Don't Be Afraid
Shlach (Numbers 13-15 )
We shouldn't be intimidated. In this week's Torah portion, instead of bravely entering the land of Israel as God had instructed them, the people became intimidated and lost out on a great opportunity. We shouldn't let undue fear or lack of confidence stop us from reaching our goals.
In our story, a kid sees how fear is something worth being afraid of.
DRAWING A BLANK
"The newspaper's here!" Andy's sister, Kim, yelled upstairs to his room, obviously assuming he'd dash right down.
Andy slowly made his way down the steps to see his siblings sprawled out on the living room rug, riffling through the newspaper to find the 'contest-winner' section.
"I'll bet you won, Andy," his brother, Barry, said with a smile.
"Yeah," Kim added. "Now everyone's gonna know how amazingly you draw."
Andy nodded with a weak smile as he watched them eagerly turn the pages.
"Here it is!" Barry called out.
"The 'Annual Youth Artist Contest Winners' pull-out section!" Kim squealed as they flipped to the first page of the insert, but both she and Barry let out a groan. Somebody else's drawing filled up the page under the caption 'grand prize.'
"Hey, this picture isn't even as good as the one you sent them," Barry frowned. "I guess the judges were nearsighted, but for sure you got second prize." He flipped the page, but Andy's drawing wasn't there either. Neither was it printed in under any of the other smaller 'runner-up' captions, nor was it even listed as an 'honorable mention.'
"I just don't get it," Barry said, looking Andy's way. "Okay, maybe the first and second prize winners' pictures were pretty good - though not as good as yours. But these other ones ... come on, they weren't even close to the amazing drawing you sent in to them. The contest must have been rigged!"
"I'm really sorry, Andy," Kim said, her eyes dewy with tears. "You must feel terrible."
Andy just shrugged, turned around and walked back up to his room.
The truth was that Andy did feel terrible - but not for the reason Barry and Kim thought...
Those winning pictures really weren't as good as mine, he told himself, shaking his head. He walked over to his closet, reached up to the top shelf and pulled down a brown, cardboard mailing tube with the newspaper contest's address neatly printed on it. He opened one end to remove the beautiful, rolled-up drawing he'd worked so hard and so long at, the one he had never mailed to them.
Sure, he'd planned to mail it. But each time he started to, a scared feeling came over him: What if it's not good enough? he would think. What if they don't like it?' What if I don't win?
Now he'd never know the answer to any of those questions - except the last. He didn't win, because he was too intimidated to try.
"Knock, knock," Andy heard Kim's voice. He quickly stuffed the picture and mailing tube behind his headboard, just before she opened the door.
"Sorry to barge in," Kim said with a small grin. "And I know you probably want to be alone now, but I figured a plate of my 'cheer-up' cookies would be welcome any time. Just remember - at least you gave it your best try."
"Thanks," Andy said, as Kim handed him the cookies and backed out with a sympathetic look, closing the door.
Andy, now feeling even worse, pulled out his drawing and was about to tear it to shreds, when he stopped, sighed, and rolled the intricately-drawn picture back up, carefully inserted it into the mailing tube and put it away.
It was an annual contest, wasn't it? He told himself. Next year, no matter what, he firmly decided, I am going to have the guts to win - or lose - but at least to try.
Q. ow did Andy feel when he was about to mail his drawing to the art contest?
A. He felt afraid that it wouldn't be good enough and he wouldn't win.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He'd wished he'd been at least brave enough to try.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Andy learned from what happened?
A. Even though he was a talented artist, he had been intimidated to enter the contest. Once he saw that the winner's really weren't better than he was, he regretted not having the courage to have tried.
Q. Do you think Andy would have felt just as bad, had he entered but not won?
A. He certainly would have preferred to win, but at least he would feel good about himself for having tried.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Is it productive to be afraid of failing?
A. It is an understandable emotion, but it is one that can really prevent a person from reaching his or her potential or true happiness. There is no one who reaches a worthwhile goal who doesn't risk - and often experience - failure. Failing isn't something bad; it's simply a necessary step on the road to success.
Q. Our sages have taught that one should be afraid of no one but God. What do you think this means?
A. It doesn't mean that God is 'angry' or 'scary'. God is the most loving, caring Being imaginable. It means that when we set out to do something worthwhile, we shouldn't fear any obstacles - human or otherwise - that try to get in our way. 'Fearing' God, means being rightly concerned or 'afraid' of acting in a negative way that violates our most important and precious Godly values.