No Tall Tales
Vayeshev (Genesis 37-40 )
We shouldn't make up stories about people that make them look bad or can cause them to get into trouble. In this week's Torah portion, Potiphar's wife slandered Joseph, making up a false story about him, which caused him to go to prison unjustly. Even if we're upset at someone, slandering him is never the way to handle it.
In our story, a kid finds out that made-up stories can have unhappy endings.
CALLED ON THE CARPET
"That's not enough! I want more!" Matt demanded as his new babysitter, Jill, closed up the box of chocolate covered Ice-Cream Bites.
"Sorry, but your mom said you could only have one or two and you already took three," she answered, putting them back on the high freezer shelf.
The boy glowered at her, his disappointment turning to fury when Jill told him it was time for bed.
"What do you mean 'time for bed'? It's still so early - nobody makes me go to bed so early!" he growled.
"It's eight o'clock and that's what your mother said is bedtime," Jill answered calmly as she walked toward the boy with his pajamas.
"You'll never catch me!" Matt taunted and ran into his room, but he slipped, fell and scraped his cheek against the carpet.
As the boy cried and yelled at her at the same time, Jill looked at his bump to make sure it wasn't serious and then handed the boy his pajamas and said goodnight.
What a mean babysitter! She didn't let me do anything! Matt stewed to himself as he lay in bed. He'd nodded half to sleep, when he heard the front door open. His mother was home.
She peeked into his bedroom. "Matt, you still up?" she asked the stirring boy.
Still in his clothes, he sat up.
"Hey, why aren't you in your PJs?" she asked looking at him. "And what happened to your face?" she said with a start.
It took a minute for Matt, who'd forgotten about the scrape that didn't even hurt anymore, to figure out what his mother meant. He was about to tell her what happened - then he got an idea...
"That b...babysitter," he said, making himself talk like he did when he was upset. "Sh...she wouldn't help me get in pajamas and when I asked her to - she slapped me!"
"She what!?" his mother gasped in a way that told Matt his idea had worked. His mom marched to the phone, a curious Matt on her heels.
"You're going to call the babysitter and tell her not to come here anymore, right?" he asked, hopefully.
"I'm going to do more than that," she said, rifling through the phone book. "I'm going to call her parents and tell them about the terrible thing she did to you. Then I'm going to call everyone I know to make sure they never use this babysitter - and I feel like calling the police."
The police? The boy listened, getting more and more upset. Sure, he didn't really like that babysitter or want to have her anymore, but she wasn't that bad - and she certainly never hit him - and now she was going to get into such huge trouble because of what he said!
"Um, Mom," Matt said as she lifted up the phone.
"I, um, think I got a little mixed up..." It wasn't going to feel good to admit the truth, Matt thought, but it would sure hurt a lot less than what would happen if he didn't.
Q. How did Matt feel at first about the made-up story he told his mom?
A. He was glad she got upset at the babysitter because of it.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He realized it was going to really hurt the babysitter and wanted to tell the truth.
Q. What life-lesson do you think someone could learn from this story?
A. While it might be tempting to make up false stories about people we're mad at or don't like, it is wrong and can hurt people very much.
Q. If the babysitter really had hit him, should Matt have told his mother even if it would get the babysitter into trouble?
A. Yes - if someone hurts us we should tell. But in this case it was just a lie.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Is there a way Matt could have expressed his dissatisfaction with the babysitter and also avoided slander?
A. Sure. He could have calmly discussed his feelings with his mom and asked not to have her as a babysitter again - but without exaggerating or fabricating any untruths.
Q. Is it all right to make up stories about others as long as they won't get into trouble because of them?
A. While it's better than slander, we should avoid even this and strive to be as truthful as we can.