July 12, 2024
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July 12, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The most talented writers, musicians, poets and artists might be extraordinarily creative. However, their abilities are limited; they must create from something else. Only Hashem can create from nothing. Similarly, storytellers draw from their own life experiences and from the lives of others. Dede’s mother was no different. She loved to tell stories at bedtime, often creating characters based on old friends, family members, and Dede’s own friends and teachers. After each story was completed, Dede would try to guess who the characters were based on. Afterward her mother might describe the person or event the story was based on if the hour wasn’t too late.

One night, Dede’s mother introduced a new character named Jayme. Jayme was a girl a few years older than Dede who had a fun-loving personality. She loved telling jokes, playing pranks and inventing new ways to make people laugh. Jayme’s love of laughter and silliness would often get her in trouble, which was a large part of the stories. Dede and her mother would imagine their own family members reacting to Jayme’s antics, and would laugh hysterically at the possibilities.

In addition to being a troublemaker, the Jayme of the stories also struggled in school. Dede’s mother often told of how Jayme would joke around in school so that she didn’t have to take it seriously. If Jayme could convince herself that school was a waste of time, she didn’t have to feel bad about struggling. Throughout the stories, the main character began to learn about herself, including her strengths and weaknesses. Jayme realized how nervous she was about her future and that not being serious helped her avoid thinking about it. Eventually, Jayme learned how to turn her weaknesses into strengths, and she used her sense of humor to bring joy to others’ lives. She did volunteer work with underprivileged children, she worked as a chesed clown to brighten up the lives of patients at hospitals, and wrote her own joke book based on the weekly parsha.

Along the way, Jayme also learned to take her school more seriously (not too seriously, though; don’t worry). She faced her challenges and did well enough in high school to gain acceptance to a college with an amazing writing program (Jayme was hoping to become an author or comedy writer one day). Dede’s mother ended her series of Jayme stories with Jayme waving goodbye to her parents on the first day of college. And that was “The End” for Jayme, but not for Dede.

When Dede’s mother began telling her Jayme stories, Dede was in fifth grade. Like Jayme, Dede struggled in school, and like Jayme, Dede had a really great sense of humor. Dede’s teachers would often report that although they loved having Dede in class, she often expressed negative feelings about her performance at school. When a test or project would come around, Dede would make comments like “looks like the class clown will fail another one” or “I’m going to go for an ‘F-plus’ on this test!” She did not seem to consider herself a serious person (she actually wore a clown nose to school for a whole week), which did not help her self-esteem. However, once Dede’s mom started telling her Jayme stories, Dede’s performance at school, her attitude, and her self-confidence all started to improve. She wasn’t yet wowing the world with historical acts of funny kindness or unbelievably hilarious knock-knock jokes, but that was okay. Dede was finally happy with herself as a person, and that was more important than anything else.

A few years later, Dede and her family were sitting around the Shabbat table on a long Friday night, reminiscing about old times. “Mom, remember those stories you used to tell me at bedtime? You were so good at making up characters and doing different voices!” Dede’s brother then cut in. “Do you also remember how Mom used to torture you? You would always try to guess who the story was really about, but she would NEVER tell you unless you guessed correctly. I remember one time when you were crying on the floor and just shouting out the names of everyone we knew, until you finally guessed right, two hours later. I think the answer was Great-Great-Aunt Zelda.” Everyone laughed. Then Dede continued. “Hey, Mom! Remember Jayme? You told me like 25 Jayme stories. We went through like her entire life! I don’t think you ever told me on whom that story was based, but I think it was me! Am I right?”

Dede’s mother gave a devilish smile. “Yes and no.” Dede’s brother returned the wicked grin. “You aren’t going to tell her, are you? You are going to make her figure it out! Ha!” Dede groaned. “Oh, come on, Mom! Are you going to do this all again after all these years?” “Okay,” responded Dede’s mother, “I’ll tell you. The story wasn’t originally about you, but it became about you. At first, Jayme was actually based on me. But after a few stories, I decided to add a little Dede into the mix. I was very similar to you as a kid, so it wasn’t too difficult.” Finally, it was time for Dede’s father to add to the conversation. “And it was a great idea your mother had. By making Jayme similar to you, she made Jayme’s story into your story. So when Jayme figured out how to get past her problems, you also did.”

Until that, whenever Dede ran into trouble, she would ask herself, “What would Jayme do?” Now she had another question to ask herself—“what would my mother do?”

In Parshat Lech Lecha we are introduced to two types of predictions. The first is a direct prediction at the Brit Bein Habetarim—Hashem tells Avraham that Bnei Yisrael will be slaves, but then go free with great wealth. The second type of prediction is through the concept of Ma’aseh Avot Siman L’banim. Many explain that the stories of the Avot and Imahot are predictions of what will happen to Bnei Yisrael in the future; what happens to them eventually happens to us. When combining these two, we realize the great gift Hashem has given us in Sefer Bereishit. First, we have the promise that all we go through will lead to something better in the end, just as when Dede realized that Jayme’s success story would eventually be hers. Secondly, Ma’aseh Avot Siman L’banim tells us that getting through tough times is part of who we are. A promise things will be okay might help to get through hard times. However, having a similar challenge “in the family” makes personal growth a real possibility. So, be generous when talking about your struggles; you never know who might need to hear your story.

By Yair Daar

 

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