Stand Up For What's Right
There are times when we simply have to stand up for what we know is right, even if it's hard. Pinchas, the grandson of Aaron, the High Priest, was a peace-loving man. But he saw that Jewish people were making a big mistake that was costing them their lives. The Midianites had convinced some Jews to go against the Torah, and the people were acting very wrongly, yet nobody was standing up to stop them. Pinchas decided that he couldn't just look the other way. He acted bravely and decisively, and stood up for what was right. Because of him, many lives were saved. We learn from this week's Torah portion, that there are times that a person has to take action for what is right.
In our story, a girl stands up for what's right.
"TAKING A STAND"
It started out like any other day. Rene and her friend Laurel were walking home from school, making plans for the afternoon, when the girls noticed something strange.
Down the block there was a group of kids who were yelling and laughing, like they were having some kind of wild party.
"What's going on over there?" Rene asked her friend, concerned.
"I don't know," answered Laurel, "but I suggest we keep out of it. It sure doesn't look like our kind of scene."
As they got closer, the girls saw a group of boys surrounding a smaller boy in the middle, who looked very confused and upset. The other boys were all calling him names, pushing him down and threatening to beat him up.
Rene was shocked. "Who's that boy? Why are they doing that to him?" she asked one of the kids on the outside of the group.
"Oh, he's just Freddy, the weird kid on the block," laughed the boy. "The guys are having a little fun. Its no big deal."
Meanwhile, Freddy had started to cry, which only made the boys tease him harder.
"How can this go on?!" said Rene to her friend, starting to get angry. "Everyone's just standing around and watching and nobody's doing anything to help that poor boy out!"
"I know what you mean. It's really not right, but we certainly can't do anything about it," answered Laurel, hesitantly.
But Rene just couldn't hold herself back any longer. "If no one else will do something to stop this, I will."
Without a word, she pushed herself into the middle of the circle.
Suddenly everyone was quiet, shocked at seeing a girl standing there from out of nowhere. Rene felt scared, but she knew what she had to do. She looked right at Chuck, the biggest boy of the group. She was friends with one of his sisters, and hoped he would listen to her. "How can nice guys like you act this way?!" she shouted, trying not to show how scared she felt. "This boy didn't hurt anyone, and you're all treating him like this. Shame on you!"
There was tense silence. Everyone turned and looked at Chuck, to take their cue from him. His head was down, and his face had turned red. Finally he spoke. "I guess she's right," he muttered softly. "Leave the kid alone."
Freddy, the boy in the middle, picked himself up, brushed himself off, and ran away, flashing Rene a big smile of gratitude as he passed her. Rene breathed a sigh of relief. She felt great. The group slowly broke up and Rene and her friend went on their way.
"Wow, are you brave!" said Laurel admiringly.
"I'm not brave," answered Rene. "I was probably more scared than you, but I just felt like I didn't have a choice. When it comes to doing the right thing, you have to be brave whether you really are or not."
Q. How did Rene feel when she saw the boy getting teased in the middle of the circle?
A. She felt bad for the boy, and angry that he was being hurt. She felt she had to do something to help him.
Q. How did she feel afterwards?
A. She was very glad that she did what was right, even though it wasn't easy.
Q. Do you think Rene was someone who was used to doing things like jumping into a circle of fighting boys? If not, what made her decide to stand up and get involved this time?
A. If you had asked her before hand, she would have likely said that Jumping into a fight was the last thing she expected to do. But when Rene saw something wrong was happening, and that nobody else was doing anything about it. She overcame her feelings and acted to do what was right. It is a noble and uplifting thing to be willing to act for the sake of one's values.
Q. Why do you think the boys listened to Rene, even though they were really into teasing Freddy?
A. They were surprised and impressed to see how she was willing to bravely stand up for what was right. Inside, they probably knew that what there were doing was wrong, and Rene's courage woke them up and made them stop. Often when we stand up for what's right, we can accomplish much more than we would have thought.
Q. Can you think of a time when you stood up to do the right thing even though it was difficult?
Ages 10 and Up
Q. The Talmud teaches us that in "a place where there is no leader, strive to be one." What do you think that means in a deeper sense?
A. There may be situations in life when no one around us is doing what should be done. At times like these a person sometimes has to take a stand, even if he normally wouldn't consider himself as having courage to get involved. The situation calls for him to transcend his usual limits. This can be a tremendous growth experience, as often by going beyond our "limits" we reveal them to be illusory and gain strength and courage for the future.
Q.Do you believe that it is justified for an individual to get involved in other people's lives and speak up if he feels they're doing something wrong?
A. If they are hurting themselves or others, or even if it will lead other people to follow their destructive example, it is not only justified, but the right thing to do. Nobody lives in a vacuum. We are all members of society and we're responsible for each other's well being. To turn our backs when somebody is doing something harmful isn't an act of tolerance, but rather an act of negligence.
Q.Can you think of a time when you stood up to do the right thing even though it was difficult?