher's desk when she would walk in. And just as quickly they snuck back out to wait for the bell to ring.
Josh watched the whole thing happening and part of him was just going to go along with it - after all it would be fun to see what happened. But another part thought it was just awful.
He looked at his watch. The bell would be ringing in just another three and a half minutes - but maybe, if he hurried...
This was perhaps the first time in the history of the school year that EVERY kid was quietly sitting at his desk within seconds of the bell - all waiting for the teacher to come in to discover the surprise on her desk. But it was the class that got a surprise as Mr. Stern - the principal who lived up to his name - came marching in.
"Okay, everyone. Time to get to work. I'm going to be your substitute for the second half of the day," he said.
No one in the whole class was breathing as he walked up to the desk and spotted the 'present' and picked it up.
"'For today's teacher... hey, I guess that's me," the principal said as he began to remove the wrapping paper.
Each kid in their mind was pondering exactly what his punishment was going to be once the principal would see what they tried to do to the sub. The guesses ranged from canceling vacation to firing squad.
Though no one knew what to expect, no one expected the smile that appeared on the principal's face when he looked inside the box...well, almost no one.
"Why, this is very thoughtful," Mr. Stern said, as he held up the (almost) brand-new watch.
For a long time the kids in the class could only talk about the 'Chanukah miracle' that happened right in front of their eyes. That is, except for Josh. He didn't talk about it much. After all, why settle for talking about miracles - when you can make them instead?
Q. How did the kids in the class feel about giving the substitute teacher the prank gift?
A. They thought it was funny and didn't care if it would scare or embarrass the teacher.
Q. How did Josh feel?
A. He thought it was cruel and did something to stop it.
Q. What life-lesson do you think someone could learn from what happened?
A. The kids were ready to pull a mean practical joke. Josh felt he had to stop it from happening. He did and saved everyone from getting in big trouble. We'll never lose in the end if we stand up for what's right.
Q. Do you think standing up for what's right can increase a person's courage?
A. Definitely. Deep inside, each of us has a part which is fearless to do what is right and if we can tap into that we become almost superhuman.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Is there ever a time a person should go along with the crowd, even if she or he disagrees?
A. On matters that have merely to do with preferences - like which restaurant to go to, etc. - it's good to be flexible. But if we feel our values are being violated - then it's time to stand tough.
Q. On the original Chanukah, our sages tell us, a small group of untrained soldiers defeated a great superpower. How do you think that was possible?
A. It was surely a miracle. But beyond that, the fighters were motivated to do what was right and thereby, so to speak, got God on their side. Once that happens, no goal is too great to accomplish.