July 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

It’s amazing to think that Yosef’s brothers could not recognize him. Rashi tells us that it was simply a beard that made Yosef look different. How could the brothers not recognize one of their own just due to some facial hair? Even more amazing is that the brothers spend so much time talking about their family situation, including selling Yosef. They even suggest that all their problems with Binyamin are because they sold Yosef. Yosef also knows things about them that an outsider could not. He sits them by birth mother at his table. Yosef even knows that Binyamin’s mother is no longer alive, and has Binyamin sit next to him because he too has no mother!! How could the brothers have ignored all these signs?

There once was a boy named Alon who had an embarrassing incident in fifth grade. Alon was a strong student who did very well on everything. His friends sometimes teased Alon about this, and although he didn’t like being teased about being an excellent student, he didn’t mind much; after all, these were still his friends. However, when it came to teachers it was a completely different story.

At the end of fifth grade, Alon’s teacher injured her leg and missed the last month of the year. During that time, a substitute name Mr. Briggs took over the class. This teacher quickly picked up on how smart Alon was, and often called upon him to answer difficult questions. A few weeks in, Mr. Briggs gave a test, and Alon did not do as well on it as he could. When giving back Alon’s test, Mr. Briggs said in front of the entire classroom, “Well Alon, it’s nice that you gave someone else a chance to get the highest score. You still did well, though, heh heh.” This time, Alon did not laugh along, and tears welled up in his eyes. One of Alon’s friends noticed this and said “Alon, you aren’t going to cry, are you? C’mon, you always get the best score; you shouldn’t cry. Mr. Briggs is just kidding, anyway.” Alon forced the cry back down and carried on. But Alon was really hurt.

That night when he came home, Alon tried his best to ignore the hurt he was feeling. His parents noticed that Alon looked down, but he acted as if he wasn’t feeling well. He went to bed early that night, but had trouble falling asleep because he was worried that he would be embarrassed again the next day. However, Alon’s worries were not fulfilled, and the rest of the year passed without any incident. Alon forgot about Mr. Briggs and moved on with his life. Until eighth grade.

Alon’s last year in elementary school began like any other. He met his teachers, heard what he would be learning, and started to get his binders in order. His last class of the day was math, and that was when Alon suddenly started to feel strange. As the class began, his teacher, Mr. Briggs, introduced himself and offered the class a difficult (but fun) math riddle. All the students got to work, but Alon couldn’t concentrate. He tried reading the riddle to himself, covering his ears, pacing around the room, but nothing worked. As Mr. Briggs settled the class back down to begin, Alon couldn’t get his concentration back. He started to doodle and to daydream, and the next thing he knew the period was up, and so was his school day.

Things went on like this for a week and then two, with Alon having trouble concentrating in math, no matter what part of the day he had Mr. Briggs. He managed to get through it by studying and reviewing his homework with friends. This unexpected hiccup really upset Alon, but he kept it to himself, just like back in fifth grade. Not that ignoring his feelings was helpful. Throughout Sukkot break, Alon’s parents could tell something was bothering him. However, after asking him a few times, and being told “nothing,” they gave up. When it came to his feelings, Alon was alone.

This all changed after vacation. The first day back, Mr. Briggs began class by handing out tests. “Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased at how you all did on your tests. Each one of you did better than you thought you would. (He had them predict their grades beforehand.) Except for you, Rachel. I guess you can’t get a 100 on everything.” The student named Rachel gave an awkward smile, but didn’t seem that upset; she did receive a 99 after all. The only one who was clearly upset was Alon, who looked to be on the verge of tears.

After class, Mr. Briggs asked Alon to stay behind, and asked him what was wrong. Slowly, Alon began to tell Mr. Briggs the story about what happened in fifth grade, which Alon had completely forgotten until now. Mr. Briggs realized that this had been bothering Alon since the first day of school and he apologized to Alon. Together they decided that if Alon ever thought Mr. Briggs said something insulting to any student, Alon would let him know after class and Mr. Briggs would apologize to that student. Alon’s performance in math completely turned around, and he excelled, just like in all other classes.

Sometimes we go through upsetting experiences. This is part of life. It is important that we find someone to talk to about it, and not run away from our feelings, like Yosef’s brothers (and Alon) did. Ignoring our feelings can cause us to forget these events, even if the reminders are as obvious as looking at our brother in the face.

By Yair Daar

 

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