Rachel’s Desire

“Nice boots,” my friend Rachel said one day, as we walked home from Hebrew day school.

“I got them from one of my aunts, I’m her favorite!” I said.

“So let me know when you are ready to give them away.” Rachel said, as she gave me a wink. The next week as we walked home from school Rachel said, “I love Esti’s new knapsack — it’s paisley with a green trim. And by the way, I love that bracelet of yours. When you’re sick of wearing it, you know my address.”

“What?” I stopped short. “I don’t understand you.”

“I’m just saying that if you ever feel like giving away that bracelet.” Rachel’s voice trailed off.

“I’ll think about it.” I turned and walked into my house. Why did I have to listen to Rachel talk about everyone else’s belongings that she was trying to get?

“Love that new purse of yours,” Rachel commented just last month. And wasn’t it Rachel who recently admired my new bicycle — “I love used bikes,” she said, the day we needed to get something from my garage.

I was quiet at dinner, and my mother asked me what was wrong. I told her about Rachel and how uncomfortable she made me feel, always asking about my belongings and trying to find a way for me to give them to her.

“I bet Rachel isn’t aware that what she’s doing is against the Torah.” Mom put her arm on my shoulder.

“The Torah doesn’t want us to desire what belongs to someone else,” she continued. “The Torah tells us that when we see something that belongs to someone else and we want that for ourselves, it’s called taaveh, or desire.” Mom pointed to the line in the book. “Then, if the person tries to acquire that object by joking, hints, pressure, etc., that’s even worse.”

I looked up at my mother. “What do you mean?”

“That’s called coveting or attempting to get someone else’s belongings.” That’s breaking the Jewish law.

“It’s really that serious?” I stood up and took a deep breath.

“Yes,” Mom said. “Tell Rachel tomorrow that it’s fine to admire nice objects, but it’s another thing to desire them and to make plans to get them.”

The next day on our walk, I stopped short when Rachel began to talk about my new jacket.

“It’s one thing for us to admire these things, but it’s completely against the Torah to desire them.” I smiled and then went on to explain. Rachel listened. “I never knew that, and besides, I was just joking,” she said. “Let’s run home.”

I don’t know how Rachel felt about our conversation, but one good thing is that she never hinted again that she wanted what belonged to me.

Camp Judah: Adventures on the Bus

“I can’t believe we’re here!” I exclaimed, looking directly at my best friend, Shoni.

“Camp Judah, here we come!” she yelled back, her voice trailing off and mixing into the rumble of the bus motor.

We were almost at our sleep-away camp — the one that Shoni and I had planned all year long to attend. We would hang out together, be best friends, be in the same bunk and go on sleepovers together. I looked out of my window and smiled happily.

Just then from the back of the bus I heard a scream. “OMG, Shoni, is that really you?”

“Dee! How’d you get here?”

I watched as the two of them giggled and hugged.

What about me? I wanted to jump off the bus and run home. Suddenly, I knew I would hate camp, and I didn’t want to go. Why was this new girl stealing my best friend away from me?

“Hi guys. I’m Sarah.” I said, waiting for Shoni to tell Dee how we were best friends; only that didn’t follow.

“I’ll come back up front soon, Sarah, go and wait.” Shoni said.

As I walked to the front of the bus, I noticed a few other girls had moved closer to Shoni and Dee. They were dressed with matching designer outfits and cute shoes just like Shoni and Dee. I heard laughing from the back of the bus, and I sat alone in my seat and stewed. These girls were perfect, I wasn’t. Dee knew how to talk to my friend, how to dress great and how to attract other girls around her easily. I didn’t. I was plain, boring and simple.

Then I began thinking about last year in school. We had had an art contest to see who could draw the most life-like portrait. My entry won, and everyone was so proud of me. I smiled, thinking about my talent. Just then, I heard the girls talking about that very same art competition.

Shoni blurted out “Sarah won that!” Dee looked at me and said, “I’m also into art, want to see some samples?”

