Albert was a good student and a pretty good athlete. He was handsome and a little above average in height. Socially he got along with most people and you could describe him as well liked.
He and his friends were hiking through a wooded area. Shaul saw a vine hanging from a tree adjacent to the stream that ran through the woods.
“Come on, guys!” he shouted. “Let’s ride this vine across the stream. This is going to be fun!”
He grabbed onto the vine and ran towards the edge of the stream where he leaped over the stream to the other side.
“It’s awesome, guys!” he said. “Who’s next?”
One by one the boys swung across the stream on the swinging vine. They squealed with glee to emphasize how excited they were. It wasn’t long before Albert stood alone by the stream.
“Come on, Albert!” Shaul screamed. “You’re holding us up!”
Albert couldn’t muster the courage to overcome his trepidation. He stood silently without replying to Shaul’s commands.
Then he said, “I’m a little afraid that the vine won’t hold. I think I’ll take the long way around.”
“Are you normal?” Shaul yelled. “You’re afraid! You must not be normal.”
Staring at the ground, Albert started walking away. “Am I normal?” he wondered.
Most people try to be “normal.” It’s an adjective that doesn’t have a fixed definition, but it certainly can affect one’s self-esteem. We are commanded not to engage in ona’at devarim, hurtful speech, and accusing someone of not being normal is a violation of that commandment. There are many ways to say “Are you normal?” and all are equally hurtful and forbidden. “Are you insane?” or “How can anyone believe…?” can question another’s normalcy and violate Hashem’s commandment. Try to avoid these phrases. Treat others “normally.”
One More Second: Another Thought for the Day
G-d does not require them (our praises); we require them. In actuality, they are the explosion of the soul at the shock of recognition of Who G-d really is. Once we realize who we are and Who G-d is, and all the wondrous things He does, there can be no other response… (Rabbi Emanuel Feldman, On Judaism, p. 83)
Rabbi Raymond Beyda serves in the Sephardic Community in Brooklyn, N.Y. He is author of the book 1 Minute With Yourself: A Minute a Day to Self-Improvement, Sephardic Press, 2008.