What does it mean to be close to somebody else? One way is to be physically near them, but another, more spiritual way is to try to learn from them and emulate their good qualities. When the Torah instructs us to make ourselves close to, or cleave to Hashem, it doesn’t mean by trying to get to heaven in a rocket ship! Rather it means to think about Hashem and emulate His qualities of kindness, patience, fairness, etc. That is the real measure of how close a person is to G-d.
In our story, a kid learns that it’s possible to be very close to someone very far away.
Shira waved the seashell in front her like a treasure as she ran over to her mother’s beach chair. “Mom, look at this beauty! I can’t wait to bring it home and show Bubbie…”
Suddenly Shira felt a lump in her throat and stopped herself mid-sentence. She wasn’t going show this to her grandmother or anything else. In fact, she wasn’t going to see her at all any more.
It had been several months since her Bubbie had passed away, but Shira still couldn’t get used to the fact that the person she felt closest to in the world just wasn’t there anymore. Her mother had tried everything, including this special trip to a hotel beach to cheer her up, but nothing helped. The girl angrily threw the seashell down and hid her face behind her hands. Who needed any dumb shells now that she couldn’t show them to Bubbie any more?
“Hey Shira,” said her mom, “Let’s you and I take a walk along the beach and watch the waves.” She knew this was one of Shira’s favorite things to do, and hoped it would make her feel better.
The girl shrugged and half-heartedly went along. The two of them walked along the edge of the water, cool waves licking their feet from time to time. Shira began to pour out her heart to her mom, telling her about how hard it was for her now that Bubbie was so far away.
Suddenly a big red and white beach ball came bounding their way, with a small crying child frantically chasing after it. Shira saw how all the people walking in front of them were looking on and shaking their heads in pity, but nobody was doing anything to help!
Acting fast, and mustering all of her talents as goalie on her school soccer team, Shira quickly moved to her right and pounced on the runaway ball. She handed it with a smile to the still crying toddler. “It’s okay. It’s okay now,” she said with a warm, reassuring smile that immediately calmed down the little girl, who gratefully took her ball and walked away.
“Good job!” smiled her mom. “You really jumped in to save the day.”
Brushing off the sand she’d coated herself with on her dive, Shira said, “Well didn’t Bubbie always say that somebody else’s problem is our problem too?”
“That’s right,” said her mom, pausing a moment in thought, and then smiling. “Shira, you said that Bubbie’s far away, but from what I can see, she is right next to you.”
The girl didn’t understand. “Mom, what do you mean? Isn’t Bubbie…”
“I mean, the way you cared enough to get yourself dirty to help that little kid, just like Bubbie would have. Also the way you knew just how to calm her down — just like your grandmother used to gently calm you when you were little. You learned so many good things from her, and they’ll always be a part of you. And that means that Bubbie will always be a part of you too, and close as can be.”
Shira smiled. Maybe her mom was right. She was always thinking about Bubbie and trying to be like her. Maybe they weren’t so far away from each other after all!
Q. How did Shira feel about her Bubbie at first?
A. She felt sad and far away from her.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She saw that she had learned a lot of good things from her grandmother, and that made her feel close to her.
Q. Why did Shira feel better after talking with her mom if her grandmother was still far away from her?
A. Although she wasn’t any physically closer to her grandmother, she felt spiritually closer once she realized that she had made many of her Bubbie’s good traits part of her life.
Q. Do you think this feeling of closeness will increase or decrease as time goes on?
A. While it is likely that the passage of time will make certain memories and feelings fade, Shira, if she chooses to, can keep her deep-down sense of her grandmother’s nearness strong, and even grow, the more she appreciates her good traits, and makes them a part of herself.
Ages 10 and up
Q. Is one person really closer to Hashem than someone else?
A. Ultimately, as Hashem created us, and constantly sustains us, we are all as close to him as could be. However our ability to feel and benefit from that closeness depends on our choice of whether to behave in a “G-dly” way, or not. In that sense we become closer to Hashem by acting more like Him.
Q. Can a human being really understand Hashem’s ways in order to emulate them?
A. The Torah is full of teachings that directly or indirectly show us the ways of Hashem, and how He interacts with His creations. While in the absolute sense, we can never fully understand Hashem, He has given us the Torah, to learn from His ways and apply them in our lives, for the betterment of the world.
About the Author: Nesanel Yoel Safran is a published writer and yeshiva cook. He has been studying Torah for the last 25 years, and lives in Israel with his family.
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