Because she was sick from eating too much turkey, Beth had to stay home from school. Beth's father made her stay in her room all day while he and his friend Clora did noisy work in the basement.
When Clora was gone, Beth complained to her father. "You spend more time with Clora than with me," she cried. "You like her better!"
"Sweetheart," Beth's father said, "you are my daughter and I love you very much, but Clora is my special friend and co-worker. In any case, it is not nice to speak badly of your elders."
"But she's not that much older than me," said Beth, her eyes starting to tear.
Her father just stood and stared at her for a moment with his hands on his hips. "Clora is an adult and you are still just a child, Beth. I think that you should stay in your room all next week and think about what you said."
Beth cried and said that she was sorry, but her father didn't change her punishment.
As he closed the door to Beth's room, her father said, "And I don't want you telling your mother about Clora being over today. I've had enough of your complaining."
That upset Beth even more; how would she ever feel better if she couldn't talk to her mother about her problems?
When Beth's mother came home, Beth said, "Mother, I was bad today so Father said that I have to stay in my room for a week even though I said I was sorry. Why should I be punished for so long? Won't you make him change his mind?"
"Let me tell you a story about punishment, Dear One," Beth's mother said.
And this is the story she told:
One day, Miriam and Aaron were complaining because Moses (the humblest man in the world) had married an Ethiopian woman. They said, "Did God only talk to Moses? Didn't he talk to us, too?"
God heard them complaining. He said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, "You three should come to the temple."
So they came to the temple and a cloud with God in it appeared at the temple door and said, "Aaron, Miriam, come here." And they did.
God said, "Listen. If any of you are really extra-holy, I, God, will show up in your dreams. Not Moses, though. I talk to him mouth to mouth, up front, and not with words in shadows. He'll see all my similitude."
"Mother," Beth interrupted. "What's 'similitude'?"
Beth's mother thought for a moment. "I think it's a quality of God," she answered, "like 'goodness'."
"Oh," said Beth.
"Aren't you afraid to say bad things about Moses?" God asked Aaron and Miriam. Then God got really mad at Aaron and Miriam, so he left.
When the cloud was gone, Miriam got leprosy. Aaron looked at her and said, "Look! She's got leprosy!"
Aaron said to Moses, "Hey, I'm sorry. Please, don't punish us because we're stupid. Don't make Miriam be like somebody who's half dead when she's born."
Moses said to God, "Heal Miriam, God, please."
And God said to Moses, "If her dad spit in her face, wouldn't she be embarrassed for a week? Throw her out of the camp for seven days, and after that she'll be fine."
So they threw Miriam out of camp for a week and nobody went anywhere until she came back.
Beth thought about this for a moment. "I guess I understand -- God doesn't like complainers," she said, dejected. "But why didn't Aaron get punished? He complained, too."
"Isn't having his wife turned into a leper punishment enough?" her mother asked.
Then Beth smiled and hugged her mother. "At least you will be able to see more of me because I'll be home all week," Beth said.
"Actually, Dear One," said Beth's Mother, "I'll be out of town at a quilting convention all next week, and I want you to behave while I'm gone."
"I see," said Beth in a small voice. All her questions had been answered, but now she was really depressed.
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