In our preschool every child gets to bring home a piece of posterboard with the assignment to decorate it, with the help of parents, with photos and colors and stickers. On Friday mornings the preschool gathers in the sanctuary for what we call ‘Superstar Shabbat.’ A few kids are chosen every week to share the poster about themselves with everyone else. The ones who bring in their posters are called the superstars of the day.
The drill goes like this: I call the kids and their entourage to the bimah individually. I ask them about the various pictures on their poster, their favorite colors, etc. It’s always great fun and it’s a highly anticipated event. Some of the kids are very shy; others are ready to lead the entire event.
Today there were 3 superstars. One was very shy, one was comfortable, and one was – well, let me tell you what happened. I called Sarah [not her real name] to the bimah. As I surveyed her superstar poster I noticed that Sarah had placed in the most prominent position, a photo of her standing with a Disney Cinderella model. I said to Sarah, “Who’s the beautiful princess in the picture?” Without hesitation she said, “That’s me!”
Every adult in the sanctuary laughed. It was a priceless Art Linkletter, “Kids Say the Darndest Things” moment. I thought to myself, “You go, Sarah! You are the princess! Forget the blonde model next to you. You’re the shining superstar!”
Somehow the kind of feeling Sarah has, that she is a beautiful princess, gets lost to so many of us as we get older. To know adolescent girls is to know a litany of adjectives, pejorative and so sad, that they use to describe themselves: fat, pimply, gross, awkward, hairy, disgusting, and so forth. Where does the confidence of a princess go? Men also have moments when as boys we see ourselves as strong, able-bodied jocks or as princes, only to fall victim to our own failing self-confidence.
In the Torah portion, Shelach Lecha, from Numbers, 12 spies go out to scout the land of Israel. Ten come back and say that giants lived in the land of milk and honey. “When we saw them we felt like grasshoppers in comparison to them.”
God gets really angry with these guys. Why, God wonders, don’t the 10 spies feel more confident? Why don’t they say to each other, “Hey the inhabitants of the land of Israel are bigger than we are, but God’s sending us in there. And if God says it’s ok, then we have to have the faith that it will be ok.”
Sarah looks in the mirror and sees a princess. The spies look in the mirror and grasshoppers looks back. The mirror isn’t broken. It’s all about what’s inside the person who’s looking in the mirror. We are so blessed with so much. We have this gift of neshama: breath and soul. Why do we all squander it on self-doubt and self-abnegation? To see our beauty when we look in the mirror, all of us creations of God, that is a test of faith and confidence.
I am so grateful for Sarah’s radiance this Shabbat. I’m going to go look in the mirror now. I won’t be expecting George Clooney smiling back. But I will see a man blessed with so much naches. I will see a bald, bearded, big guy who’s so happy to be alive. Now it’s your turn. Who do you see?