|Graphic from here|
Every year, as part of our day school’s “give/get” program, I volunteer as the “room mother” for my son’s class. The last time I blogged about this was when he was in 2nd grade. My duty was really just to watch the class eat lunch and hang out in the room while their Rebbe enjoyed the faculty Chanukah party at school. Last year, I said something that totally embarassed my son. This year I had the intention of keeping myself under the radar.
As it turned out, that morning I drove “minyan carpool”, so I was in the school for shacharis. I observed something for 2 minutes that made me very sad. During davening one of the boys thought it would be cute to take a siddur from another boy who was davening. What surprised me was that these boys are actually really good friends. I kept waiting for the siddur to be returned, but it didn’t happen, so I went and retrieved it myself. I am not that friendly with the family of the boy to took the siddur, so I wasn’t too hip to saying something to him about what he did. I did mention to the boy who was left without a siddur that behavior like that isn’t the way that Hashem wants us to treat our fellow Jews and if someone does something like that again to him then he really should say something. I am very close with him, so he totally understood what I was saying. Knowing that I would have time in the classroom that afternoon with both boys (and the rest of my son’s class), I started thinking about how I could get the message across that taking a siddur from someone is totally uncool.
As I walked into the class, I realized that I had to tell over Reb Shlomo Carlebach’s story of “The Holy Hunchback”. If you are not familiar with it, go here and then continue reading. I had played it for my son the week before and I knew that this was the vehicle to, hopefully, get my message delivered. I let the kids have their lunch and schmooze among themselves and then offered them a story.
Even though my son hoped I would sing it, Carlebach style, I simply said it over, slowly repeating the catchprase, “Children, precious children, just remember the greatest thing in the world is to do somebody else a favor“. Then I said that by doing a favor to someone, we’re doing what Hashem does. He did us the biggest favor by creating the Torah, creating the world, and creating us. I mentioned that we don’t have to be street cleaner to do people favors. By simply smiling at someone, saying hi, or asking how someone is doing, you following Hashem’s example.
Then I said to them that by making fun of someone or being mean you are doing the opposite of “the greatest thing in the world”. I told them, locking eyes for half a second with one boy, that even something that they think is harmless, like taking a siddur from a friend who is davening, is, like, far from the greatest thing they could do in the world… it’s not a favor to you, your friend, or Hashem.
I ended my 40 minutes, as their next teacher came in, thanking them for their time and reminding them that “the greastest thing in the world is to do someone else a favor”.