11 Kislev 5781 / Friday, November 27, 2020 | Torah Reading: Vayeitzei
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The Missing Watch    

The Missing Watch

A lesson for parents! Here's how one teacher's love for his student saved a life and brought the student to full teshuva...


In the middle of the wedding reception, the groom – an exceptional Torah scholar who landed the beautiful daughter of a prestigious family – asked for the microphone. "I'd like to say a few words; indeed, I am obligated to express my gratitude. First of all, I must thank Hashem for the privilege of taking such an indescribably splendid wife from such a lovely family. Secondly, I must thank the one person here tonight who made this joyous occasion possible…"


All the guests looked around. Who was the groom talking about – his parents? The matchmaker? Maybe he was referring to his Rosh Yeshiva, with whom he had become especially close during the past three years. No, he wasn't referring to any of these people.


"I must share my story with you, for it's a story of how one act of loving-kindness from a teacher who cares can determine a pupil's entire future."


Obviously emotional, the blushing groom cleared his throat and began to unravel his tale:


I was in the fourth grade in cheder (religious Jewish elementary school for boys). Most of us were boys from kollel families, whose parents made a meager living. One boy in our class had a rich grandmother who bought him a fancy watch with all types of functions that we had never dreamed of, much less seen or owned. The bell rang for recess, when we customarily ran out to the playground for our midday game of soccer. The boy with the new watch was afraid of damaging it, so he put it in his desk drawer before going out to play.


When the bell rang to signal that recess was over, we all filed back into class. Reuven, the boy with the new watch, made a beeline for his desk and opened the drawer; he screamed, and his face was white as a sheet. "My watch!" he screamed, "it's missing! Somebody took it!"


The "rebbe" – our teacher – ran to the door to the classroom and locked it. "OK boys," he said, "I see that you're all here. None of us will leave the classroom until Reuven gets his watch back. I'd like to hope that the boy who took it by mistake will be morally courageous enough to return it right now and I promise that everything will be forgiven."


Not a single boy in the class moved a muscle. Each one sat frozen in his chair.

"If that's the case," continued the teacher, "I'll have to go from desk to desk and check each boy's desk, briefcase and pockets. You are leaving me no choice." The search began; you could hear a pin drop on the classroom floor. As the rebbe moved from boy to boy, the tension mounted. Hearts were racing, but none as fast as mine. You see, I had coveted the watch. Reuven's desk was next to mine. Before recess, I nabbed the watch with a flash of the hand and put it in my briefcase.


The rebbe was one desk away from me. In another minute, I would be exposed. The scariest thoughts entered my ten-year-old mind. I'd be the brunt of unimaginable derision. Maybe I'd be kicked out of school. Maybe my family would be forced out of town. Who knows what's in store for me? Then, as my pulse throbbed in my throat, the rebbe came to my desk. I almost fainted…


"Nobody gets out of their seat!" the Rebbe called out to distract the class's attention. There are still twenty minutes until class is over – look at the clock." In lightning-fast sleight hand that any magician would be proud of, the rebbe took the watch out of my briefcase and put it in his pocket. He continued on to the other boys' desks as if the search was not yet over.


After he checked every boy, the rebbe returned to the front of the class and declared, "I found the watch!" As he took it out of his pocket, he said, "The evil inclination took it. The evil inclination ambushed one of our best boys in this class and tried to incriminate him. It didn't succeed, because I know that this wonderful boy is certainly remorseful and he'll never ever do such a thing again."


The rebbe was right – I made teshuva like I never dreamed of.


The rebbe – my fourth-grade teacher – could have embarrassed me in front of the class. Any teacher's natural reaction would or could have been a sense of triumph in exposing the crime. He could have made a living example out of me for the whole class. But no, the rebbe didn't do that. In his love for every student and in his foresight, he knew the far-reaching effect that whatever he did would have on my future. In his virtue, I desired to be a Torah scholar of impeccable character just like him. In his virtue, I stand here before you on this joyous day. Thank you, rebbe, and may every Torah teacher be just like you.


I have never in my life heard such a poignant story that so greatly shows the prodigious responsibility of an educator, in whose hands Hashem entrusts tender souls. Let this story be an ideal that we all strive for.



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  1 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
  what a wonderful story
Anonymous,7/31/2017 4:16:51 AM

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