Dee turned around and pulled out a few small cards with designs on them. They were colorful and cute. She handed me one.

“I love it!” I said, looking up.

Shoni looked at me and said, “Sarah, come sit closer.”

As I sat down next to the girls and laughed at their corny jokes, I realized that I had jumped to too many conclusions too quickly about Dee and the girls. And even about myself. I wasn’t a nobody, I had a talent. I smiled to myself happily. I was glad that I was able to see both myself and Dee with a good eye.

Discussion Questions
1. How do we benefit from taking time to see the whole person (with a good eye)?
2. Which way do you chose to look at someone? Do you notice yourself judging them right way?
3. In what way do we write people off quickly or tell ourselves, “Forget about them, they are never going to be my friends?”

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.

No Matter Your ‘Position,’ it’s Probably for the Best

Baseball season arrived, and we stood on the dirt field at Little League practice. I held my glove between my elbow and ribs while I fixed the brim on my baseball cap. Today, we would be given our positions, and Sunday we would play the Red Sox.

“I’m gonna land shortstop, watch and see!” I yelled to Ben, who leaned on his bat like a walking stick.

“And I’m gonna be pitcher, for sure!” he yelled back.

So when Coach Brown called our names and positions, I about choked when I heard the lineup.

“Zach Kahn, second base; Rick Shonefield, outfield; Chuck Edleman, shortstop.”

“What?” I tilted my head and glared at the coach, “outfield?”

I let out a deep breath as my friend came over and patted my back. “Chuckie’s also good for the job.”

“No he’s not!” my voice raised a notch.

“Listen, outfield isn’t bad.” My friend whispered just as Coach Brown let out a yell, “And Brad Epstein, pitcher.”

“Yes!” he yelled and ran off to slap a few high fives with the guys.

Meanwhile I couldn’t take my eyes off Chuck Edleman. His lanky body and arms that looked too long for his torso just didn’t fit my image of a shortstop. I felt my stomach tighten as I watched him head toward his position. Suddenly, I couldn’t stand Chuck Edleman, not one bit.

“OK, get into place. We’ve got a practice ahead of us.” Coach Brown threw the ball to Chuck, whose long arms reached out and caught the ball on the first try.

Sheer luck, I thought, for a nerdy kid.

I stood in the outfield rolling my eyes. Guys lined up to bat; Joey hit the ball toward Chuck. But Chuck missed it, and it rolled directly toward me. Still being totally upset, I missed it and it landed a foot away.

Zach yelled out, “What’s up with you, Shonefield?”

The rest of the game was pretty much the same, Chuck making great plays and me glaring at him.

That night at dinner, Mom, Dad, Grandma and I sat around the table eating Grandma’s special spaghetti.

“Remember how I was telling you that I was up for a promotion at work two weeks ago?” Dad said, as he stabbed at the thick, slimy noodles. “Well, they promoted my co-worker, Roger Liebman, instead.” He let out a deep sigh.

Mom sat silent then said, “That doesn’t seem fair. Haven’t you been there longer?”

Dad nodded his head and Grandma looked at Dad.

“I’ll tell you what I learned a long time ago.” Grandma said. “Sometimes we think something might be good for us, but in the end only G-d decides what’s best.”

I lifted my head up to hear more.

“I had a friend once who lost her job suddenly and for no reason.” Grandma said, looking at Dad. “That next week there was a fire in her office, and it was totally destroyed. Had she been working there, she wouldn’t have lived.”

“Freaky.” I said.

“Wow, I remember that.” Dad said.

“So just let G-d decide what is best and be happy with it.” Grandma smiled, and Dad thanked her for her words of wisdom.

That next baseball game I was back to my old self.

Discussion Questions
1. How can we be happy with what comes our way even though we might be expecting something else?
2. Why is it sometimes difficult for us to be happy with another’s good fortune?

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.

