I posted this a while back. The message and lesson you can take from it is so, so important.
I got this email a while ago and I think this story really teaches us an important lesson in how to treat other people.
By: Rabbi Pesach J. Krohn
At a recent Sheva Berachos party for a newly married couple held at the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem, a groom told a story that astounded the guests.
The young man had a stellar reputation as one who always did the right thing; hence his tale of something that happened in his youth was startling. His interpretation of what transpired made the evening memorable.
In his talk, the groom thanked the family that hosted the Sheva Berachos, and spoke glowingly of his parents and his bride's family. He spoke about the significance and responsibility of marriage, sprinkling his words with biblical verses and teachings of the Sages. Finally he said he wished to speak of "a turning point" in his life.
It happened when he was in fifth grade. A classmate, Naftali, came in one day showing everyone an expensive new watch he had just received as a gift. His mother had warned him not to take the watch to school lest it get lost or broken, but he disobeyed. He wanted to show the fancy new watch to his friends and classmates. At recess, with everyone running out to play ball, the boy took off his watch, and left it on his desk, so there would be no risk of scratching or breaking it during recess.
When he returned to class after recess, the watch was gone! He let out a hysterical shriek. How could he come home without the watch? His parents would punish him severely. There was no consoling the boy as he cried, begging his rebbi (spiritual mentor) to help him find the watch.
The rebbi , who had been standing in the hallway for most of recess, was quite sure that no one had entered the classroom since recess began, neither the custodian nor boys from another class. His instincts told him that it was a boy in his own class who had probably taken it on the way out or in from the playground.
The rebbi got everyone's attention and said, "I know that it may have been tempting for someone to take Naftali's watch. We all saw that it was very beautiful and quite expensive. However, we must get the watch back to him. Did anyone here take it by mistake? And if yes, would you like to return it?"
No one stirred as the boys nervously glanced around to see if anyone was admitting anything. The rebbi waited a few moments and said, "I guess I have no choice. I am going to ask all of you to stand up front, facing the wall and I am going to go through your pockets to see if it's there. But I am giving you one more chance to admit that you may have taken it by mistake. Look, it can happen. Someone just wanted to admire the watch so he may have picked it up and then inadvertently put it into his pocket."
Again no one said a thing. The rebbi called up the boys and asked them to stand against the wall and not to turn around even for a moment until he gave them permission. The groom's face turned red as he explained what happened next.
"I was the third boy in line. Once everyone was in place he started going through the pockets of every boy, and he found the watch in mine. I had been hoping against hope that he wouldn't find it, as I planned to return it to Naftali after school. However, now the rebbi had the culprit. I was shaking as I waited for him to shout at me, or express glee that he found it.
"Instead he continued checking every single boy! When he finished searching the last boy, he said, 'You all can go back to your seats. I have the watch.'
"As I walked back to my seat I had to hold myself back from crying. I understood what the rebbi did and how he saved me from being embarrassed. He had continued the search so no one could figure out who had taken the watch. As we sat down he didn't even look my way so no one could possibly have any inkling who the guilty party was. He resumed teaching. I decided then and there that someday I would like to be like him."
The groom, a rabbinical student in one of the world's most prominent institutions of higher Jewish learning, indeed became a wonderful person because his spiritual mentor protected his dignity and afforded him honor back in the fifth grade. With that gesture, the rebbi laid the foundation for the validation of a student in a new generation so that he eventually would do the same for his children and disciples.
Rabbi Paysach J. Krohn is a world famous inspirational lecturer and author of, among others, the just released In the Spirit of the Maggid: Inspirational stories that touch the heart and stir the spirit, from where this story was adapted.
I think this is so amazing! We see how careful we have to be with other peoples feelings! Just because someone did something wrong, that does not give you an excuse to yell at them, accuse them in public or embarrass them. Here you see a shining example of a rebbe who, instead of hurting his student's feelings was ultra careful!
I think that a very important thing when giving mussar to someone who did something wrong is not to speak to them in public! The shabbos table is not the right time/place to tell your kids that they did something wrong. If someone in the family needs to be spoken to about something they did, it should be done in private, in another room, away from all the siblings...this way, at least they have their dignity!
Right now, b"h, I am not in that stage, so it is easy for me to talk. B"h, Shalom Baruch doesn't know how to upset me much (besides for when he wakes up at 3, 4 and 5 o'clock in the morning or like yesterday when every single diaper of his was dirty - ok, I wasn't upset, just frustrated!). But I do hope that when he does grow up and I have something to tell him about his behavior or something he (or his siblings iy"h) did that upset me [me? get angry?! NO WAY! lol] , I remember this important lesson: Don't embarrass your child in front of other children! If you need to speak to them about something they did, take them into another room and...speak calmly!
I left this last part in this post because it's the way it was originally written but let me just tell you, kids can do a lot to test your patience. This lesson is so important. When a child does something wrong, it is bad enough that they got you upset. They know they upset you. They don't need you to yell at them or embarrass them in front of the rest of their family. Take them to another room...it makes such a difference!