When the others around us are doing wrong, it's not easy to go against the crowd and stand alone. In the Torah portion this week, Joshua and Caleb found themselves amongst a group of people who were making trouble for the whole Jewish people. Though it might have been easier for them to keep quiet and go along, they spoke up for what was right and true, and earned their place in history as examples of how to stick strongly to our values, even when others would lead us astray.


In our story, a boy is challenged to find the courage to stand up for what's right.


The wild laughter coming from the corner table of the school cafeteria gave the impression that the greatest comedy ever was taking place.

"A little laughter is just what I need," thought Danny, who had just taken a difficult math test and needed to unwind. He took his tray of food and sat down amongst the jovial group of guys that he knew. They were more than happy to have him around.

But as the boy began to eat his lunch, he started to feel uncomfortable. It seemed that the cause of all the laughter was a 'show' being put on by Rob, who was an expert at imitating people. When Danny joined the group, Rob was really making fun of one of the less popular kids in the class.

"Bu... bu... but teacher," he said with an exaggerated stutter, "my p... p... pencil is bwoken...!" The kids roared. Rob soon moved on to other 'victims' and even started imitating some of the teachers. By now the other guys had joined in and were throwing in any other put-downs that came to mind.

While Danny had to admit the kid was talented, he didn't consider making fun of people to be a form of entertainment, and he shifted uneasily in his seat.

Soon his buddies began to catch on that Danny wasn't enjoying the show. "Hey Dann-o," called out Rob, the imitator, from across the table, "Who's your 'favorite' teacher?"

Danny realized this was a cue for him to join in, and get Rob started on a new imitation. He felt all eyes on him, waiting for his response.

Danny was silent, but the look on his face made it clear that he wasn't enjoying the show. "C'mon Mr. Goody-Goody. Lighten up!" one of the guys teased. "What are you, our censor?"

Danny felt under a lot of pressure to just join in with the rest of them. He knew that all it would take was a word and a laugh, and the guys would get off his back and get on with the put-downs. Yet, something inside wouldn't let him take this easy way out. What the guys were doing wasn't right, and he didn't want to become part of it, even if it meant he would have to take some heat.

Danny looked back at Rob, defiantly, and shook his head. "I think it's time to change the channel." With that, Danny got up and moved to another table on the other side of the cafeteria.

The guys were stunned at first, but soon broke into even wilder laughter, which made Danny wonder whether he had become the latest victim. He sat alone, finishing his lunch, hoping he had done the right thing, when he heard the chair next to him shift. He looked up, surprised to see that Eliot, one of the kids from the first table, had sat down next to him.

"Mind if I join you?" he asked.

Danny shrugged, and waited to see what was going to happen. Had the kid come to put him down?

"I just wanted to let you know," Eliot said, "that I really respect the way you acted over there. A lot of us didn't feel right about the bad-mouthing that was going on. But you were the only one who had the guts to walk away from it. So I decided if you could do it, I could too. From now on, I'm going to try to follow your lead, and do what's right, instead of just following the crowd."

Danny felt great that he had the courage to stand up for what was right.


Ages 3-5

Q. How did Danny feel when the kids at the table tried to get him to join in the put-downs?
A. He didn't like what the kids were doing, but he felt pressured to act like them.

Q. How did he feel after Eliot came over to him in the end?
A. Danny felt great that he stood up for what he felt was right, especially after he saw that it helped someone else do the same thing.

Ages 6-9

Q. If a lot of the other kids felt uncomfortable with what was happening at the table, why did they stay around and play along?
A. Often when people are in a group, they feel a peer pressure to go along with whatever the group seems to be doing, even if inside they know that it's wrong. It takes a strong person, like Danny, not to let himself be pressured, and be willing to do what's right even if others don't approve.

Q. Are there any other, easier ways to avoid getting swept up by a group doing something wrong?
A. There is one very effective, and painless method: Be sure to stay around people who have values you respect, and keep your distance from those who don't. This will eliminate about 99% of the problem.

Q. Can you think of a time when you went against the crowd to do what was right?

Ages 10 and Up

Q. Are there such things as unchanging values, or does everything go according to the times and society in which we live?
A. A lot of things are heavily influenced by society, such as styles, tastes, and even opinions. But underneath it all, there is a core of unchanging, and unchangeable human spiritual values. Many of these can seem to get buried in the mores of the times, but if we search deeply within ourselves and study the Torah, we will be able to learn the definitions of right and wrong in their truest terms.

Q. How can a person maintain his values in an environment that is hostile to your values?
A. It takes inner strength. It takes a willingness to be unpopular at times. But one who passes the test and lives according to what he knows deep down is right, is the freest person in the world.

Q. Can you think of a time when you went against the crowd to do what was right?