Rachel’s True Performance

My name is Goldie, I’m in the sixth grade, and I can’t wait to tell you my story. Ever since second grade, my best friend, Rachel, and I wanted to be in the Shara Girl’s Choir. Everyone knows that only sixth-graders and above are allowed to try out, and only the good singers make it in. Landing a solo in the Shara Choir is also pretty competitive. Not everyone can get one, period.

Well, G-d blessed Rachel with a beautiful mezzo-soprano voice. My voice varies. Sometimes it sounds like a recorder blown a bit too hard; other times it sounds like a flute. Rachel and I laugh about it, but the truth is, when I really practice singing, my voice has potential.

You can imagine how really nervous I was when I tried out, but a week later I was accepted into the choir. Both Rachel and I had solos and a duet to end the concert. Some of the other girls didn’t land solos, and I heard that they were a bit jealous of me. I ignored some of their comments. I just kept on working to get ready for my part.

When the concert finally arrived, the auditorium’s seats were filled. The concert began, our choir danced and sang, and the audience loved it.

And then came our turn at the end. I dragged myself, weak legs and all, out front and grabbed my microphone and looked at Rachel, who held hers. I shook but took a deep belly breath. And then I heard a little burst, almost like a balloon popping.

I noticed that my microphone stopped working. Rachel sang, and when it was my turn, I sang into nothingness. No one could hear me. My face turned beat red, and I looked over at Rachel. She smiled and continued, then turned to face me. I stood there completely stunned and wanted to be buried under the stage, never to be seen again.

I looked to face some of the other girls, who just shrugged their shoulders. Maybe I didn’t deserve this solo. But that’s when Rachel ran next to me, handing me her microphone toward the end of her solo. Now it was my turn to sing, and she was to sing again after me. She stood with my broken microphone while I stood and sang clearly and beautifully into her perfectly good one. I couldn’t believe it. Rachel was giving up a bit of her solo to help me sing mine. I closed my eyes and sang as beautifully as I could, and then I put my arm around Rachel, and I tried handing her back the mike. She leaned into it, but let me hold it, and we ended with a duet that sounded mostly like my singing.

I was shocked. I stood on stage frozen, not knowing what would happen next. My eyes moved out to the audience, which was standing and clapping for us. “What?” I thought. “They really liked our song, even though we messed most of it up.”

And then I saw how Rachel actually saved me from embarrassment by giving up her solo for the sake of mine. That night as I stood there smiling, I realized how lucky I was to have such a sensitive friend and how together we had shown the audience much more than anyone had thought possible.

The Torah teaches us that we are not allowed to embarrass another. How praiseworthy it is then to save another from embarrassment.

Discussion Questions
1. Why is it so important to save someone from embarrassment?
2. How would embarrassing someone be like murder?
3. What are other ways we can help prevent others from being embarrassed?

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.

‘Daniel From Texas’

I sat at my desk munching a sugar-coated doughnut. Mr. Heller, our sixth-grade math teacher, handed our class treats for the 100th Day of School celebration. As I neatly chewed mine, I could see the new kid’s mouth twisting left and right as some powder covered his freckled face and plaid shirt. My friends and I snickered.

“Daniel from Texas makes lots of messes!” one kid blurted in a loud whisper.

Daniel turned around to face me, crumbs still covering his mouth. “Yes?” he queried, his eyes meeting mine.

“I didn’t say anything.”

“Oh.” Daniel turned back to face the teacher.

Again my friends snickered. Daniel had been in our class since the first day of school. He walked with a hop to his step. He wore skinny jeans like the rest of us, only his tops never matched the color of his pants. Some of us called him “mental,” thinking that he had problems because he didn’t fit in with the rest of us. None of us chose him to be on our football teams at recess, but he liked to read, so he would sit on the sidelines with his book.

Deep down, I felt sorry for Daniel. He was different.

One day later that month we were out at recess tossing Yosef’s football and just playing around. Daniel came over to the sidelines, as usual reading his latest library book. Suddently, Morty sent the ball flying in Daniel’s direction.

