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Meeting the Challenge

Shmot (Exodus 1:1-6:1 )

by Nesanel Yoel Safran

Did you know that the greatest leader in our people's history was physically challenged? Moses, the one whom God chose to deliver the Jewish people from Egyptian slavery, had a serious speech impediment (Ex. 4:10). We can learn from his overcoming his life-challenge that we, too, can overcome ours.

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In our story, a kid gets a new look at how to face a challenge.


"Forget it! I'm not going - you'll have to go yourself," Sue said with a frown to her friend, Jan, who had shown up at her door with her clarinet case slung over her shoulder like a soldier.

"What are you talking about?" Jan asked. "We made up that we'd go to band tryouts together."

"I know, but I ... changed my mind. I'm not trying out this year."

"But why not? You love playing in the marching band."

Sue sighed. "That was before I had my operation. Sure, I recovered, but in case you haven't noticed - which I know you have - it left me with a limp, which makes me not exactly the kind of marcher that will make the school proud. Besides, there's a new bandleader this year who won't even remember what I used to walk like and give me a break. So, see you and good luck!" she said, closing the door.

But her friend's foot got in the way.

"Hey, what are you doing?" Sue asked.

"I'm waiting for you to come with me."

"But I just told you I'm not going."

"And I'm telling you," Jan said, "I'm not taking 'no' as an answer. You're a great musician and you walk just fine. So unless you want a red-headed, freckled doorstop blocking your house for the rest of the day, grab your flute and let's get going."

Sue knew that although Jan was just under five feet tall, she had a stubborn streak the length of a football field and even though she knew she'd be wasting her time bothering to try out, she reluctantly agreed to come.

Sue felt a bittersweet sense of longing as they arrived at the auditorium where the tryouts were being held. She watched all the hopeful, familiar faces chatting away, waiting for the new bandleader to come as they carted around their familiar array of brass, percussion and wind instruments. The only piece of equipment out of place, Sue noticed, was a wheelchair next to the faculty room.

"Jan, it was a mistake to come," she said. "I feel so foolish, there's just no way someone with a limp can hope to..."

Suddenly a hush swept through the crowd as the faculty door opened and a woman with leg braces spryly swung herself out and into the waiting wheelchair, which she deftly maneuvered to the midst of the speechless crowd.

"Hi y'all!" she announced with a winning smile. "I'm Mrs. Marshall, your new band leader. I hear we have a lot of talent in this school and I hope it's true because when I roll in front of you as we parade down the football field I want to feel proud. Now everyone line up with your instruments and let's see what you've got."

Jan winked at Sue as they stood in line. "Still sorry I made you come?"

"No," Sue smiled. "I think I might just make it after all. And ... I'm sure glad you make a better friend than a doorstop.

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Ages 3-5

Q. How did Sue feel at first about trying out for the band?
A. She was embarrassed about her limp and didn't think she could make it.

Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She saw how the bandleader overcame an even bigger challenge and felt that she could, too.


Ages 6-9

Q. What life-lesson do you think Sue learned that day?
A. She'd felt that because she had a physical challenge, she had to put some of the favorite things in her life on hold. But a persistent, encouraging friend and a spunky, overcoming bandleader gave her a new perspective and a dose of courage to succeed.

Q. If it ended up that Sue didn't make it on the band, would you think she had failed?
A. No. Once she decided to try and keep going with her life, she'd already become a big success - whether she made the band or not.


Ages 10 and Up

Q. How much of success do you think depends on attitude?
A. Nearly all. While there can be some genuine physical limitations, they pale in comparison to the degree one can limit oneself with a negative attitude - and liberate oneself with a positive one.

Q. Do you think there is any way that being challenged can be an advantage?
A. A primary tool for success in life is willpower. Willpower is built by facing obstacles and overcoming them. A challenged person has the opportunity to strive in a way others do not and therefore can hone their willpower to become a dynamo of successful living.


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