Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

February 1, 2010

5 min read


Yitro (Exodus 18-20 )

Help... We all need it at times, and there’s nothing wrong with asking for it. In this week's Torah portion (18:17-23), Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, advises him not to wear himself out by settling all the nation's disputes by himself, but rather appoint others to help him. If someone as great as Moses can ask for help, certainly we can, too.

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In our story, a kid discovers that sometimes refusing help doesn’t help.

Helping Hands

“Good luck everyone,” Mr. Simms the math teacher said as he passed out the folded test sheets. “Now if any of you need any help or have any questions, feel free to come up and ask.”

Hah, Jerry thought to himself, maybe those other guys might need help but certainly not me. He thought he was for sure going to ace this test and bring his term grade up from a plain old ‘A’ to a sparkling ‘A’ plus.

He smirked to himself as he watched his classmates’ nervous looks as they started on their tests and watched with amusement as some of the duller ones popped up like jack-in-the-boxes to ask the teacher for help.

Not me, thought Jerry. I never have to go ask for help.

It would be fun to just keep sitting and watching the show, he thought to himself, but I might as well get started, even though the test will be a cinch.

Jerry unfolded his test with a yawn and dug into the first math problem with his usual confidence…but somehow he just couldn’t figure it out.

Okay, must be just a hard first problem. I’ll skip it and go back to it.

But the next problem was even tougher. And the next one tougher, still.

Jerry looked at the clock. He’d spent nearly half the period working on these problems and hadn’t come up with even one answer!

He looked around the room, expecting to see his classmates tearing out their hair, but things seemed pretty normal. As usual, a few kids had lined up to ask the teacher for help.

For a second it occurred to Jerry to join that line, too. But then he brushed the idea off like a pesky mosquito. Only dummies need help. Why should he -- the class brain -- have to ask for help on a test?

The boy dug into the next problem, which was as impossible to understand as all the others. Jerry’s head was swimming as he watched kid after kid walk up to the teacher’s desk. Some to hand in their already finished tests and others to ask for help. He could hear the clock ticking and knew as clear as day that if he didn’t go up and ask for help too he wouldn’t get a single problem right.

But he just couldn’t…

Jerry was a wreck by the time the bell rang. Although he was usually the first to hand in his test, this time he waited until all the kids had left, before he slowly brought the nearly blank test paper up to the teacher’s desk. He folded it in half and turned to quickly slip out the door.

“One minute, please,” the teacher called out, stopping Jerry in his tracks. “This must be some kind of mistake. I don’t know how you ended up with this test. It’s the one for the class two grades higher. It must have got mixed into the wrong pile."

Jerry perked up.

“Really?” So he hadn’t killed his term grade after all -- and now he’d even get another chance to improve it!

“A mistake? That means I was helpless to do better and I get to re-take the real test, right?”

He was surprised to see the teacher shake his head.

“Didn’t you notice that all the examples were based on things you never learned, that you never even saw?”

“So why did you sit there for a whole class period without coming to ask me to help you, to explain what was going on?”

The boy shrugged, not knowing what to say.

“I’m certainly not going to count this test against you, but neither can you make it up with a new one. Your term grade will just have to stay as is.”

Jerry walked out of the class, realizing he hadn’t been helpless -- all he’d had to do was help himself… and ask for help.

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Ages 3-5

Q. How did Jerry feel when he saw how hard he test was?
A. Though he didn’t know how to do it, he didn’t want to ask for help.

Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He wished he had asked for help, after all.


Ages 6-9

Q. What life-lesson do you think Jerry learned that day?
A. People can be too stubbornly proud to ask for help, but we should know, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help when we need it.

Q. Do you think it’s a sign of strength or weakness ever to ask for help?
A. On the outside it looks strong, but really, often it takes much more inner strength to admit we need help and ask for it than to deny it.


Ages 10 and Up

Q. Do you think that there is anyone so independent that they never need help?
A. No. G-d made the world for people to cooperate and help each other. No one can go it entirely alone. And certainly, we all need help from G-d.

Q. Should a person strive to be independent?
A. It’s a good trait not to want to unnecessarily burden or depend on others. But when we have a legitimate need, there is no shame in asking for help.


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Next Steps