View Things Positively
Did you hear the latest rumor? No? Good for you! Because when it comes to rumors, especially negative ones, we shouldn't believe everything we hear. In this week's Torah portion, the men who were sent to scout out the land of Israel came back spreading false negative rumors. The people made the mistake of believing them and were afraid to go into the land even though God promised them everything would be fine. Consequently, they had to wander in the wilderness for an extra 40 years, and we are still paying the price for that mistake until today. We'll save ourselves a lot of unnecessary grief by making it a point to stay optimistic and view things positively until proven otherwise - and that's not just a rumor.
In our story, a kid has to decide what to do about a rumor that comes flying his way.
Josh Kramer's muscles ached as he put back his books, and pulled out his well-worn baseball glove from his locker after a long day of classes. Yesterday's baseball try-outs had been a killer, but he figured all the effort would be worth it if it would land him a position on the school team.
He quickly put on his sweat jacket, flipped his locker closed and was about to dash off to the baseball field when he nearly crashed into his buddy, Greg, who, unlike Josh, had been on the team last year.
"Hey Josh, where are you off to in such a rush?"
"Where do you think? The same place as you are - back for the second day of try-outs. Today they're giving out the team assignments and coach said anybody who doesn't show up is automatically cut from the team." He had expected Greg to smile, and go along with him, but instead the boy just looked at him and sadly shook his head.
"I hate to break it to you, man. But I guess you didn't hear..."
"Hear what?" Josh asked with growing concern.
"Well, after the try-outs I hung around with some of the guys I knew from last year's team. And everybody's saying that the since so many kids tried out this year, the coach isn't picking anyone new, and is only letting people back on the team who were on it last year."
Josh felt his face flushing red. Had he put in all that effort yesterday for nothing?
"So that means, I'm sorry to say, that I'm in - and you're out," Greg continued just to make sure Josh got the point. "So you might as well save yourself the sweat and just go home."
With that, Greg turned on his heels and started heading toward the field, leaving Josh in open-mouthed shock.
That stinks! Josh thought to himself. It's so unfair! But Greg seems to know what he's talking about. Josh glumly tossed his baseball glove back into his locker, now feeling his aching muscles more than ever, and got ready for the long trek home.
He didn't get far when he had second thoughts. He had worked so hard yesterday, and now because of some dumb rumor, was he going to give up any chance he had to make the team? Maybe Greg had gotten it wrong. Maybe there was a chance he'd at least make the junior team.
With a new burst of energy, Josh grabbed his glove and ran out to the field. Would he be too late? He got there just as the coach was reading off the names of the kids who made the team. He joined the line-up and caught Greg's eye as his friend gave him a sharp look.
But Josh's heart sank as the coach read name after name. It looked like the rumor had been true after all, because the coach finished reading off the whole junior team roster and while Greg had made it, just like he said he would, Josh's name was nowhere to be found.
He felt a hard slap on the back. "I told you man, you didn't have to waste your time. Well there's always next year, right?" Greg said with an 'I-told-you-so' smile.
By now, the coach was listing off the more advanced senior team, but Josh was too down to even bother listening.
He started packing up to leave when he felt a tug on his sleeve. It was a kid he didn't know. "You're Josh Kramer, right?"
"So..." said the kid with a smile, "go over to the coach! Didn't you hear him just call your name for the senior team roster?"
Josh couldn't believe it, but the amazed look he got from Greg proved it was true. "Unbelievable," Greg said.
"Just unbelievable!" Josh agreed.
Unbelievable - that he had made the team, and even more so that he hadn't blown it by believing the rumor, which had in the end proved to be un-believable.
Q. How did Josh feel when he fist heard the rumor?
A. He felt that it must be true, so there was no point for him to return to the try-outs.
Q. How did he feel in the end? A. He was glad he made the team, and even more glad he didn't let a disappointing rumor stop him from trying.
Q. What lesson did Josh learn that day?
A. He learned not to mix up rumor with fact. He would have blown his chance to make the team if he had accepted Greg's plausible sounding rumor, and not gone back for the second day of try-outs.
Q. Had the rumor been true and no new players been chosen, would you say Josh made the wrong decision by going back?
A. No. It still would have been the proper thing to do based on the situation. We should never regret doing what's right even if it doesn't work out as we hoped.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. How do you think a person should react to a rumor he hears?
A. If the rumor has no practical affect on our lives-best to just let it go in one ear and out of the other. If it could affect us were it true then we can keep in mind that it might possibly be true and act to protect ourselves if necessary, but we should never do anything to harm anyone else because of it.
Q. A Jewish sage once said: "Not everything thought must be said; not everything said must be written down; nor must everything written down be published." What do you think is the lesson in that statement?
A. The message is that we should take our ability to communicate seriously. We should know that our words carry a great potential to either heal or harm, and we should think twice before we either speak or believe what we hear.