“Daniel from Texas, catch!”

The ball whizzed along, toward Daniel, but it was too late. It hit his head. I saw Daniel lying face up on the ground, his Harry Potter book knocked to one side and blood everywhere.

I was the first to run over and tap him. “Daniel. You OK?” No response.

“Quickly, call a teacher. It’s an emergency!” I screamed.

“This is crazy,” Yosef yelled out. “Oh, here comes Mr. Heller with the nurse and an EMT.”

I told the EMT what had happened and then joined the boys on the sidelines.

“Listen,” I whispered, “let’s promise to be nice to Dan and to change, and maybe we’ll get a second chance.”

The guys agreed, and Morty said, “Sure hope we do.”

I looked up and was relieved to see Daniel standing with the EMT. They decided to take him to the hospital for observation, and our class went inside. The rest of the day everyone was quiet. When Daniel returned to class the next week, the guys circled around him at recess, and they all wanted him on their team.

“I have to take it easy for a couple of weeks,” he replied with a smile. I think Daniel enjoyed the new popularity. “They said I had a concussion, but I’m OK.”

A few guys sat near Daniel and talked with him about his book while the rest of us played catch. And there was no more teasing the rest of the year. None at all. We had learned the hard way the damage it causes.

Note: Hurtful words are called “onas devarim,” and the Torah forbids us from speaking them.

Discussion Questions
1. Might the boys have changed their behavior before the accident?
2. Why can words sometimes hurt more than physical pain?

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.

‘Miriam The Robber’

“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.

Discussion Questions
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.

Mean Mrs. Cohen

“You missed,” Ruthy yelled to Sara, as they played a game of dodgeball in the school courtyard at recess. The sounds of girls giggling and balls bouncing filled the spring air.

Ruthy ran after the ball, as it rolled under the porch of an apartment next door. She looked up to see an old lady with both hands on her hips.

“You woke me up!” she screamed at the top of her lungs from her porch. “Awful.”

Ruthy bent down to pick up the ball, but she couldn’t look the woman in the eyes. She was too scared. Every day at recess, Ruthy noticed that same woman out on her porch waving a fist or yelling. She never understood why. This was the first time she got close enough to hear her words.

Later that day, Ruthy told Sara about the encounter.

“Do you think it’s our fault?” Ruthy said, biting her lip.

“Nah, she’s got some issues. Her name is Mrs. Cohen; just stay out of her way.” Sara said, shaking her head.

Then one evening a few weeks later Sara called Ruthy with some news.

“I heard that Mrs. Cohen, that old lady, had a stroke.” Sara said, as her voice got louder on the phone. “She desperately needs visitors.”

“How do you know?” Ruthy asked.

“My mother knows her family through work.” She said. “Apparently, she doesn’t have any friends, and her family wants visitors right away.”

“The Torah does say that visiting the sick is a big mitzvah, and not visiting the sick is the same as spilling blood — serious stuff,” added Ruthy.

Sara asked, “When do you want to do it?”

The girls planned to visit Mrs. Cohen after school. Sara was excited, but Ruthy felt dizzy at the thought of seeing the mean old lady who had yelled at her. She pushed herself, knowing that it was a big mitzvah.

When the girls arrived they were greeted by a nurse. “Mrs. Cohen would love to see you; she just doesn’t see or hear well.”

“Maybe that’s why she yelled at us,” Ruthy said quietly to Sara.

The girls entered the room. “Who’s there?” the loud voice screamed at the girls. This time the yelling didn’t shake them.

The girls introduced themselves. Mrs. Cohen’s lips stretched into a big smile.

“I haven’t had many visitors. I’m happy you’re here,” she said and then took a deep breath. “Come hold my hand so I can talk to you.”

Mrs. Cohen held the girls’ hands and told them about her difficult life. She smiled as she spoke, and the girls felt so good about their visit. Mrs. Cohen invited them to come back.

