Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26 )
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We all have great potential inside of us that we may not even realize. We can be unaware of what talents and abilities we really have until someone or something comes along and wakes us up to them. In our portion this week, Joseph took his two children to get a blessing from his father, Jacob. The wise old man surprised everyone by giving Ephraim, the younger child, the greater blessing, explaining that he had the potential hidden inside of him to be someone extra special. One of the most important things we can do in life is to try to search for the hidden potentials in others and ourselves.
Our story is about a kid who thought she was 'nothing special' until a wise teacher helped her to discover a hidden talent and find out just how special she really was.
I felt 30 pairs of eyes staring in my direction. Some kids looked happy for me, others confused, and some downright hostile. As for myself, I was just plain bewildered, because our drama teacher Mrs. Sawyer had just chosen me to star in the school play, and I had absolutely no idea why.
You see, I was always the kind of kid who never stood out in any way. I got decent enough grades, but was by no means a 'brain,' and while I had my share of friends, I was never part of any of the popular cliques. No, I just was quietly going about my business, and my life until Mrs. Sawyer came along and pointed the spotlight right in my face.
After class, I went over to her to try to back out. “I'm sure there was some kind of mistake, teacher,” I told her, hoping she would come to her senses and pick one of the class 'stars' to take the part like everyone had expected her to. But the teacher didn't budge.
“Elaine, it's no mistake,” she said. “I've been casting plays for 20 years, and I'm convinced that you have what it takes. You feel the way you do because you are not so full of yourself to think that you deserved to be the star. That's one of the main reasons I picked you, and exactly what will make you a success. A good actress needs to fit into her part, and not try to fit the part into her.”
I'll tell you the truth -- I had no idea what she was talking about. But one thing was certain: she wasn't changing her mind.
I tried to grin and bear it, and showed up the next day for the first rehearsal. I expected to get some ribbing and I wasn't disappointed.
“So, how's the star today?” teased Fran, one of the popular kids, who obviously considered herself to be a better choice. And when I started reading my lines, I noticed a couple kids in the back giggling and pointing. But I just ignored it all, and put on a happy face, like I always do in these situations. Mrs. Sawyer noticed it all, and pointed out my 'talent' for controlling my emotions, which she called "another important actor's skill." Hmm, maybe I really was a bit more of an actress than I thought?
The rehearsals went on, and more than once, I tried to quit. It was really hard. But each time Mrs. Sawyer would give me one of her mini pep talks, telling me another reason why I was perfect for the part, how much I was improving, and was going to make this the best play the school had ever seen. I thought she was exaggerating, but I had to admit, her confidence helped me see things in myself that I had never seen before. I was even actually starting to enjoy myself. Instead of just quietly mumbling my lines, soon I could feel them almost sort of flow through me, or out of me. The other kids weren't giggling anymore, and only Fran was still giving me a hard time.
By the night of the play, I was very prepared -- and nervous -- but I felt psyched. I was adjusting my costume, when I heard someone clear their throat behind me. I turned around -- it was Fran. Was she going to start up now, just before I'm about to go on?
“You know what I think of you Elaine?” she said. I braced for the worst. “I think Mrs. Sawyer was right. You really are great. Knock 'em dead!”
She gave me a quick hug and I nearly flew onto the stage. Once the curtain opened, I felt like I had almost become the character I was playing. At that moment, acting seemed to be for me the most natural thing in the world. Sure enough, the play was a big hit, and people were already asking me to take a leading role in the next play at the end of the year. Who would ever have imagined I could do it? Certainly not me. But I did, and it was all thanks to a special teacher who believed in me, and more than that, taught me how to believe in myself.
Q. How did Elaine feel when her teacher first picked her for the starring role?
A. She felt like she didn't have the ability to do it.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She felt good because her teacher showed her that she really did have what it takes.
Q. How did Mrs. Sawyer help Elaine to succeed?
A. She showed her that she had more potential than she thought she did. She was quick to point out to Elaine her abilities that she already had but might not have been aware of, and besides this, just choosing her and standing by her was an important boost to the girl's confidence.
Q. How can we discover our hidden potentials?
A. One way is to try to pay attention to the kinds of things we enjoy doing or are good at. We can ask others what talents they see in us as well. But we needn't limit ourselves to things that come naturally. If we really feel drawn to something, even if it's hard for us, this might be where our greatest potential lies, once we push through whatever obstacles that stand in the way.
Q.What do you think is one of your special talents?
Ages 10 and Up
Q.Why do you thing the teacher was able to recognize potential within Elaine that she herself was unaware of?
A. It is often hard to have an accurate self-image. We are so close to ourselves that it's easy to miss the woods through the trees. Others can look at us more objectively and from that perspective get a clearer picture of those areas in which we can excel. We should take advantage of this by consulting with trusted friends and mentors to help us identify and develop our unique talents.
Q. Do you think it was Elaine's talent or the teacher's encouragement that was responsible for her success?
A. It was a combination of both. Talent is important, but without encouragement, it is likely to remain undeveloped. Yet, encouragement alone, although important must be sincere, and have a genuine basis upon which to build. The two together however-talent and encouragement are the formula for greatness.
Q. What do you think is one of your special talents?