I would like to share the following story that has happened on a number of occasions, with slight variations. There is something deep and human about this experience, as you will soon see.
As you may know, Hashem sends me parnassah through music – I play and sing at weddings and other simchas. Quite often, there will be a guest at the affair who would like to sing, usually a friend of the chosson or a family member. On one such occasion, a young man who was mentally retarded came up to the stage and wanted to sing. He was accompanied by an adult who was encouraging him, and the sound man gave him a ‘wireless’ microphone. It was not connected to the sound system, but the young man did not realize this.
The young man stood next to me and was singing with me, very excited to be on stage, performing for a large crowd. He danced a little next to me, and made some dramatic movements, perhaps imitating some artist he had seen on video. At a certain point, he became aware of the fact that he could not hear his voice coming out of the speakers. His friend who was there to encourage him pointed to the speaker and made a thumbs up sign to indicate that the young man’s voice was indeed audible (which it obviously was not). This interchange repeated itself a number of times.
Along the way, some other people noticed what was going on and offered their encouragement to the young retarded man as well, thus furthering his belief that indeed he was performing to an adoring crowd. At a certain point, he had performed enough (I think it was about 10-15 minutes), and he left the stage, completely proud of his great achievement.
I look at these type of ‘performances’ and wonder to myself, what is the message?
Many years ago, I spent some time taking voice lessons, and one of the things my voice teacher told me was that, “Your ego should always be one level beneath your talent.” In other words, a person needs to be realistic about who he is and what his place in life is.
There are many people who would envision themselves as being an amazingly talented _______ (fill in the blank). And they will find ‘yes’ men who will encourage them and have them believe that indeed they possess that great ability. It would do us well to sometimes take a step back and ask ourselves why we are doing things. Do we get up to sing because we really want to (or have what to) contribute to someone else’s simcha, or are we really just in it for our own ego? Is our opinion really the end all and the absolute truth, or have we surrounded ourselves with people who believe the same fiction we espouse?
Sometimes we may need to swallow the bitter pill of humility and realize that we may not be as great as we think. At that moment, we create the potential for rising to a much greater level in our spiritual growth.