Simcha's Torah Stories - Vayechi
THE BEST PRIZE
The Best Prize
Avi, did you see the sign hung up in the hallway of the school?
There is a contest to see who can memorize the most Mishnayos. The top prize is a set of books.
Wow, that's a great prize. I had better start memorizing. I want to win.
On the way home from school, Avi meets another friend.
What do you have there, Yitzy?
This schoolbag is a prize that I won for coming on time to school for one month straight.
Wow, that's great Yitzy.
Avi arrives at home.
Mom, I'm home!
Shalom Avi! How are you? Hoe was school?
Everyone come to the table to eat lunch. The first one to wash gets a cookie.
Avi thinks to himself, "Everything has a prize. A set of books, a schoolbag, a cookie."
Mom, can I ask you something?
Of course, Avi dear.
Why does everything have a prize? The school runs contests to help us learn or come on time. They give out prizes. When we come home to eat, you give out prizes. Does everything have to have a prize?
Avi, dear, you are so perceptive. Prizes are a good thing if used properly. They can be a big encouragement to do better. They can help us form good habits. But they are not the whole story. We are really striving for something beyond that.
That is what I thought, Mom. I knew it in my heart.
This week's parsha, Avi, tells about a request that Yaakov Avinu, our father Yaakov, made of his son Yosef, the ruler of Egypt. Yaakov asked Yosef to do chessed v'emes(kindness and truth) for him and not bury him in Egypt (Bereshis 47:29). The great Bible and Talmud commentator, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, who is known to us as Rashi, Rashi comments that the chessed that one does with the deceased is true kindness because one receives nothing in return.
Mom, isn't there a Mishnah in Pirkei Avos about this subject?
Excellent Avi! It is in the very first perek. Antigonos Ish Socho used to say, "Don't be like servants who serve the Master on the condition of receiving a reward. Rather, be like servants who serve the Master unconditionally." The highest level of doing a mitzvah is without a reward. So you see, Avi, prizes are only a step along the way. They are to encourage us to do better. But the real goal is to do the mitzvah without any prizes.
Great, Mom! Give me a mitzvah to do. And don't give me a prize!
Avi, you are tops. You are the best prize that a mother could ever have.
A word I know,
Six letters it contains,
Subtract just one,
And twelve is what remains.
Answer to Last Week's Question
Question: What goes around the world and stays in a corner?
Answer: A postage stamp.
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