April 13, 2024
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April 13, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Sometimes life can be tough, especially when other people don’t treat us the way we would like. But things sure go a lot more smoothly if we have a place in our lives where we feel safe. Our Torah portion relates the story of the big rain that flooded the world. But before it started to rain, God told Noah to build a special kind of boat—called an ark—that would float above the floodwaters and keep everyone inside safe. Noah brought every kind of animal into the giant ark, as well as his entire family. We can learn from this how to make our own “ark” by treating our family and the people around us nicely and with respect. Such an “ark of good will” can keep us afloat in times when things get rough in life.

In our story, two brothers learn to “build an ark” by treating each other with respect.


The Home Team

Mr. Levy had just gotten home from work. He sat down in his favorite easy chair and started to go through the day’s mail. He was absorbed in his task when his two sons came barreling through the living room like a freight train.

Dave, the younger of the two, was holding on to a red, white and blue basketball, and Rafi, his older brother, was in hot pursuit.

“Gimme that ball, it’s my turn to shoot!” Rafi yelled.

“No way! I’m up!” squealed his brother.

Mr. Levy didn’t pay too much attention to the goings on. He knew that ball games and the arguments about them were all part of growing up and that the boys would work it out by themselves if he let them. But, as the boys turned the corner into the dining room, their father heard Rafi call his brother by a really nasty name, and the younger boy, who had just lost the ball, responded with something even worse.

Mr. Levy raised his eyebrow. “Where did they learn that?” he thought.

Soon, however, the fight was over and the two boys were once again peacefully shooting hoops in the backyard.

A few minutes later, the back door swung open and the boys saw their father walking out with a bottle of soda and three glasses. “Let’s take a time out, guys,” he said.

The boys, thirsty from their tough one-on-one, gladly obliged. The three of them sat down at the patio table and enjoyed the refreshing drinks.

Mr. Levy said, “Boys, I’m sorry to interrupt your game, but there’s something we have to talk about.”

“What’s that?” huffed Rafi, still out of breath.

“Well, when you came through the house a little while ago, I heard you using the kind of language that I never taught you and that is not acceptable. Do you know what I’m referring to?”

The brothers blushed. Finally the older boy spoke up. “But Dad, that’s how all the kids on the block talk. It’s just part of the game.” His brother nodded his head in agreement.

Mr. Levy straightened up in his chair. “Rafi, do you think it’s right to speak to each other like that? Do you think it makes somebody feel good to be called such a name?”

“No,” Rafi answered. “But everybody talks that way,” he added softly.

“Listen guys,” said Mr. Levy, “I know what it can be like out there. In fact, where I work there are also people who talk tough and don’t respect the people around them. Sometimes it’s hard for me not to behave like they do.”

“So what do you do, dad?” asked Dave.

“Well, I try to think about how nice it is at home, and how we all try so hard to treat each other with kindness and respect. When I do that, it helps me to stay strong and act decently even if the people around me aren’t.”

“So that’s what we’ll do too,” said Dave.

Mr. Levy put his hand on his son’s shoulder and said, “That’s a good idea, but… it will only work if we remember to speak to each other and treat each other properly when we are at home. Then, when we are out there we can take our home behavior with us.”

Mr. Levy picked up the ball that had rolled near the table. He handed it to Rafi and said, “Go on back to your game, guys. And remember, no matter where you are, you can still be on the ‘home team.’”

Nesanel Yoel Safran is a writer, chef and a teacher/student of Jewish spirituality. He blends these assorted vocations on his blog, Soul Foodie, where you can join him on mystical cooking adventures and glean practical wisdom for the kitchen—and for living. https://soulfoodiecom.wordpress.com/

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