On the way home Ruthy and Sara thought about their successful visit and how they almost missed the opportunity to perform an important mitzvah.

Discussion Questions
1. Why is visiting the sick such an important mitzvah?
2. Why is not visiting the sick considered the same as spilling blood?

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.

The Case Of The Stolen Bicycle

I loved my brand new 10-speed bike, a shiny black Diamondback. I would ride around after school and visit my friends.

When school started, a new kid, Adam, would come over and ask me all kinds of questions about it.

“Where did you get it?” he would ask. “Where can I get one?”

Sometimes his questions were over the top. But I remembered he was a mutual friend of my friend Jeff, so I answered him.

A few months into school, my family and I went on a long Shabbos weekend in Florida. I parked my bike in the backyard shed and checked the lock. We were away for half a week, and when I returned, I went out to the shed to check on my bike. As I opened the door, I screamed.

“My bike is GONE!”

Someone had gotten into the shed; a few of Dad’s power tools were missing, too.

“Looks like someone picked the lock,” Dad said, a frown on his face.

We made a police report. The policeman said he’d comb the neighborhood to look for my bike. He told us there had been a slew of robberies over the last weekend.

On Monday, I saw Adam riding a bike just like mine.

“Hey Eli, like my bike?” Adam said, parking himself a foot away from me. “Rides great!”

My mind started racing.

“Could that be my bike?” I thought.

The tires looked just like mine. Even the reflector on the back matched the one I had on my bike.

“Where did you get that bike?” I asked Adam.

He told me he got it on sale — at a garage sale.

I was hot. I knew he had my bike … but why would he steal it?

“My bike is stolen. Did you hear about it?” I asked, deciding to test Adam.

“No, that’s strange.” His voice cracked. “You’re not accusing me of stealing your bike, are you?”

“Tell me exactly where you got it!” my voice rose.

“A garage sale, really. It was only $50. It seemed cheap, but …”

“Could your parents talk with mine and we can get to the bottom of things?”

Later that night, my parents drove me to Adam’s house. My father had a long talk with his parents and we solved the mystery. Adam’s family was glad we came to talk things out, and they had an explanation. Adam’s family had gone to a garage sale in a not-so-safe neighborhood. There they found a few power tools and a bike, which they had purchased. When we looked at the tools, we realized that they were Dad’s. The bandits had stolen and sold the items at a garage sale on the other side of town. Adam’s parents agreed to call the police and they came and made a report of the newly-found items.

We paid Adam the $50 and some cash for the tools so Adam’s family would not take a loss. The police visited the location of the garage sale the next day. They caught one of the thieves.

As for me, I learned an important lesson: Always judge people favorably.

Discussion Questions
1. Why does the Torah tell us to judge others favorably?
2. How do we benefit when we judge others for the good?
3. What are some ways to practice judging favorably?

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.

The Coat And A Grudge

I have always considered myself to be good at sharing, the kind of kid who lets you play with my rainbow loom if you ask. So when Sarah asked to borrow my light blue leather jacket, my favorite one with the fur lining, the jacket that I had received as a birthday gift from my Aunt Deloris, even though I hesitated, I knew I would lend it to her.

“I just need it for my brother’s bar mitzvah this weekend,” said Sarah. “My ‘fancy’ cousins are coming in from New York, and I have to dress up.”

She looked like a puppy dog. I knew her dad was out of work and they couldn’t afford to buy new things. I agreed to lend her the coat; it would make her fit in, and I didn’t need it that weekend.

That next week when I saw Sarah in school, she smiled and thanked me profusely for letting her wear my coat.  She said her cousins thought she looked so cool. I was happy she was happy and asked that she bring the coat back as soon as possible. She said, “No problem,” but Sarah forgot it every day that week. Then, she was out sick with the flu.

I called her at home and heard her mom call to her, “Sarah, your friend Baila needs you to return her jacket.”

