It is important to be kind, but what if being kind in one way will end up causing us to be dishonest in another?
This week’s Torah Portion teaches that for kindness to be real, it also has to go hand in hand with truthfulness and integrity (Genesis, 24:27,49). It’s a challenging but worthwhile goal to learn how to be kind, yet remain committed to truth at the same time.
In our story, some kids work out a way to bring together two opposites.
Good music can make you feel like you’re flying high. And that’s just how me and the other kids in our after-school choral group were feeling as our voices blended together in beautiful harmony, when a knock on the rehearsal room door brought us back down to earth. I reluctantly walked over to open the door, hoping that our singing hadn’t disturbed one of the teachers or anything, and was relieved to see that it was just Jill, one of the kids from our class.
“I’m really sorry to interrupt you guys,” she said, “but the singing just sounded so nice, so I, um, wondered if I could maybe join up with the group, too. I’m not a pro or anything, but I do really love singing.”
Jill was our friend, and a really nice kid, so we figured it wouldn’t hurt to let her try. After all, one more talented voice could only add to the harmony, right?
We gave her a short piece of music to sing as sort of a try-out, and I don’t know quite how to describe it, but the kid’s singing voice sounded something like a cross between a cat getting its tail stepped on and fingernails scraping a blackboard. I mean, she was awful! We struggled to keep ourselves from laughing as she squealed and screeched her way through the musical piece. She came to a crashing stop at the final note.
“Um… thank you very much, Jill,” I managed to say with a straight face. “We’ll let you know our decision by tomorrow.”
The door had hardly closed behind her when our once-harmonious group burst out into a very un-harmonious debate. “Forget it. ForGET it!” said Hilary, one of our best soloists. “Face it, the kid can’t sing to save her life. If we let her in the group, it’s all over.”
Some of the kids nodded in agreement and it seemed the girl’s fate was sealed, until Leah, another star singer, spoke up. “OK, it may be true that she’s not the best singer in the world, but she is our friend, and that’s what counts. It would be so mean to not let her join us, and she’ll feel so hurt. I say let her in. It won’t be so terrible, and who knows, maybe she’ll get better at it.”
Some of the kids mumbled in agreement.
But Hillary and her crowd weren’t buying it. “Friend or no friend, the truth is the truth. And I’m sorry to say the truth is she CANNOT sing. She will destroy the music if she sings with us—not to mention make a fool out of herself. If you decide to take her in, then I quit!”
“And I say,” Leah responded, “that this whole group isn’t worth anything if it is going to turn us into a bunch of snobs who don’t care about people’s feelings! If we don’t take her in, then I quit.”
I knew I had to think fast or else this group that we’ve all been working on so hard for so long was going to split in half and sink to the bottom of the ocean. But what could I say? Hillary was right—it wouldn’t work for Jill to join us. But Leah was also right—rejecting her would be very hurtful.
Then, with all the stomping and shouting going on, one of the equipment racks got pushed and a tambourine fell to the floor. I felt like it fell from heaven because it gave me just the idea I needed, and maybe the only chance to save the group.
“Whoa, time out!” I whistled. Everyone got quiet, suddenly remembering I was the group leader after all. “How about we let Jill into the group…” Hillary started stomping off. “Hey, Hilary, let me finish!”
Hillary stopped, waiting to hear the rest of my idea.
“We let Jill into the group, but not as a singer, but as a tambourine player…”
The kids were buzzing as I went on. “We had talked about wanting to add a little percussion to the singing, and this way we can keep our group and also keep our friend. What do you say?”
Well, no one was walking off now, and in fact everyone was smiling, so I knew my idea was a hit. I called up Jill that night and explained to her how the group had enough singers for the time being, but how we all wanted her to be part of us, and would love to have her join us as the tambourine player. She was fine with that, and admitted that she liked listening to choral music more than actually singing herself, and this would be perfect.
At the next rehearsal our voices soared higher than ever and everyone realized that we had finally reached perfect harmony in more ways than one.
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/