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

True confidence is the courage that comes with knowing we are doing what is ethically right. In this week’s portion (7:21), God tells the people they need not fear even stronger-looking enemies since they are doing what He asked of them. We can tap into that confidence to accomplish great things.

In our story a kid discovers powers he never knew he had.

Shying Away

I know that answer, Ted thought to himself as he watched his classmates squirm in their seats trying to figure out the tough math problem the teacher had written on the board.

So why don’t I just raise my hand and answer, like anyone else would?

Unfortunately, Ted knew the answer to that one as well—it was because he was shy. So shy that he hadn’t raised his hand even once in this class the whole year. In fact, the only class he ever did raise his hands in was gym class, and that was only while they were doing jumping-jacks.

“Come on guys—didn’t anybody do his homework?” Mr. Kaplan, their teacher, called out in a frustrated voice.

Ted had. But he just couldn’t bring himself to raise his hand and say so. He felt a poke.

“C’mon Ted, get us out of trouble and answer the question already. I see you worked it out in your notebook,” whispered his friend, Jason, who was sitting next to him. Ted tensely shook his head and covered the math problem with his hand.

“What are you afraid of? Be a man, not a mouse,” the kid persisted.

Ted tried to ignore the comment. He wasn’t exactly afraid—though he did always think a lot about what the other kids might say if he gave a wrong answer or if he stuttered a bit, like he sometimes did when he was nervous. He felt another poke and didn’t know what to do, but fortunately just then the recess bell rang, getting the class—and especially Ted—off the hook.

Whew, another class behind me, Ted thought. But recess was never much better for him. He was too shy to join in the big game of dodgeball almost everyone played and he usually spent his time alone, reading a book.

Book in hand, he walked past the game in progress and was heading toward his usual bench when he heard some noises coming from around the corner of the building. It sounded like whimpering or crying.

As he passed by, he saw a younger kid sitting on the ground clutching his lunchbox to his chest, red-faced and crying while another bigger kid about Ted’s age was standing over him, threatening him and trying to kick him.

“Hand over your stuff, runt, or I’m gonna use your lunchbox—and you—as a football…”

Ted felt really bad for the boy. How could this bully treat a little kid like that? He sighed and started to walk on. Ted knew it would be right to try to help, but he didn’t think there was really anything he could do. It wasn’t exactly his business and besides, he felt shy to butt in and nervous that if he got involved, the bully would make fun of him—or maybe even worse…

He took a couple of more steps more, then stopped. How can I not help? Not speaking up in class or playing ball is one thing, but can I let some innocent kid get beaten up just because I’m shy? Suddenly Ted felt a kind of energy inside of him that he’d never felt before. It didn’t take away his shyness, but it just kind of pushed it aside for something bigger and more important.

He turned and walked—marched almost—over to the bully, stood up straight and said in a strong, confident voice, “Leave that kid alone!”

The kid looked his way. “Yeah? Who says?”

Ted felt a little afraid but now he could also see that the kid seemed afraid of him too. “I said so. And if you don’t, I c-c-can (he was stuttering, but he didn’t care—it just fell so right to be doing what he knew he should) can turn you in to the principal right now and get you kicked out of school. Don’t try me out!”

The bully stood his ground, but Ted didn’t flinch. After a long moment, the bullying kid muttered something under his breath, turned and walked—almost ran—away. The little kid, now all smiles, took his lunch box and gave Ted a look that said a hundred thank yous and ran into the school.

“Hey, I saw that.”

Ted turned to see his friend, Jason, holding a ball.

“I’m impressed, man. You may be a mouse in math class,” he smiled, “but I see that where it really counts, you’re a lion.”

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/

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