People are not always the same on the inside as they appear on the outside. The image that someone projects doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. In this week’s Torah portion we learn about our forefather Jacob’s twin brother, Esau. On the outside, Esau seemed like a really nice guy. He would always speak respectfully to his parents and gave everyone the impression that he only wanted to do good for them. But inside, Esau was quite different. He really only cared about himself and didn’t care who got hurt or even killed in order to get what he wanted. Because of his smooth talk he had almost everyone fooled, but in the end his true character was revealed. We can learn from this to try to make sure that our own values are not only skin deep, and also to realize we can’t always judge others based on first impressions.
In our story, a boy learns that first impressions don’t always tell the whole story.
The scenery was breathtaking as the Zimmer’s minivan wove its way around the narrow country roads on the way to Camp Katamon. Alan Zimmer squirmed excitedly in the back seat, a bit nervous about the pre-season camp interview he was about to have in order to decide if he wanted to go there that summer.
He felt relieved when all the camp staff members, with broad smiles on their faces, came out to personally greet them. They were super-friendly and made Alan feel great. Alan especially liked Ritchie, the assistant counselor.
After the interview Ritchie walked with the family back out to the car. He smiled at Alan’s parents and said, “I hope you decide to send him here because I’m sure that Alan and I are going to be best buddies this summer.”
The whole ride home Alan couldn’t stop talking about how much he wanted to go to Camp Katamon. That evening his parents discussed it and decided that even though it was quite expensive, it was worth it to send Alan to such a friendly camp.
Summer arrived and Alan’s camp experience didn’t exactly work out as he had hoped. All those friendly-looking staff members hardly paid him any attention. Most disappointing of all was Ritchie. Even though they slept in the same bunkhouse, Ritchie hadn’t talked to Alan even once the whole summer, unless you wanted to count the time when he told Alan to be quiet. That was when Alan was moaning in bed because he was sick with a fever, and Ritchie was listening to his CDs for a change.
Alan tried to make the best of the long summer. He made a couple of nice friends, but he was looking forward to leaving and going home. When his dad came to pick him up on the last day of camp, the boy was waiting by the front office with his bags packed.
They loaded up the van and were about to get in and drive off when Alan felt an unfamiliar arm around his shoulder. He looked up and was surprised to see Ritchie wearing the same big smile that he had seen at the pre-season interview.
“It was a great summer with you, Al!” smiled the assistant counselor. “Let’s keep in touch over the winter, pal,” he beamed.
While Alan stared at the counselor, wondering to himself if this was the same Ritchie who had ignored him the whole summer, Alan’s dad gave Ritchie a generous tip as a token of his appreciation. As the car pulled out, Alan noticed Ritchie with his arm around another boy. He realized that he had acted so nice only in order to get a tip.
“You know, Dad,” Alan said, “I learned this summer that some people put on an act. They aren’t at all who they pretend to be. And I learned that I can be happy just being me.”
Nesanel Yoel Safran is a writer, chef, and a teacher/student of Jewish spirituality. He blends these assorted vocations on his blog, Soul Foodie, where you can join him on mystical cooking adventures and glean practical wisdom for the kitchen – and for living. https://soulfoodiecom.wordpress.com/