A discussion with third graders and families on Judaism’s stance on bullying:
As you know, during my modified “sabbatical”, I have used this space to reflect upon the past nine years of my rabbinate. I hope that my reflections have been interesting to you. Putting them down on paper has been an insightful process. As Ramat Shalom’s rabbi, I am blessed in knowing that I will have many more opportunities to step back and reflect upon all that I have learned from the community that I love.
To complete my sabbatical article series, I want to share with you part of Aaron Sigal’s d’var Torah. Aaron delivered this d’var Torah when he became a bar mitzvah at Ramat Shalom last month. One of the most important parts of the past nine years has been the inspirational lessons that I have learned from my students, young and old. These are lessons that have made me a better rabbi. These are lessons that have taught me that everyone is a teacher. These are lessons that have allowed me to understand the ancient words of our Rabbis: “Who is wise? One who learns from everyone.”
Please, read Aaron’s words. Become a student of Aaron Sigal. Share his words with the people you love. To Aaron Sigal and to all of the other teachers who have inspired me and will inspire me, I thank you for sharing your wisdom.
I found my Torah Portion to be very interesting. It is about leprosy. I know leprosy is not the most pleasant thing to talk about but it has a great lesson to teach. Here is what I learned.
The people of ancient Israel had come across a disease called leprosy which is a disease where your skin gets a rash with discoloration. These people had a very difficult time. People thought there was something wrong with them and that it might be contagious so they isolated them away from everyone. These people did not fit in and were being put aside because they were different. Some people feel threatened when other people are different. These so-called different people don’t fit in.
This is where I come in. I know how these people felt, isolated and alone. I have had a hard time fitting in at school, having that same feeling that because I am different I am isolated.
How I see it…at school there are cliques and groups. These groups separate the popular or people who think they are superior and there are the geeks according to the superiors. They call them geeks all because they are smarter and get better grades. Lastly, there are the unknowns which I like to call them. The unknowns are the kids that really don’t know where they belong. They are just in the middle. Those people, the unknowns, are people like me who don’t know what they are but also don’t know who they should be friends with, the superiors or the geeks. One other thing I find with the superiors is that most of them like and are good at sports. Fitting in somewhere is so hard. I love sports and I do well in school. So where do I fit in? Who should I be friends with?
Well, this is where bullying comes into place. It comes into place since the superiors think that everyone (the geeks and the unknowns) should be like them; otherwise they are different and we shouldn’t be nice to them. From this comes my position. I am one of those who are bullied which to me makes no sense at all and I want it over with. For the moment things seem to have settled down but it’s not because people like me or have accepted me. If it’s not me being bullied then it’s someone else. I just want bullying to stop. It’s just not right.
That’s why I believe, from what I have been through, that the people who bullied me are superiors and I don’t want to be like them. I have chosen to be a geek because I don’t care what people think and they are just nice to everyone and don’t do mean things. Also, I consider myself superior because I believe I am popular but not popular like the superiors but my own definition which is being popular is having friends and family that care about me for what I am and not what people say I should be. I am me and I am proud of it. From my own experiences I want to end bullying because it is not right and I don’t want what happened to me to happen to anyone else, not even a superior. I just wish we could find a way for everyone to get along and be friends.
In a nut shell, the lesson I have learned and I hope you have learned is that no matter what you look like or how smart you are everyone should get along and just because someone is different than you it doesn’t mean you have the right to isolate them or bully them.