Stepping forward one night at choir practice, 11-year-old Talya felt her head spin. When it came to solos, Talya’s voice came out sounding like a mix between a kazoo and a flute. She stood still, blushing.
“You can do it,” Talya heard her older sister, Dini, whisper. Dini who was only three years older, seemed leap years more talented and wiser. She stood one row behind her sister in the production, and she had already been up to the microphone five different times for solos.
Talya thought back to all of the times when her sister outdid her. Talya could be up half the night studying for an Algebra exam and still only make a B-plus. Dini barely studied and made straight As in all her subjects.
“Why can’t I be like Dini?” Talya screamed inside. “I can’t get anything right.”
And the harder Talya tried to be like Dini, the more she failed. So when it came to the girls’ choir production at the end of the summer, Talya was thrilled to have a part in her sister’s singing group. In fact, it was a miracle that she got in — only the best voices were let into the group. Talya figured it had to do with her singing teacher, Ms. Richter, who practiced with her the entire school year to help Talya prepare. She had spent hours practicing and singing around her house. And then came Talya’s audition. She climbed three wooden steps onto the stage in the shul auditorium. With three judges watching from the front row, Talya let out a half-perfect rendition of “Ma Ma Rochel.” That is until her coughing fit kicked in. Talya knew it was nerves, and luckily the judges still accepted her into the group.
“When you get nervous,” Ms. Richter’s soft voice flowed in her head, “keep breathing and singing.”
“That doesn’t happen to Dini!” Talya exclaimed, tears filling her eyes.
“Stop comparing yourself, and start looking at what you do well,” said Ms. Richter.
Talya began to think of some things she was good at. Like sports — she was the best at racing and jump rope, while her sister seemed to have two left feet. But Talya never really got to use her talents; she was too busy trying to copy her sister.
Choir practice increased to three times per week before the production. Miss Kayla decided to add some dance with the songs. A few girls couldn’t handle it. One of them was Dini. Talya, on the other hand, was a natural.
“Count the beat in your head while you sing,” she told Dini. “Dig your heels in.”
With Talya’s help, Dini got better.
The next day, Miss Kayla approached Talya: “How about helping me with the dance routine? You could be a dance coach.”
Talya was shocked. She had spent so much of her time trying to be just as good as her sister that she never recognized her own talents.
With Talya’s help, the Shalom Girls’ Choir danced and sang for a packed audience at the Farewell to Summer production.
1. In what ways do we compare ourselves to other people?
2. Why is it important for us to learn about our talents?
3. What are some ways we can learn about our skills and talents?
Danielle Sarah Storch is a local freelance writer. “Shabbat Table Talk” is a monthly feature synthesizing Torah insights and lessons for children of all ages.