6 years ago Bmiller 0
This is a story of a difficult time, a clever villain, a Great Challenge and the Power of a Yiddisheh Kup (Jewish brain).
A long time ago in the town of Minsk…which is just a wee bit north of Pinsk, (which was all part of the Russian Empire), there lived a thriving Jewish population. It was a proud and happy town, but bad times were ahead.
The Tsar, the king of Russia, decided that he wanted to take the town of Minsk, which is just a wee bit north away from the Jews and he wanted to prove that noble Russians were Much smarter than the Jews. So he would create a challenge that no Jew could overcome….
Meanwhile…in the town of Minsk, which is just a wee bit north of Pinsk, the rabbi gathered all the Jews of the town in the main synagogue. The synagogue was packed…every pew filled with very nervous people because it was known that the rabbi had been to see the Tsar that day and the news was not good.
The rabbi quieted the crowd…and a hush fell over the room (Hush……)
The rabbi announced the terrible decree. The Tsar intended to kick all the Jews out of Minsk, which is just a wee bit north of Pinsk UNLESS there was a Jew who was smart enough to survive a Contest of the Mind with the smartest man in all of Russia, the Tsar’s Prime Minister. Win the contest and the Jews could stay. Lose the contest and there would no longer be Jews in Minsk, which is just a wee bit north of Pinsk.
It was so quiet in the synagogue, you could hear a kippah drop. The rabbi was smart, be he didn’t think he was smarter than the Tsar’s Prime Minister. He pleaded with the congregation…”Is there anyone in our town to save us? Is there anyone who has what it takes to win this Contest of the Mind.
It seemed to take forever, but suddenly, all the way in the back, a hand shot up and the rabbi let out a much-too-loud “OY-Vey.” Because the volunteer…the only Jew who believed he could be the smartest man in all of Russia was someone who no one believed was smart at all…in fact, he barely spoke…in fact, his name was Simple Schmerel.
Soon the day came for the biggest event in all of Russia. This was the day that the Tsar would prove how smart noble Russians are and how stupid the Jews are, especially the Jews of Minsk, which is a wee bit north of Pinsk.
Inside the palace, the Contest Room was filled with Russians, the Jews were not allowed in and they waited anxiously outside the Palace walls. In the center of the room was a long…long….long…long….table. At one end sat Simple Schmerel. The Tsar was talking to his Prime Minister….He said… “Remember Prime Minister. Simple Schmerel must lose. I want all the Jews out of Minsk, which is just a wee bit north of Pinsk.” The Prime Minister reassured the Tsar. “Do not worry my king…there is no way Simple Schmerel will be able to answer my questions. In fact, I will ask all of my questions without uttering a single word. Simple Shmerel will never understand me, let alone get the right answer.” And, the Prime Minister added, “He has to answer all three questions correctly. The Tsar told his Prime Minister… “He better not win….because if he does….(show a finger cutting across your throat).
The Prime Minister took his seat at the end of the long…long…long…long….table. A hush fell over the room. (Hush…..)
The Tsar’s Prime Minister put his hand behind his back and then shot his hand out in front of him and did this….(show two fingers…like a V or peace sign). Simple Schmerel immediately did this….(hold up one finger). The Prime Minister shouted, “Oh no! All the Russians in the great room collectively said “Oh, no”…. But outside…all the Jews of Minsk, which is just a wee bit north of Pinsk shouted.. ”YAY!”
The Prime Minister was more than surprised, more than embarrassed and getting more than a little scared, but he got ready for the next question. Soon…a hush fell around the room. (Hush….)
The Prime Minister put his hand behind his back and then did this…(show an open hand with the fingers splayed). Simple Schmerel put his hand behind his back and did this…(show a fist). The Prime Minister said, “Oh no!” The Russians in the great room were stunned. Together they all shouted, “Oh no.” But outside…all the Jews of Minsk, which is just a wee bit north of Pinsk, shouted, “Yay!” Simple Schmerel was just one answer short of saving their whole town. And that was way too close for the Tsar to take.
