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The Long Shortcut


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How can a person make sure that things will work out right? By doing what is right. When Hashem told the Jewish people to rest their fields and not plant any crops every seventh year, shmitta, it was a huge test of faith, as no crops meant no food! But Hashem also told them that if they did what’s right and listen to Him, they wouldn’t lose out because He’d miraculously give them enough crops in other years to more than make up for the year of rest. And that’s what happened.

So too, whenever we find ourselves in a dilemma where doing what’s ethical and right seems like an inconvenience or might cause a loss, we can trust in Hashem and know that if we do the right thing, we will never lose out in the end.

In our story, some kids find out that the “wrong” way is the “long” way.

It was a steaming, muggy day, and Nachi and his friends were wondering if their long trek home from the playground was ever going to end. Suddenly someone noticed a break in the chain-link fence running along the other side of the road.

“Hey, we’re in luck!” Donny, Nachi’s brother, called out with a smile. “Cutting through that field will get us home in half the time.”

“Let’s go for it!” shouted the boys. They immediately darted across the dusty street.

But as they got closer, their hearts sank.

“NO TRESPASSING,” read an old, rusty sign hanging off one side of the broken fence.

The kids looked at each other. “Aw, c’mon,” Donny said. “That sign’s probably been hanging there for ten years. Nobody pays it any attention, and neither should we.”

“Donny’s right,” piped up Shmuly. “Just look at how many people have ‘trespassed’! They’ve beaten a path across the empty field.”

The hot and tired kids didn’t need much convincing, and one by one they started ducking through the fence. But as Nachi bent down to go in, something didn’t feel right. True, he was tired and hot, but did that make it okay to trespass?

He stopped short and called out to the others. “Hey wait a minute!” The guys looked at him. “Where do we get the right to cut through other people’s property?” Nachi asked. “I know we’re all tired, but what’s right is right, even when it’s hard, isn’t it?”Safran-050313

Donny turned to his brother and said with a smirk, “Listen, we’re taking the shortcut. I’m sure it’s not a problem. But if you want to sweat it out and take the long way around, be our guest. I’ll be waiting for you, cool and air-conditioned at home.”

Nachi watched as Donny and the others disappeared through the hole in the fence, leaving him on his own. Walking alone, the hike seemed even longer.

“Maybe I was dumb,” he thought. “Those guys are probably all cool at home by now, and where am I?”

Once or twice he almost decided to go back and join them, or slip through the other openings that came up in the fence every so often. But each time he told himself, “Right is right, even when it’s hard and that he won’t lose out by doing the right thing.”

Soon enough, Nachi found his mind wandering into pleasant thoughts and before he knew it he was home. He walked through the door fully expecting to find Donny already there, lounging in air-conditioned comfort. But to his surprise, the house was empty.

“That’s funny,” he thought. “Maybe Donny went over one of the kid’s houses.” After pouring himself a cool drink and switching on the air conditioner, Nachi settled down on the cozy sofa with a good book.

A good while later, when he went out to check the mail, Nachi saw a strange sight. Donny and the other guys were chugging down the road and they didn’t look happy. Huffing and puffing, a couple of the boys were scratching their legs, and Donny was limping!

“Hey what happened to you?” called out Nachi.

The kids looked up, surprised, and a bit embarrassed. “Well…” sighed Donny, “it seems that short-cut wasn’t such a fantastic idea after all. The field was full of thorns.”

“And Poison Ivy!” Shmuely blurted out between scratches. “It took forever to get through. We thought we’d never get out.”

“You’re soooo lucky you didn’t come with us!” Donny said.

Nachi looked at his brother and tattered friends and nodded. “I was lucky,” he thought to himself, “I was lucky that I trusted enough to do the right thing.”

Questions

Ages 3-5

Q. How did Nachi feel when he first went to take the shortcut?

A. Even though he wanted to, he realized it wasn’t right.

Q. How did he feel after he saw what happened to his friends?

A. He felt bad for them, but realized that he’d been protected because he’d chose to do what was right.

Ages 6-9

Q. If Nachi’s friends had gotten home quickly and easily, would that have proven that they were right and Nachi was wrong?

A. Not at all. A lot of times we see how doing the right thing brings good into our lives, but sometimes we don’t see it right away. The important thing is to keep on doing good, and trust that it always pays off in the end.

Q. It wasn’t easy for Nachi to pass up a shortcut. How come doing the right thing can often seem so hard?

A. Part of it is that a person naturally likes to take the easy way out, and that isn’t always the ethical choice. Also, these choices are often sent our way to test our character and help us grow by choosing to do what’s right, even when it’s hard.

Q. Can you think of a time you didn’t lose out for doing the right thing?

Ages 10 and up

Q. What does a person gain by trusting in Hashem?

A. Trust in G-d, “bitachon,” is just about the most valuable thing a person could have. Someone who has it can literally be happy and calm every moment of his life. This is because he knows that he’s never alone and that nothing that happens to him is just by chance. Since nothing and nobody can help or harm him unless Hashem wants it to happen for his ultimate best good, he doesn’t have to be afraid of anyone or anything. He never has to flatter anyone, hoping for his or her help. Bitachon can transform our lives and put us into an entirely different plane. It’s worth doing whatever we can to acquire it.

Q. Does trusting in Hashem assure that things will always turn out the way we want?

A. To trust in Hashem is to know that He loves us, always has our best in mind, and sends us just what we need at every moment. But our human perspective is limited, and it’s quite possible that what Hashem thinks is genuinely best for us may not be the same as what we think. Trusting in G-d means knowing that whatever happens is ultimately for our best.

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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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