“I can’t believe Miriam is in Mrs. Shepfield’s class with us,” I said to my best friend, as we jumped onto our swings at the park.
“Yeah,” she answered. “Last year, the girls at her old school called her trouble.”
“What do you mean?” I said, shaking my head. “Isn’t that gossip?”
“No!” Sara exclaimed. “Do you know she supposedly stole jewelry from a few of the girls in that school?”
We swung back and forth until our legs ached. All the while I kept thinking to myself, “Miriam the Robber.” But how could she? She’s so nice.
“I wonder how she was caught,” I blurted, as my friend and I jumped off the swings to lie on the grass. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw a familiar face.
“Hi girls!” said Mrs. Shepfield, as she stood up from a bench only a few feet away, behind the swings. We hadn’t noticed anyone siting near us. Mrs. Shepfield pushed her blue baby carriage and exited the park. “See you in class tomorrow!”
I was the first to speak. “I can’t believe that she was behind us.”
“Do you think she heard us?” Sara said. “I’ll feel horrible if she did.”
The very next day in school, I sat next to Miriam in Mrs. Shepfield’s history class. Throughout class we took turns reading out loud. Each time I noticed that Miriam raised her hand to volunteer. I wondered why Mrs. Shepfield never once called on her: “Could Mrs. Shepfield have heard us yesterday?”
After class I ran over to Sara to see if she had also noticed. She wasn’t sure.
One week later, a girl in our class, Leah, noticed that her favorite antique silver charm bracelet was missing. At recess, I noticed Leah asking Mrs. Shepfield to make an announcement.
“Leah is missing her charm bracelet,” Mrs. Shepfield said. Her soft voice now sounded deep like a bass drum. I thought I saw her glance directly at Miriam.
All the girls bent down to search the floor but to no avail.
I looked up and noticed Sara’s eyes open super wide as she glared at Miriam, who was checking the floor near her desk. When the bracelet didn’t show up, Mrs. Shepfield told the class that she would stay late to look for it.
The next day in school, Leah came to class with a big smile on her face. She must have repeated her story over and over about how she had found her bracelet under her bed at home. She was thrilled.
Mrs. Shepfield smiled and spoke to the class. “I’m glad that Leah found her bracelet, and I wonder how many of us thought that maybe someone in our class had taken it.”
My face felt hot, and I glanced at Sara who shrugged.
“Let this incident be a lesson to us that sometimes we might jump to conclusions,” Mrs. Shepfield said.
“And that’s how rumors get started!” Miriam said in a loud voice.
The Torah tells us, “Do not be a gossipmonger” (Vayikra 19:16) and, “Do not accept a false Report” (Shemos 23:1).
• How can some relaxed talk among friends turn into a harmful situation?
• How could the girls have stayed clear from the above prohibitions?
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.