He summoned the Prime Minister to the throne and demanded answers. “How was Simple Schmerel…SIMPLE Schmerel…able to answer the first two questions?” “I don’t know my king….I am as surprised as you are…perhaps the questions were too SIMPLE. My third questions has special symbolism and involves an object. Surely Simple Schmerel will never be able to understand the special symbolism,” said the Prime Minister in a shaky voice. “He better not, “howled the Tsar. “because if he does…” (Make a cut the throat motion).
The Prime Minister returned to his seat at the table and once again, a hush fell over the room (hush….)
The Prime Minister slowly reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of flat cheese and slapped it on the table. Simple Schmerel slowly reached into his pocket and pulled out an egg…and rolled it down the long…long…long…long….long….long….table.
The Prime Minister said, “Oh no!!!!!” The Russians inside the hall, screamed all together… “Oh No!!” And the Jews of Minsk, which is just a wee bit north of Pinsk, shouted “yay!!!” Simple Schmerel saved them and the party was soon to begin.
But first…the Tsar summoned his doomed Prime Minister. There was one thing he needed to know before execution time. He needed to know what all those symbols meant.
“Prime Minister, as you know, you will soon be dead. But first…tell me what all those symbols meant and why was the Simplest of people able to defeat you in a Contest of the Mind?”
“I can’t explain it,”said the Prime Minister, “other than to say that he was not simple. He is brilliant.”
“If you remember…the first thing I did was hold out two fingers, like this. (Hold up two fingers).” “ I was saying to Simple Schmerel that there are two Gods. Simple Schmerel held up one finger to tell me there is only one God.”
“Amazing,” said the Tsar. “But what was that second symbol…with the hand?”
“Well,” said the Prime Minister, “I held up my hand with my fingers spread apart (hold up your hand), to demonstrate that Jews all over the world are a scattered and separated people without any connection to one another.” “Simple Schmerel had the right answer. He held his hand in a fist to demonstrate that the Jews are a unified people and can come together as a powerful force…not unlike a fist.”
“Unbelievable,” said the Tsar. “But what was that business with the cheese?”
“This was truly amazing,” said the Prime Minister. “I put cheese on the table, declaring that the world is flat. Simple Schmerel would have none of that old theory. He took out an egg to symbolize that the earth was rounded and then he rolled it down the long…long…long…long…long…table to prove that the earth rotates around the sun while spinning on its axis.”
The Tsar was truly impressed. But he was not at all happy that the Jews would be allowed to stay in their town. The Prime Minister, the smartest man in all of Russia, was never seen again.
Meanwhile, back in Minsk, which is just a wee bit north of Pinsk, there was a huge party. Simple Schmerel was riding through the town among his cheering people. Next to him on another horse was the rabbi who couldn’t resist asking about the Contest of the Mind.
“Simple Schmerel,” said the rabbi, “we are all so proud of you. If you don’t mind, would you be kind enough to explain what happened at the Contest of the Mind? How did you get all those answers correct?”
“Rabbi,” said Simple Schmerel, “Of course I will tell you because you are so nice…You are nothing like that VERY MEAN Prime Minister. Do you know what he did even before the contest started? He tried to make sure I wasn’t going to be able to see his clues. He put out his two fingers trying to poke me in the eyes. I quickly put out my one finger to show that if he tried to poke me…he would never reach me…nice try Prime Minister!”
“That IS very mean,” said the rabbi. “Yes,” said Simple Schmerel, “and it gets worse. When he couldn’t poke me, he tried to scare me. He went like this….with his hand. I said…If you try to scare me, I will punch you right in the nose.”
“I think you really did frighten him with that,” said the rabbi. “What happened next?”
“Well,” said Simple Schmerel, “This Prime Minister had real Chuzpah. Before the Contest of the Mind was to start, he took cheese out of his pocket and slapped it on the table. I couldn’t believe this chutzpah. I took out my egg and rolled it to him. I thought, there is no way I will make breakfast, you are going to make an omelet for me.
And that is how Simple Schmerel saved the Jews of Minsk, which is just a wee bit north of Pinsk. The times were not better, but the clever Villian wasn’t clever enough and the Yiddishe Kup prevailed…as usual.
REFLECTION: I believe this is a good story to tell because it shows that one should not judge a book by its cover. Everyone was saying Simple Schmerel couldn’t beat the Prime Minister but he could. Another lesson is not to get ahead of yourself and think you are better because if you are too confident things don’t usually go your way.