Cruel or Kind?
Sometimes being strict is really being kind. In this week's Torah portion, we learn how Pinchas' strict reaction to the people's improper behavior saved them from a terrible fate. We, too, might find at times that those who seem to be acting strict to us are really doing us a favor.
In our story, a couple of kids find out that sometimes strictness is really kindness in disguise.
It's not fair! Cindy sighed as she watched her friend, Judy, waltzing happily out of her music class across the hall, while Cindy, coming from her music class, felt like a prisoner marching with a ball and chain
How could she have known, when she innocently saw that she'd been assigned to Ms. Gordon's school music class while Judy went to Ms. Kaye's, that they would be essentially going to two different planets?
"Hi Cind!" Judy waved and bounced her way. Before Cindy could even muster a response, Judy went on. "What a breeze class was today. All we did was listen to hit CDs. The teacher calls it 'music appreciation.' "
"Hmph!" Cindy scowled. "I would have 'appreciated' spending an hour like that, instead of being drilled on learning musical notes and scales like we did - and do almost every class. And it's only the first month of the semester! Why couldn't I have got a nice, laid-back teacher like yours instead of a strict drill sergeant like mine?"
"I feel so bad for you," Judy said sympathetically, as she snapped her fingers undoubtedly to the beat of one of the hits she'd just been listening to. "Our teacher always says that it's more important to just enjoy music rather than work so hard at it. On the days we sit with the keyboards, she tells us just to experiment and push whatever keys we feel like! Well anyway, gotta run."
"See ya," Cindy muttered, as she tried not to think about how her teacher drills them on the keyboards and especially not think about the big music-theory test they were going to have the next day on all they'd learned the week before.
The semester passed and vacation dawned like a summer sunrise. Cindy and Judy found themselves at the same day camp.
"Hey, check out this big old piano!" Judy squealed as the two friends explored the camp's recreation room.
Judy walked over to the piano.
"Hey, here's a songbook, too!" she said. "Too bad it's all Chinese to me," she chuckled as she sat down at the polished wood stool in front of the piano, banged on a few random keys and soon, feeling bored, got up. "Well, enough of that; let's go check out the tennis..."
Suddenly Judy turned her head at the sound of the beautiful melody playing behind her.
"Wow - Cindy! You're amazing. Since when do you know how to really play?" she asked her friend, who was gazing intently at the songbook and fingering the keys with ease.
A small crowd of admiring campers had gathered around her.
Cindy, smiling, raised her eyes and looked at her friend. "I sat down at the piano to try and I guess I'm getting decent. After all, we spent a whole year in class working hard, learning what the notes said to do and which keys we were supposed to press - so it worked. But you were in music class too, right? So you can probably figure it out also."
"Nah," Judy grumbled. "In our music class we didn't learn anything, we just fooled around. Now you have a cool skill you can use the rest of your life and I have ... nothing. It's not fair!"
Cindy nodded her head in sympathy, silently thanking her music teacher for doing her the favor of being so 'mean.'
Q. How did Cindy feel about her music class at first?
A. She felt upset that her teacher made them work so hard and was jealous of her friend who didn't have to work hard.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She was happy that she'd worked so hard and learned how to play music and was sorry for her friend who hadn't.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Cindy learned from what happened?
A. At first, she'd felt jealous that she had to work so hard and her friend didn't. In the end, she saw that all that strict hard work had really paid off.
Q. Whose teacher do you think was being kinder - Cindy's or Judy's. Why?
A. At first glance, it seems like Judy's teacher was kinder. After all, she let the kids basically do whatever they wanted. But really, Cindy's teacher had been kinder, because her strictness had been for the goal of really teaching her students a valuable skill.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. What is the difference between treating someone well and 'spoiling' someone?
A. To treat someone well is to really care about his true good and help him to become his best. Sometimes that means being indulgent and other times being strict. Spoiling someone is to indiscriminately indulge him - which can damage his character and inhibit his ability to grow.
Q. Is being strict with someone always being kind?
A. Certainly not. Sometimes it's just being mean. But when someone is strict for the sake of helping someone else grow and develop to his potential, it is doing him a kindness.