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Vayelech(Deuteronomy 31)

Pick Ourselves Up


Who hasn't, at one time or another, said or done something we wish we hadn't? But that's no reason to get down on ourselves. In fact the Torah teaches that no matter what we've done wrong, we can always pick ourselves up and get back on track. These weeks before and during the High Holidays are special times when God gives us an extra spiritual boost to be able to pick ourselves up from whatever has knocked us down, and set our lives on a more positive course. Let's take advantage of the opportunity and make the coming New Year a great one. Happy New Year!

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In our story, a kid falls down and bounces back to new heights.

"PASSING THE TEST"

      It all started at the beginning of last semester when Mr. Korn, our science teacher, announced that we'd be having our first test the following day. I don't know why, but I panicked.

      As I looked over my notes the night before, I decided the only way I'd ace the test was with a little 'help.' So I taped some of the formulas and stuff onto the inside of my eyeglass case, and during the test each time I needed to 'see things a little clearer,' I'd flip open the case and pretend to take out or put away my glasses.

      It worked like a charm. I got my 'A', my dad was thrilled, and that was the end of it.

      But it wasn't. Maybe some kids could just forget about something like this, but I couldn't look myself in the eye. I had never cheated before, and had even put down people who did, and now I was one of them.

      My schoolwork started to take a big time nose-dive - especially in science class. I just couldn't pay attention to what the teacher was saying, and whenever he called on me, I felt like crawling under my desk. I was sure he knew I was a cheat, and was about to announce it to the whole class.

      One day I just couldn't take it anymore, so after school I went up to the teacher and spilled my guts. I told him the whole story about how I had cheated - he seemed surprised, maybe he really hadn't known - and how bad I felt about it. I even did something I had never done in front of anyone - I started to cry. I had expected Mr. Korn to blow up, or expel me or something, and I was happy when all he did was make me take the test over again with a ten point penalty.

      So the year cruised along, and though I still felt like a cheater inside, at least I had confessed my crime. Now the next big test was coming up, and you can bet I studied my pants off. I wanted to get another 'A' but this time a real one.

      Mr, Korn passed out the tests, and I started writing like everyone else. Then I heard the teacher call out my name, and my heart almost stopped. I looked up and saw him signal me to come up to his desk. I felt myself turning red with shame, but a cheater like me deserved it, didn't he?

      "Andy," he said, as I cringed. I figured he was going to warn me not to cheat again, or maybe even have me sit next to him to make sure I didn't. "I left my copy of the science textbook in the teacher's room and I can't step out of the class now to get it. Could I trouble you to please go get it for me?"

      I was sure I hadn't heard him right. Get the textbook? Me? Didn't he realize all the answers to the test were in that book?

      "Um, Mr. Korn, are sure you want me to get it?"

      "Yes I specifically asked you to get it, because I need someone I can trust not to look at the answers."

      "But, Mr. Korn," I whispered, Don't you remember...?"

      It was like he read my thoughts because he whispered back with a smile, "I remember everything, especially how bad you felt about it, and how you were brave enough to admit what you did and take the consequences. That's why I know that if there's anyone in this class I can trust not to cheat, it's you. And it's time you knew it too. Now with Rosh Hashana, the New Year, coming up, it's time to make a new start, and put your past mistake behind you."

      Wow. I ran to the teacher's room, grabbed the book and brought it right back, not even looking at the cover. "Thanks Andy," the teacher said with a wink. "I knew you could do it."

      When I finished the test, I felt like a new person. My pen felt somehow lighter, as I, the former cheater, had passed more tests than one.

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Ages 3-5

Q. How did Andy feel when the teacher first called him up to his desk?
A. He felt scared that since he had cheated once, the teacher was going to warn him not to cheat again.

Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He felt good that the teacher trusted him enough to let him get the book, and realized he wasn't a cheater any more.


Ages 6-9

Q. Why, out of all the students, did Mr. Korn trust Andy to get the textbook without cheating?
A. While it was true that Andy once cheated, since he had regretted his mistake enough to face the consequences, the teacher knew, and wanted to show Andy too, that he was no longer a cheater and wouldn't do it again.

Q. How can a person who messes up and does something he shouldn't go about picking himself back up?
A. Our sages teach a classic and very effective formula of facing up to what he did and sincerely saying out loud (nobody except God has to hear): (a)what it was that he did, (b)that he regrets it, and (c)that he intends never to do it again. If what he did hurt somebody else, he has to take steps to make it right. Once he does all this he can, and should, forget about it and go on living his life.


Ages 10 and Up

Q. Why, out of all the students, did Mr. Korn trust Andy to get the textbook without cheating?
A. While it was true that Andy once cheated, but since he had regretted his mistake enough to face the consequences, the teacher knew, and wanted to show Andy too, that he was no longer a cheater and wouldn't do it again.

Q. How can a person who messes up and does something he shouldn't go about picking himself back up?
A. Our sages teach a classic and very effective formula of facing up to what he did and sincerely saying out loud (nobody except God has to hear): (a)what it was that he did, (b)that he regrets it, and (c)that he intends never to do it again. If what he did hurt somebody else, he has to take steps to make it right. Once he does all this he can, and should, forget about it and go on living his life.


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Published: September 4, 2004

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