That title still gives me the chills whenever I remember it. I don’t know who first described what a “neb” was to me, but ever since I can remember, it was a character I dreaded being associated with.
“Don’t let your glasses slip onto the tip of your nose!” my older brother Nachum Aryeh would tell me in a serious tone. “Everyone will think that you’re nebbish.”
“And don’t even think about looking into the English translation on your Mishnayos sheets for help. It’s nebby…” Nachum Aryeh’s identical twin, Motty, would say as I did my homework.
“Don’t listen to your brothers, Binyamin,” my mother would always chime in if she overheard their “neb” comments. “Just because they didn’t need a little extra help with their Mishnayos homework doesn’t mean you have to be the same. Everyone is different. Just be you and don’t worry about anyone else!”
“Yeah, everyone is different,” the twins would whisper when my mother had turned away. “Some people are normal and other people are nebby. Which one are you, Binyamin? It’s your choice.”
You might be wondering why my brothers hounded me so much about being nebby. It’s probably because of the fact that I’m a bit of a loner and I didn’t always get the highest grades on my tests like they did. They had great self-esteem, while I was always struggling to find a reason to feel good about myself. My brothers weren’t bad kids, just a little immature and unsure how to relate to my being so different from them.
So when Shavuos rolled around that year, I felt pretty lousy listening to everyone’s exciting learning plans.
“Listen up!” Chaim, the smartest kid in class hopped onto a chair with a notebook and pen. He held the notebook slightly open so that everyone could see he was already starting to write notes in Hebrew. I heard a collective gasp of admiration pass through the class.
“Shavuos night I want to review everything we learned in Mishnayos this year, and I need at least two chavrusas. Who wants to volunteer?”
A few hands went up.
“Hmmm…” Chaim’s eyes darted across the hopeful faces staring at him in complete adoration. “I don’t know who to pick…”
“What about Binyamin?” someone called out from the back of the classroom.
I looked up from my desk, where I was gathering my stuff to go to recces.
“Binyamin?!” Chaim glanced in my direction in total shock.
“I meant Binyamin Stein in the other fifth-grade class,” the person who’d called out clarified quickly. “He also wanted to chazer everything he learned so far.”
“Oh, I thought you meant—” Chaim trailed off and I felt my cheeks burning bright, hot red.
“Excuse me, there’s no reason to look elsewhere when we have our very own Binyamin right here!” My rebbi had apparently been listening to our conversation as he looked at a sefer in the back of the classroom. “Chaim, I think you and Binyamin would be a great match for Shavuos night. Go for it!”
(Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 763)