April 14, 2024
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April 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

This week’s parsha discusses the destruction of Sodom. After Avraham’s visitors leave his tent to punish Sodom, we are told that Avraham was “odenu omed lifnei Hashem—still standing before Hashem.” The Gemara tells us that this “standing” is a form of tefillah, which immediately turns into Avraham trying to convince Hashem not to destroy Sodom. What does the word “standing” have to do with davening, and does this have a connection to the debate about Sodom?

Danny and Dana were good friends and classmates. Unfortunately, Danny had recently turned into a bully and had begun torturing younger students in the school for no apparent reason. Dana knew that Danny was naturally a good person, and didn’t understand what was going on, so she stayed friends. However, being friends with a bully can occasionally get you in trouble…

One Monday morning, Dana and Danny were walking down the hallway past a group of fourth graders. Danny tuned to Dana with a smile, “Watch this, Dana.” Dana frowned, knowing exactly what was coming. While passing the students, Danny grabbed one of their backpacks and turned it upside down, dumping out all the contents onto the floor. Noticing a yogurt that had fallen out, Danny opened it up, proceeding to dump the yogurt on another student’s head before casually walking away. Dana was horrified by this incident, and told Danny so. “Danny, that really wasn’t nice! Why would you- ” but Dana was interrupted by a teacher who marched over and brought Dana and Danny directly to Mrs. Manners, the principal.

Mrs. Manners was not in any mood to be friendly to Danny and Dana. The school had also just started a zero-tolerance policy for bullying (meaning, you do it once, you are punished), so she didn’t have to be friendly. Mrs. Manner immediately sentenced Danny and Dana to a week of after-school detention. During detention, they would be required to read articles about bullying and, by the end of the week, would have to write an essay on the topic.

After Mrs. Manners dismissed them, Danny headed back to class, but Dana stayed behind. She tried to explain that she was just with Danny, but didn’t participate. Mrs. Manners listened closely, and when Dana was done, she offered the following compromise. “Okay, Dana. I will postpone your detention until next week, but this is the third time you have been with Danny while he bullied other students. If you can show me by the end of the week that you have learned your lesson, I will remove the detention.”

Upon arriving home, Dana went straight to her room to figure out how to fix her mistakes. She made a list of all the students she had seen Danny bully, and spent the next two hours calling these students at home and apologizing to them and their parents for the bullying. Dana was sure this would work.

The next day, Mrs. Manners called Dana into her office. “I received a few encouraging emails this morning, Dana. Many of the parents you called last night were very appreciative that you reached out to apologize. I am very impressed.” Dana felt a wave of relief. “You now may return to class.” Dana was confused. “But what about my detention? Is it canceled now?” Mrs. Manners looked up and responded. “Not yet, my dear, not yet. You are on the right path, but not there yet.”

Dana returned to class but had a hard time concentrating. Her thoughts drifted toward ways she could show she learned her lesson. Maybe a regular apology wasn’t enough. Maybe she had to go out of her way to apologize! Over the next few days, Dana wrote letters to the students, brought them special food orders for lunch, and on Friday hired a plane to fly over the playground during recess, dragging a banner that said “I AM SORRY FOR EVERYTHING, LOVE DANA.” However, as you may have guessed, none of this was enough. Before heading home for the weekend, Dana checked in with Mrs. Manners, who instructed Dana to report to detention after school on Monday.

On Monday morning, Dana walked to school with Danny, although she wasn’t in the mood to talk. “C’mon Dana, detention wasn’t that bad. It’s just one week.” Dana gave Danny a dirty look and kept walking. As they entered the school building, they spotted a student walking alone, looking lost. Danny walked over to the student, and in the most polite voice asked, “Are you okay? Do you need help with anything?” “Yes,” replied the student. “This is my first day, and I don’t know which way my classroom is.” Danny gave a big smile. “I can help you,” he said, and pointed the student in the exact opposite direction of where she needed to go. The student began to follow Danny’s directions. “Have fun, loser!” He called after her.

Dana had now seen enough. “Danny! No more! You have to stop this! You have no right to hurt these students the way you have been doing! What is going on with you? How would you feel being picked on?” Dana ran over to the lost student and gently spoke to her. The student smiled and started to walk in the correct direction. Mrs. Manners, who had been standing nearby, walked over. “Dana. I’m proud of you. You finally learned your lesson. Watching while someone else bullies others counts as taking part in the bullying. Apologizing is not enough. We must all commit to stop bullies in their tracks.” Danny, upon hearing this, began to cry. Through his sobs he explained why he had been acting this way, and promised to stop the bullying immediately. (It’s not usually this simple.)

Mrs. Manners taught Dana the lesson we learn from Avraham Avinu. If we think something is wrong, we must do our best to stand up to stop it. Avraham did so—even though he was standing up to Hashem! This is considered a form of tefillah, as Hashem wants us to connect with Him by using our words not only to praise and thank Him, but also to fight for what is right.

By Yair Daar

 

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