Possessor or Possessed?
Behar-Bechukotai (Leviticus 25-27 )
Our possessions are ours to enjoy - as long as we don't let them posses us. This week's Torah portion (Lev. 25:6) instructs farmers that while for six out of seven years they can keep their crops to themselves, or sell them at a profit, every seventh year they should freely share them with whoever wants them - no charge! This was to help them remember that no matter how much they owned, they shouldn't let it 'go to their heads', because ultimately everything belongs to God. So, too, while we should appreciate and enjoy the things we have, we shouldn't let them possess us by identifying with them too much or letting them make us conceited.
In our story, a kid discovers that people make things - things don't 'make' people.
"What do you mean, 'no'?" Shauna asked her mom with such conviction that anyone listening would have been sure she literally didn't know the meaning of the word.
"I'm sorry, honey," her mother said, "but you know how the economy's been and that's just way too much money to spend on a handbag right now. You'll have to wear one you already have to the party, I'm sure you can find something that will match the new outfit we just bought - which also cost a pretty penny."
Seeing she wasn't going to get anywhere by arguing, Shauna grunted, turned on the heels of her new designer shoes and marched past the display window of the accessory shop and into her mom's car. They drove home.
Match my outfit? she thought to herself. Is that all that matters? Shauna Sanders didn't just dress to match - she dressed to impress. And impress she did. A slight smile played over her lips as she remembered the effect her emerald cashmere pullover had made on her friends on the last class outing - especially after she made it a point that everyone knew exactly where she'd bought it and for how much.
But, Shauna sighed, this was no time to gloat over past triumphs. The party was in just a few hours and how could she possibly show up without an elegant new bag over her shoulder, something like her cousin Stephanie's....
Suddenly Shauna's eyes lit up brighter than her zirconium buttons.
* * *
"Shauna!" Amanda gasped less than a second after her friend walked through the door. "You look stunning."
"Thanks." Shauna smiled with satisfaction. "You wouldn't believe how lucky I was to find this outfit at..."
"Yes, it's gorgeous," Amanda cut in "But I can't take my eyes off the bag you're wearing. Where did you ever get it?"
Shauna squirmed. Why of all things is she asking me about my cousin's bag - the one thing that isn't really mine?
"Oh ... that? It's really nothing..." She wasn't sure what to say next, but fortunately someone else came along.
"Shauna you look amazing and so put-together!" Debby cooed.
"Well I guess it's these shoes that do it." Shauna smiled. "You don't know how long I had to look before..."
"They are really nice - but that bag is just beyond!"
Shauna growled silently behind her polite smile. All anyone seemed to want to compliment her about was this stupid handbag that wasn't even hers, so she couldn't even brag about it. But then again, she thought, just because those other things are mine, does that mean I have the right to brag about them?
SEVERAL HOURS LATER...
"Mom, I'm home." Shauna said in time with the bang of the door.
"Hi, honey," her mother smiled. "How was the party?"
"I hope you managed okay even without a new handbag. Maybe by the next Bat Mitzvah party we'll be able to..."
"That's okay, Mom." Shauna grinned. "I figured out I didn't want a bag, but a brag and that's certainly never worth the price tag."
Q. How did Shauna feel about getting a new handbag at first?
A. She really wanted it so she could brag and impress her friends.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She felt it was silly to want to own something just to be able to brag.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Shauna learned that evening?
A. She'd been using her expensive possessions as 'status symbols' - ways of making herself seem impressive in the eyes of others. When people were complimenting her for something that wasn't even hers, it let her step back and see that trying to impress people with possessions was pretty silly to begin with.
Q. Why do you think Shauna didn't feel good when her friends were complimenting the handbag?
A. Because she knew it wasn't really her they were complimenting, but something that didn't belong to her. This helped her realize that none of her possessions, while the may 'belong' to her, were not really 'her' either.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. What does it mean by letting possessions 'possess' us?
A. It means identifying so strongly with our possessions that having many can make us brag and feel conceited and lacking them can make us feel worthless.
Q. How can realizing everything belongs to God can help us not become 'possessed'?
A. When we remember that everything is God's (and it is, because He created everything and actively keeps everything in a state of existence) and that He simply allows certain people to temporarily 'possess' certain of His things, we'll never make the mistake of identifying too much with our possessions or lack of them. While God wants us to act justly amongst each other and not steal and such, we have to know that even what is 'ours' is really His.