Another one from Sarah Schnierer Fan:
To be quite fair to the teacher in this story, she was, by her own admission, not entirely on an even keel. She once told us that she went to a doctor and he suggested she consider antidepressants.
She laughed. She wasn’t depressed, just a little stressed out. “Anyone would be stressed out if they had nine kids and were supporting a family on kollel and bais yaakov teacher budget! Doctors just want to prescribe pills for everything.”
Whether she was depressed or not, she had a pretty dark outlook on life.
One day she walked into class and pointed at a student in the third row. “You’re going to die!” she announced. Then she pointed to another student and said the same thing: “You’re going to die!”
Everyone recoiled. But it was true enough, as statements go, so I waited to see where she was going with this.
She went on in this nihilist vein, telling us a story about a girl who was helping her mother by watching the kids, leaned out a window, fell out, and died.
At this point, most of the class was staring at her with very wide eyes. But she wasn’t done.
She told us about a boy who was crossing the street with his siblings when a car ran him over and he died.
She told us about a girl who went to the grocery store to run an errand for her mother, a bus hit her, and she died.
By now I was pretty well convinced she was trying to dissuade us from ever helping our parents. Was this a cynical analysis of the connection between kibud horim and arichus yamim?
She was done with tales of death and dying now, and went on to deliver her main message:
“Rav Soandso says one should listen to descriptions of gehinnom every day to scare themselves away from aveiros.”
I burst out laughing.
She turned sharply and glared at me.
I started coughing instead.
I got kicked out of class.
So it wasn’t until later that I found that what this was all about: an introduction to the lesson about how Moshe Rabbeinu died.
The next day the teacher called me to apologize for sending me out of class. She was worried she’d hurt my feelings.
The funny thing is, I kind of agree with her. I think we lose something when we take the fire and brimstone completely out of our relationship with God. Sometimes fear is a more powerful motivator than reward.