Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35 )
In this week's Torah portion we learn about the special mixture of incense spices that was used in the Tabernacle offerings. An interesting thing is that while most of the spices were very fragrant and pleasant smelling, one of them did not smell nice at all. Yet God told us that it was just as important to include that spice too, and without it, the offering didn't count. This teaches us that we should accept and value parts of the Jewish People -- and parts of ourselves -- that might not seem to be so nice or pleasant.
In our story, a kid discovers that there is more to looking good than meets the eye.
THE NOSE JOB
As the kids were waiting in the lunch line, Dina, a popular girl and class clown, was doing her usual job of cracking joke after joke after joke, to help her classmates pass the time in line. She had all the kids rolling in the aisles -- all except for 'Serious Susan' -- the kid who never smiled.
The truth is that Susan really wasn't as serious as everybody thought. In fact she loved a good joke and would have loved to laugh along with everybody, but what could she do? From the day that she first got her ugly braces, she had decided that nobody was going to see her gross teeth and that was it.
After she got her lunch tray, Susan sat down, making sure to keep far away from everyone else so that they wouldn't see her teeth while she ate. She knew it made some of her classmates feel she was a little snobby, but it was still better than the humiliation of them seeing her smile, which to her looked like the bumper of a pick-up truck.
Susan had just taken her first bite, when she felt a tap on the arm. "Well I'm glad at least you didn't throw a pie in my face!"
Huh? It was Dina.
"Yeah, I could see you didn't like my little 'show' back in the line, so I came to give you your money back."
Susan, wanted to laugh at the cute joke -- but didn't, of course.
"Oh please don't feel hurt, Dina. I love your jokes," she said.
"If you love them so much, how come you never laugh at them or even smile?"
Susan could see that Dina really cared, so she decided to share her secret. "You see, it's my teeth. They just look so awful in these braces that I couldn't bear anyone else seeing them."
Dina nodded. "I hear you. I used to feel just like that about my ugly nose."
Susan didn't get it. As far as she could see, Dina was a perfectly fine looking kid, and everybody thought so.
"Thanks for the sympathy, Dina," she said, "but please don't joke about this. You know it's not the same because there is nothing wrong with your nose. You look absolutely fine."
"That's only because I gave myself a 'nose job.'"
"You mean you had an operation on your nose?" Susan asked in surprise.
"Well, yes and no. I just decided to stop letting the way I looked bother me, and start being myself, crooked nose and all. Then, when it stopped bothering me, it just seemed to stop bothering everyone else too. It was like I gave myself a nose job!"
"But Dina, your nose isn't crooked!" protested Susan.
"Fooled you too, eh? Take a good look."
She turned her head sideways and sure enough, Dina had a really crooked nose! Susan had never even noticed it before.
"See! And you can do the same thing with your teeth. Once you stop worrying about them, and just be your regular smiling self, braces or no braces, you'll not only feel better -- but look better too. So how about coming over and joining us? I promise not to make you crack up, unless of course you want to."
Susan began to smile at Dina's quip. She was about to stop herself as usual, but this time didn't. It felt funny to show her teeth, but it also felt good. The two of them walked over to the table full of kids and sat down. The kids were a little surprised to see 'Serious Susan' join them. Dina began her usual comedy routine. Susan controlled herself for a while, but then when Dina shot a particularly funny look her way, she first smiled, then giggled, then burst into the biggest, warmest sunniest laugh her friends had ever seen.
The next day Susan had become one of the gang. A couple of kids had even said to her how great she looked.
"How you doing Smiling Susan?" quipped Dina from the line.
"Great, thanks to you -- the joking dentist who helped me fix my teeth by accepting myself."
Q. Q. How did Susan feel about her teeth at first?
A. She didn't like them, and felt like she had to hide them from everyone.
Q. How did she feel after talking with Dina?
A. She felt like she could smile and be herself even with the part of her she didn't like so much.
Q. What lesson did Susan learn that afternoon in the lunchroom?
A. Susan discovered that even if we have a part of ourselves that we don't like, it doesn't have to stop us from living normally and enjoying life, and that we can, and should accept ourselves -- our whole selves -- flaws and all.
Q. Why do you think Susan didn't notice Dina's crooked nose until she pointed it out?
A. . Dina's nose didn't magically straighten itself out. But she had developed such a healthy self-accepting attitude, and behaved in such an up-beat and positive way that it made her an attractive person, even if some of her features were less than perfect. It's a powerful secret to know -- that the more we accept ourselves, the more others will accept us too.
Age 10 and up
Q. Is anybody perfect?
A. Some people's imperfections may be easier to spot than other's, but we all have them. God put us in the world to perfect our character, so by definition each of us must have something about us that is not perfect. We shouldn't compare ourselves to others nor let our imperfections get us down, because everyone has them and it's just part of being human.
Q. Are we meant to accept our imperfections or try to change them?
A. It all depends on the circumstance. First we should determine whether it is something which is changeable or not. For example, someone with a physical flaw for which there is no treatment obviously has been given the challenge of developing an attitude of self-acceptance. On the other hand, someone who is in the habit of belittling others shouldn't just say 'that's the way I am', and accept that part of himself, rather should be actively seeking to change for the better.