But the next week at school, Sarah said, “Oh, I must have forgotten your coat again.”

I started to worry. Then, the next day, Sarah brought in my jacket.

“Sorry about the rip,” she said. “I must have bumped into a nail that was sticking out of our fence.”

I could tell Sarah felt bad, but I did, too. I felt taken advantage of. She had used my coat and ruined it. I wanted to tell all of our friends, I was so angry.

That night, I tossed and turned in bed.  How could Sarah have been so careless with my favorite coat?  And why did it take her so long to return it?

I imagined Sarah showing off my coat to her cousins and then ruining it and not even telling me right away.  Maybe I should make Sarah buy me another coat.  But where would she come up with the money? Her family was poor.

The next day, I had a bad cold and stayed home from school. Sitting in bed drinking tea, I realized being angry with Sarah was only hurting me. I determined to forgive her before I got even sicker over a simple coat.

The next day, Sarah invited me over to study.

“I was really mad at you for ripping my coat,” I told Sarah.  “My coat can’t be repaired so easily, you know.”

“I’m sorry, I was embarrassed to tell you, and that’s what took me so long to return it to you,” she said. “I hope you’ll forgive me.”

“I do,” I said, and Sarah smiled. I felt great.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
The Torah tells us that we must not hold a grudge.
1. What is one way to overcome a grudge when someone has damaged our belongings?

2. Why does the Torah ask us not to hold grudges?

3. What would you have done if you were Baila?

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.

Dan L’Kaf Zechut

“Monday we’ll be having a math test on fractions and integers,” said Mr. Stone to our sixth-grade one Friday morning.

“Not much time to study,” I whispered to my friend, Katz.

“You’ll each be paired with a phone study partner,” the teacher said; he began assigning partners.

I was paired up with Katz.

“Call me after you get home today, Zach,” said Katz as he waved goodbye.

When I arrived home a short while later, Mom broke the news to me.

“Surprise! Run up and quickly pack your suitcase,” she said.

“We’re going to Philadelphia for a long Shabbat, to Leo and Gretchen’s house.”

“I’m already packed, slowpoke,” said my younger brother, Dave, in his best showoff voice.

“Ten minutes, and we’re driving away,” Dad said.

Even leaving quickly, we arrived in Philadelphia a half-an-hour before Shabbat.

It was a great weekend of eating, playing board games and telling jokes. On Saturday night, we all went out to eat in honor of my cousin’s birthday. Sunday, we spent the day at an amusement park.

It was very late Sunday night when we returned home. I barely unpacked and put myself to bed.

The next day I overslept, and Mom drove me to school a few hours late. But I was just in time for math class.

“Hi Katz!” I said, as I entered the classroom. He turned away.

“What’s up with him?” I thought.

And that’s when I remembered the math test. I had totally forgotten —and totally forgotten about my buddy.

My stomach hurt, and I held my head in both hands. Would he ever forgive me? I can’t believe I forgot to call him.  As we took the test, I could see he was struggling.

After class, he ran out to talk to other friends. For a whole week, he didn’t talk with me.

The next Monday, we got our tests back. He got an 80. I got a 90. Katz approached me.

“How could you have ignored 10 of my phone calls?” His eyes glared at me.

“Katz, listen, there’s an explanation.” My voice cracked.

“And you didn’t pick up your cell or answer the doorbell. I spent hours trying to call you and to find you,” he said,

“Listen, we went out of town last Friday.” I looked up at him from my locker. “It was a surprise, and we were on the road and away the entire weekend.”

“I forgot all about the test,” I continued. “I even overslept last Monday and almost missed it.”

I could tell his jaw was loosening; he smiled.

“OK,” he said. “But you owe me.” We shook on it and walked down the hall to our next class together.


Discussion Questions

The Torah expects us to give people the benefit of the doubt.
1. What are some of the ways we can learn to give the benefit of the doubt?
2. How would things have been different for Katz had he given Zach the benefit of the doubt?