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Individuality On the Field

Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1-4:20 )

by Nesanel Yoel Safran

Every one of us is unique. Each person has his own special talents, tastes, and ways of expressing himself. Even groups of people who may seem alike at first glance are often quite a varied set of individuals. In this week's Torah portion when Moses took a census of the entire Jewish nation, he was careful to divide the census up into the different groups, tribes and families that made up the one unified, yet quite diverse nation. God made each of us different, and He wants us to make the most of ourselves by discovering, and expressing our unique gifts.


In our story a boy gains the courage to be himself.


In this town the name Kantor meant football. In fact it was hard to remember the last time that one of the Kantor boys wasn't the star of the school football team. They were all big and husky, and seemed to have what it takes to be a football superstar.

Of course everyone expected Larry, the youngest Kantor, to follow right in his brothers' cleat-steps, now that he was old enough to try out for Junior Varsity. Everyone - except Larry himself, that is.

Larry just didn't like playing football. It wasn't in his heart. In fact what Larry liked best about the school football games that his dad would always take him to was the half-time show. When the marching band would come out onto the field, Larry would perk right up. He especially liked the horn section, the trombone to be exact. The smooth tones of the crisp musical notes seemed to seep right into Larry's soul.

For the last year or so, the boy had been taking music lessons after school on an old, rented horn. Even though they were the highlight of his week, he always kind of felt that his father just saw them as something to do to kill time until he was old enough to do something really worthwhile - like play football.

The summer passed uneventfully, and now it was time for the new school year to begin. Larry had a lot of mixed feelings as he felt sure that his family expected him to try out for the football team and become a star player, when it was actually the band try-outs that interested him. Larry's anxiousness reached its peak when his dad came back from the mall with a big, wrapped package for him.

"Oh no! Not the football equipment!" he thought. Mr. Kantor had a well-known tradition of presenting each of his boys with a new set of fiberglass shoulder-pads before they would go out for the team. Larry cringed as his dad approached.

"Go on ahead, son. Open it up," he said with a smile.

Many thoughts raced through Larry's head as he gingerly grabbed the box. "How will I ever explain..." But suddenly Larry stepped back. He couldn't believe his eyes. Inside the box was a brand-new, gleaming ... trombone! Larry looked at his father in a moment that spoke a thousand words.

"Thanks Dad, but how did you know..."

His father cut him off with a warm smile. "I know you're different from your brothers, and that's fine. In fact, it's great! You just keep on being yourself, and you'll always be a star in my book."


Ages 3-5

Q. How did Larry feel when his father handed him the box?
A. He was nervous. He though his dad wanted him to play football when he really didn't want to.

Q. How did he feel after he opened it and saw that it was a trombone?
A. He felt relieved, and glad that his father appreciated him for who he was.

Ages 6-9

Q. Why didn't Larry want to play football like his brothers?
A. Each person has his own, unique part to play in the world. Everyone has his own personality, likes and dislikes. Even though Larry came from a football-oriented family, it just wasn't his way of expressing himself. While his brothers found themselves through football, Larry knew deep down that he wanted to play music instead.

Q. Do you think that Larry could have ever been happy as a football player?
A. At best he might have gotten used to it. But since it really wasn't who he was, he would never have felt satisfied. A person only truly feels happy when he is able to put his special, God-given talents to use. Frustration occurs when a person tries to squeeze into a mold which just doesn't fit who he is.

Q. What do you think is one of your unique strengths?

Ages 10 and Up

Q. Why do you think that God made each of us different?
A. If everyone were the same, life would be very static. When we encounter people different from ourselves, it is a tremendous catalyst for growth. The effort of trying to express oneself to others, to understand and be understood, is an important way to gain the awareness, self-knowledge, and sensitivity that G-d wants us to develop within ourselves.

Q. Is there ever a time when it is appropriate to sublimate part of our uniqueness for the good of the group or society?
A. It is a delicate balance. While it is a value to cooperate with others and be in harmony with one's society, this needn't be at the sacrifice of one's uniqueness. Ideally one should strive to find a way to express his individuality within a context that will mesh smoothly with, and benefit society as a whole.

Q. What do you think is one of your unique strengths?


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