Minute #720: How, Not What

It was crunch time at the Boker home. Mrs. Boker had just arrived home from work and started her evening routine of getting the smaller children cleaned, fed and ready for bed. Simultaneously, she started to prepare that evening’s dinner.

The school bus honked its horn, and she opened the door for her 9-year-old. He dropped his backpack inches from the door, threw his jacket and cap onto the nearest empty floor space, and headed for the dinette area.

“What’s for dinner?” he asked. “I’m starving!”

“I’m not really ready yet, dear,” Mrs. Boker said. “I just got home myself. Dinner will be served in about half an hour.”

Staring into the refrigerator, her son complained, “There’s never anything to eat! I can’t wait for thirty minutes. I’ll faint from starvation.”

“You’d better watch how you speak to me,” his mother said sternly. “You’re treading on thin ice, young man!”

“I don’t know why you’re getting upset,” he said. “I’m only asking to eat.”

The little boy’s claim seems justified. After all, he spent a long day at school and is hungry. Why should his mother be so upset?

When one has a need, one may ask another to fill that need. However, how one asks makes a world of difference. The people of Israel’s first test in the desert was thirst. They complained to Moshe: “What shall we drink?” Rashi explains that the test was one of how they would ask for water. Would they demand, complain and be disrespectful, or would they request respectfully? They angrily complained. They had a real need, but failed the test because they didn’t know how to ask.

One More Second: Another Thought for the Day

A person’s greatness depends on how much he values time. Time is made up of three parts: the past, the present and the future. A person’s mission in this world is to transform the present into the future. In other words, to do something eternal — something lasting — with each moment. If a person wastes a moment of the present and uses it for fleeting pleasures, he has turned it into the past, and the past is useless. (Rabbi Moshe Aharon Stern, From a Pure Fire, p. 39)


Rabbi Raymond Beyda serves in the Sephardic Community in Brooklyn, N.Y. He lectures to audiences all over the world. He has distributed over 500,000 recorded lessons free of charge. He is author of the book 1 Minute With Yourself: A Minute a Day to Self-Improvement.