June 16, 2024
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Odelia didn’t mind school. In fact, she actually liked school (although she might not admit it out loud). Odelia liked to learn new things, and really liked the projects her teachers had assigned so far this year. Throw in the debate team and the new outdoor picnic area at school, and Odelia woke up most days excited to go to school.

However, like most students, Odelia was not a fan of studying for tests. If not for tests, Odelia was sure she could do 12 months of school (another fact she might not admit out loud). Odelia’s dislike of tests was a big part of what she liked to post on social media. “When you are about to go to sleep early and remember you have a test” read a meme Odelia recently posted. The picture in the meme was that of a girl sitting up in bed like she was just woken up by a nightmare. “PROtest? No, thank you, I’m CONtest!” said Odelia’s most recent WhatsApp status update.

Despite not loving tests, Odelia did her best to prepare for exams. She set up study schedules, kept her notes well-organized, and used her time wisely. However, Odelia was always looking for ways to limit her studying. She’d beg teachers to make tests open-notes, assign projects instead, or to provide the questions beforehand. Odelia just wanted more free time at home—was that too much to ask?

Without Odelia knowing, someone—or actually someTHING—was planning to get Odelia out of having to study for tests. And that thing was her iPhone. Ever since Odelia received an iPhone for her bat mitzvah, the little “brain” inside the phone had been helping all of her apps gather information about Odelia. Each app “knew” how much Odelia loved softball, superheroes, chocolate-covered pretzels and poetry, and of course, how she disliked tests. With all this information handy, Odelia’s TikTok account lined up a few perfect videos.

It was a Thursday afternoon when Odelia powered up her phone on the school bus home. Her third stop, after Instagram and Gmail, was to TikTok. Each of the first three clips was titled something like “Unbeatable Memory Trick” and starred a dog in a clown wig on roller skates. A beat played in the background and each time the dog barked, a new phrase flashed on the screen. “Best Memory Trick,” “Practice Softball for an Hour,” “Right Before Your Test,” said the first few phrases. Then the beat slowed as an electronic voice sang “bye bye” over and over. The dog waved its paw in rhythm with the singer and the final phrase, “Bye Bye Studying!” concluded the video.

The other two videos in this series promoted watching exactly 71 minutes of a Marvel Movie, and writing a poem about chocolate-covered pretzels as two other memory tricks. Odelia could not believe her eyes! Her prayers were answered! Obviously, Odelia completely forgot about studying for Monday’s test, and instead spent two hours at home watching more memory trick videos.

At around 8:30, Odelia’s older sister Emma came upstairs. “Hey, Deli! I hear you have a big Chumash test on Monday. Need help studying?” Odelia looked up from her phone and smiled. “Nope, I got this.” Although it felt like something was off, Emma just shrugged her shoulders and went on her way.

Over the weekend Odelia received similar offers to help from each of her parents. Each time Odelia gave the same response—“no, thanks, I got this.” Considering that her parents generally gave Odelia independence with studying, they let Odelia be. However, Odelia usually asked for some type of help or showed a little nervousness when a big test was coming. So they were a drop concerned, with good reason.

When Sunday came around, the truth came out. On Sunday morning Odelia’s mother came up to say “good morning” and was greeted by the sight of Odelia walking in circles while tossing a softball and reciting poetry. She asked the obvious question: “Odelia, what are you doing?” Odelia finished the poem, and in an excited voice told her mother all about her new memory tricks. However, as Odelia talked, the more concerned her mother became.

Seeing the bewildered look on her mom’s face, Odelia stopped. “Mom, what?” Now her mom was really confused. “Odelia, really? Listen to what you are saying.” Odelia stopped for a moment, thought, and suddenly began to cry. “How could I have been fooled so easily? How is reciting poetry about pretzels supposed to help me study for Chumash? Oh, no! I’m gonna fail!” Through tears, Odelia told her mother about the TikToks and all the memory trick videos she watched. “I was so sure it would work, but you’re right, Mom; it makes NO sense!”

Fortunately, Odelia’s mother convinced Odelia to email her teacher and tell the truth. Fortunately, Morah Green was more than understanding. She gave Odelia a few extra days to prepare for the test, which Odelia did without the “help” of any apps.

In Parshat Chayei Sarah, Eliezer goes to find a wife for Yitzchak. When he reaches Padan Aram, he asks for a specific sign to identify the right woman. Hashem delivers, and according to the Midrash the sign is so obvious that the water magically rises to Rivka from the well. Yet, after all of this, Eliezer is frozen in place. The pasuk tells us that he stood there, not sure if he would be successful in his mission.

How could this be? How could Eliezer doubt such an obvious sign? The Midrash again fills in the gaps and tells us that Eliezer had a daughter he was hoping would marry Yitzchak. Therefore, in some way Eliezer was hoping not to find a wife for Yitzchak. This hope kept Eliezer from fully accepting what was happening right before his eyes. It’s amazing what we believe when we really want something to be true.


Yair Daar is the middle school dean of students at Yeshivat He’Atid. He can be reached at [email protected].

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