Thursday, January 26, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Bo

3 Shevat 5772/January 27, 2012

For the last days of Succos this past year we hosted eleven staff members from Camp Dora Golding, who came to enhance our Yom Tov and our kehilla’s Simchas Torah.

Shemini Atzeres morning was a beautiful day and the sun shone brightly. We set the tables, and tried to figure out the best way to squish everyone into our little canvas Succah. When we finally gathered around the table for Kiddush we quickly realized that a few more unaccounted guests would be arriving.

At first it didn’t seem to be such a big deal, after all what’s a Succos meal without a bee? We shooed him away and continued. But when he returned with reinforcements we knew we were in trouble. Within a few minutes bees were swarming all around the succah, buzzing excitedly around the delicacies on the table, in our cups, and on our forks. The bees finally prevailed, forcing us back into the house. [It was a situation of ‘Mitzta’er’ for which one is exempt from succah, especially on Shemini Atzeres.]

It’s amazing how much havoc those little bees could cause. Throughout the summer we try to stay out of their way as they busily go about their business. And then the temperature drops, and the bees disappear for the winter. They return to their hives subsisting on the honey they made the previous summer.

However, I have come to the realization that bees do not completely disappear during the winter. Perhaps the buzzing yellow jackets with pointy stingers vanish from view, but their counterpart ‘synonyms’ rears its insidious face, appearing on children’s report cards at distinct intervals throughout the academic winter. What am I talking about? I’m referring to the dreaded grade: ‘B’.

It seems that the challenge of perfectionism and feelings of academic inadequacy are becoming an even more prevalent problem in our schools. When I was a student I had classmates who would voice their annoyance when they ‘only’ scored a 94 on a test. But today there are students who become absolutely miserable and even depressed because they did not get the best grade in the class. And if they should - Heaven forefend - get one B on their report card? Forget it, their life is ruined!

What a terrible pressure for a student to feel and what an erroneous perception of what constitutes success. A child who put in effort, studied, and scored an 84 on a test – the equivalent of a B on a report card – should be made to feel that he/she has done well. [Imagine how much better our society would look if people worked to 84% of their capacities…] We need to teach our children, and ourselves, that personal greatness is measured in terms of effort, not achievement. They will have plenty of time to suffer from the malady of ‘only accomplishment counts’ in the corporate world. In school they need to be taught what truly matters is self-esteem and the feeling of accomplishment which stems from giving it your all.

In my opinion there is a much more significant danger for a child who is genuinely afraid of getting a B on his report card than the momentary pain of getting stung by a bee.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum