It can be really tempting to follow the crowd and go along with what everyone else is doing. But sometimes the crowd is doing something that's not right. In this week's Torah portion we learn about Abraham and Sarah, the forbearers of the Jewish people, who weren't afraid go against the crowd and be their true selves. They fearlessly followed their own minds and resisted the temptation to go along with a world that was on the wrong track. Their independence eventually brought themselves and the rest of humanity to a much closer relationship with God. Like Abraham and Sarah, we too can follow our own minds to become our unique and true selves, and by doing so, teach those around us to do the same.


In our story, a girl learns a lesson in following her values instead of following the crowd.


When Sheila Bloom first got invited to spend a day at the Mega Mall with Sherry and her friends, she was thrilled. Everyone knew that Sherry's crowd was the coolest group of kids in the whole school. Not just anyone could hang out with them.

Sheila had been hoping for this invitation for a very long time. Sure, she was popular enough and had a group of friends, but this was a chance to move into a whole other league. The excited girl spent about an hour in front of the mirror until she put together the outfit that was just right, and not a moment too soon as she heard a knock on the door. The kids had come to pick her up, and Sheila happily joined the group for the short walk together to the mall.

She thought that she had noticed a couple of the girls giggling and pointing at Mrs. Berman, her elderly neighbor, which struck her as not so nice. But she shrugged it off and told herself that different groups had different ways of behaving and it wasn't such a big deal.

Soon they arrived at the mall. The group walked from store to store joking loudly and making something of a scene. While Sheila was glad to be a part of them, she was beginning to grow a bit uncomfortable by how they were acting. She noticed how they insulted salesclerks and waiters with rude and obnoxious comments, even to their faces.

At one point, Alison turned to Sheila in an accessories store, picked up a pocketbook and said in a loud voice, right in front of the owner "This store is full of nothing but junk, huh?" Sheila was speechless, as she noticed the storeowner blush. Why was she speaking like that? Besides, the bag looked pretty nice to her.

But Alison kept looking at Sheila, waiting for her response. Not sure what to do, Sheila nodded and turned aside, as the group boisterously made their way out of the store.

These kind of scenes repeated themselves throughout the long afternoon. By now, Sheila felt really torn. She had so much wanted to be part of this crowd, but they were acting much worse than she and her old gang of friends ever did.

The girls sat down at one of the mall's cafes, and began to order around the waitresses and make a big scene as if they owned the place. Sheila gamely tried to play along and act as if she was into it, but in her heart she really wasn't. She found herself daydreaming and glancing around the restaurant.

Suddenly her eye caught a familiar scene. Sheila couldn't believe it. There at the very same cafe were sitting all of her old friends! They were chatting and having a good time, as usual, but much more quietly and politely than the mean spirited 'in-crowd' she now found herself in. Alison noticed Sheila looking in their direction.

"I'll bet you're glad to be hanging out with us instead of that group of losers, huh?"

Sheila remained silent, but Alison kept prodding. "That is unless you're really one of those losers too?"

Sheila felt like she was being put to the test. The girl took a deep breath. Although she realized that this would probably end her climb up the social ladder, she looked Alison straight in the eye, and said "You know, I think you're right. I am a loser, that is - a loser of patience with you and your crowd's obnoxious behavior!"

With that Sheila got up, walked over to her old friends and sat down with a smile. From then on Sheila realized that her place wasn't with those who were in, but with those who were good.


Ages 3-5

Q. How did Sheila feel when she was first invited out with Alison's crowd?
A. She felt lucky to have a chance to be part of the most popular group of kids.

Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She saw that they were doing bad things, and it wasn't worth joining with them, just because they were popular.

Ages 6-9

Q. What made Sheila walk away from the chance to be part of the most popular group of kids in the school?
A. While it was very important in her eyes to be in with the in crowd, she came to realize after spending some time with them, that they were acting in ways that were very against her values. When she weighed the two against each other it became clear to her that becoming part of them wasn't worth the sacrifice.

Q. What qualities do you think it took to make a decision like Sheila did?
A. It took a lot of courage. It wasn't easy to give up something that brought her status, and approval of her peers. She also had to have a lot of self-esteem to be aware of and act upon her real values of what was right and wrong. These qualities, as well as honesty and independent-mindedness got her out of a trap and brought her back to where she belonged.

Q. Can you think of a time when 'the crowd' was exerting pressure on you to do something that you knew wasn't really right? What did you do?

Ages 10 and Up

Q. Our sages teach that it is better to appear foolish in the eyes of people all of one's life than to appear unjust in the eyes of God for even a moment. What do you understand this to mean?
A. The point here is that there can often be conflicting standards between what one's society or social circle values, and the objective human values that are given to us by God. When these conflicts arise, the right choice is to remain true to our inner values, even if it might mean taking the heat, or being ridiculed by the people around us.

Q. Why do you think that Alison's crowd was so obnoxious?
A. Being very popular can be a real challenge to one's character traits. It can lead a person to feel conceited and come to treat other, less popular people as somehow inferior. A remedy to this is to remain spiritually focused, and realize that ones popularity is a gift from God, and a reason to be grateful, not haughty.

Q. Can you think of a time when 'the crowd' was exerting pressure on you to do something that you knew wasn't really right? What did you do?