June 18, 2024
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June 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Helping, Menorah Style

Hey, kids, should your parents take a test to make sure they know what they are doing? Maybe a few times a year they should spend a week studying, reading and memorizing facts and vocabulary words like “yes” and “whatever you want!” Maybe they would remember what it’s like to be in school again. Sound good? Well, unfortunately, this will not be happening for your parents any time soon, but there just might be a place where something like this happens.

In a galaxy far, far away, on Orion’s Belt, there is a planet called Centauri B, which is inhabited by intelligent life. Centaurians, who can think, speak and do everything that humans can do except burp (pretty random, right?), have a strange way of becoming parents. On Centauri B, all intelligent life grows on its own from the soil, kind of like an egg on a stem. As the Centaurians started to develop as a society, they realized that for the first year after Centaurian babies hatch, they really don’t know what to do with themselves. Therefore, the queen decided to create an agency to match newly hatched Centaurians with a parent to help the child. However, in order to receive a child, each adult Centaurian must pass a test (we’ll get back to that later).

One way Centaurians learn about life is by studying our planet. They come to Earth in disguise and take notes on what humans and animals do. Beatrice was one such Centaurian, assigned to Earth for three months to study the diets of Earth’s animals. Beatrice hoped to be approved as a mother upon her return. So, while on Earth, Beatrice tried to pick up parenting tips to help her pass the test. Beatrice also brought a test simulator with her to practice for the exam. Along with knowing the answers to questions like “what is a good price for diapers?” and “what is the return policy for annoying children?” Beatrice wanted to practice the virtual reality parenting assessment in which she would be observed in certain parenting situations.

After spending a month on Earth, Beatrice was ready to try her first parenting simulation. She put on the VR goggles and pressed “start.” Immediately, her first task flashed on the screen: “Teach Your Child To Walk.” Beatrice smiled to herself. “This is easy,” she thought, as the egg in front of her began to crack open. Beatrice then reached down to pick the egg up and lift it high in the air. The egg cracked completely and the Centaurian child fell out of the egg toward the ground. The screen suddenly went black, and large red letters appeared on the screen: “You Failed!” Confused, Beatrice clicked to restart. This time, a new task appeared on the screen: “Teach your child to swim!” Again, Beatrice felt confident, but again, after she tossed her virtual child toward the water, the screen once again interrupted to report her failure.

These two failures concerned Beatrice; maybe she was doing something wrong. “Perhaps I chose the wrong animals to copy,” thought Beatrice. She had recently studied giraffes, who, when born, fall to the ground and within hours are running around with their mothers. Beatrice had also been studying fish, so you can probably guess from where she got her version of “swimming lessons.” So, over the next few weeks, Beatrice tried to look out for different parenting styles that might be helpful. Unfortunately, she found herself in Australia, studying kangaroos. More unfortunately, the next time Beatrice tried the virtual reality simulator, she was given the task to “prepare a place for your child to sleep.” Well, Centaurians don’t have pouches, so Beatrice just tried to prepare a virtual one. She grabbed a virtual backpack and some virtual rope, and immediately was met with “You Failed!” once again.

At this point, Beatrice had enough of failing, so she decided to stick to studying Earth animals’ diets for the rest of her time. While out in a forest, she came across a family of humans on a camping trip. This was Beatrice’s first time seeing humans. She had heard of them before, so she knew this must be what she was looking at. Beatrice noticed one member of the group trying to light a campfire, but it wouldn’t start properly. Soon after, an older-looking human walked over and showed the first human what she was doing wrong. “Hold your fire there a bit longer. Wait until the main fire starts to burn and only then move yours away. It’s like the new fire has to learn from the small fire how to burn first. Now let me watch you do it yourself, and next time I’ll let you try on your own.” Beatrice’s three eyes opened wide. “Oh! That’s how humans teach their children. They don’t let them go on their own, like fish and giraffes, but they also don’t stay attached to them for months at a time like kangaroos! They give them time to learn, until they are ready to be independent!” A month later, Beatrice returned home and aced her parenting test. Mazal tov, Beatrice!

We can learn a lot from Parshat Beha’alotcha about what it means to teach and help others. When Bnei Yisrael complain to Moshe, Moshe turns and complains to Hashem: “I can’t carry this nation like a parent (or a kangaroo) carrying a child against his chest!” But Hashem didn’t want Moshe to treat Bnei Yisrael like babies; he wanted Moshe to slowly teach them to be independent and to think for themselves so that they did not need to complain to Moshe over and over again. On the second pasuk in this week’s parsha, we see a similar idea. Rashi tells us that the kohen must hold his light to the Menorah “until the flame rises on its own,” and then leave it to burn. This is the best way to provide help; be there to support with the goal that the person you are helping will eventually rise up on his or her own.

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