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Thursday
Oct112018

A DECISIVE MOVE

By D Chaim

One day, my mother asked me and my twin brothers, Mendy and Yossi, to do some shopping in the neighborhood fruit and vegetable store owned by Kalman. Kalman, an older man, does not have a worker to make deliveries for him, so the three of us had to carry the heavy bags to the bus stop nearest the store, and from the stop we got off at we carried the bags until our house.

As soon as I heard the bell ring announcing dismissal, I ran down the steps of the school in order to meet my brothers in the yard, but when I got there, my brothers were nowhere to be seen. They had left a little earlier than usual, which their teacher allows when they do excellent work. I decided to head toward the store where I would surely meet them.

As I approached the street opposite the store I saw them. They were filling bags with vegetables according to a long list my mother had given us. I rushed to join and help them, but since I was late, my brothers had nearly finished doing the shopping. I looked for other things to do and decided to watch Kalman who was busy counting huge piles of coins of all sorts.

He had an interesting method of doing this. On the counter was an old-fashioned metal scale (I think Kalman has used these scales since the store opened, about fifty years ago). After he counted a certain number of 10 cent coins, for example, he placed the pile on one side of the scales. On the other side he put a pile of the same kind of coins. When the two pans holding coins were exactly even, Kalman knew that the sum in the second pan was equal to that of the first. This is how he saved himself from counting more coins than necessary, for he already knew how many were in the first pan.

It was interesting to me to watch Kalman completely immersed in his very precise work. I would have watched a lot longer but Kalman suddenly said to me, “You should know this teaches an important lesson.”

I was interested in hearing what he had to say, but my twin brothers had already paid and wanted my help in carrying the bags home. “Mommy called the store and said she is waiting impatiently for us to return,” said Mendy. Kalman confirmed this.

The trip by bus went fine. Yossi brought up the new game that we got as a present from our grandparents on Sukkos. It’s a large chess board made of glass which has magnificent glass chess pieces.

The moment Yossi mentioned the chess set, the three of us chorused, “I play first.” Of course, chess is played by only two players and each of us wanted to play with it as soon as we got home. A short argument ensued which ended with a stalemate.

When we entered the house, our mother thanked us for our help and did not understand where we were rushing off to. We went to the bedroom and Mendy grabbed the game first. You probably assume the argument on the bus resumed but it did not happen because I agreed to let them play, especially because I had sat most of the time in the store and did nothing while Mendy and Yossi had done all the work.

The game soon developed into a real battle. Mendy moved his bishop to a threatening spot. Yossi quickly attacked Mendy’s knight which fell into a trap without his realizing it. I sat quietly and watched the game, trying to guess who would make the decisive move and win. Every few minutes it looked as though someone else was going to do it. They were evenly matched, and now and then another piece fell to Mendy or Yossi.

Suddenly, in the critical moments of the game, Mendy banged his forehead and said, “Oh, how could I forget? I arranged with Yinon, my classmate, that we would learn together at 7:00 at his house and I am already ten minutes late! I must run. I’m going to ask Mommy to call him and say I’m on my way.”

It looked as though Yossi wanted to ask, “But when will we finish the game?” but Mendy beat him to it and said, “Dudi will take over for me.”

That is how, without prior warning, I was launched into the game, just as I had wanted from the beginning. When I looked at the board from the perspective of a player, I noticed a number of other steps Mendy had prepared. If I finished them off correctly, I would win.

Yossi did not notice any of this and was preoccupied with advancing his own battle plan. Then, in a lightening quick move, I placed my queen on the attack with the pieces around it ready to help out. Yossi looked up in astonishment and mumbled, “Checkmate?! You just sat down to play. How did you win so fast and with one little move?”

Yossi did not expect my surprising answer.

“Kalman the vegetable man taught me how to do it,” I said.

“What?!” Yossi exclaimed.

“Yes,” I said confidently. “While you were busy picking vegetables, I observed what he was doing and learned something very important.”

“Which is …?” Yossi curiously asked.

“When we were in the store, Kalman was busy weighing piles of coins in his register on an old scale. I noticed that even when one pan had just one more coin than the other pan, it weighed down the pan it was in.

“The same is true in chess. Mendy had set up a great plan. After that, it all depended on making the right moves which, if I made them, would enable me to win. Of course, I don’t have to tell you what I did.”

“Aha,” said Yossi. “Now I can guess what Kalman meant to say to you before we left the store.

“What?” Now I was curious.

“Kalman is known as someone who looks forward to the Geula. He must have meant to say that the state of the world is just like his coins:

“The Rebbe often quotes the Rambam who says that a Jew needs to look at the world as a scale. Just as one coin can tip the scale, and just as one move of yours tipped the game in your favor, so too, every single deed we do can tip the scale of the work of all the generations and immediately bring the Geula.”

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