S haul Katzenellenbogen strode through the busy marketplace of Brisk. His keen eyes scanned the groups of merchants as they conversed in huddled groups. 

The streets were a melting pot of two worlds: Brisk was the center of Jewish trade and business throughout all of Lithuania, and it was also the home to some of the greatest Torah scholars in the entire country. “Kum da! Come here!” A heavyset merchant with thick peyos behind his ears called to the young bochur as he passed. “Ich darf dein kop! I need your head!”

“Nu?” Shaul smiled as he approached the man. “Vi ken ich helfen? How can I help?”

“Look at this business transaction,” the merchant said as he handed Shaul two slips of paper covered in writing and diagrams. “I suspect that I was cheated by a businessman in Kiev, but I cannot prove it. Does this receipt make sense?”

“I hope you have the man’s address, because he did cheat you,” Shaul said, his eyes darting across the papers. “His arithmetic seemed to take a convenient turn for the worse when he was calculating the amount of barley you were supposed to receive.”

“I knew he was a ganiv!” the merchant shouted, his cheeks reddening in anger.

““He probably got you all fertummelt in the beginning by mentioning he was a close friend to the king, right?” Shaul sighed and handed the papers back. “Once you began to fear reprisal if you made the slightest mistake on the official transaction, you insisted that he handle all of the calculations.”

“That’s exactly what happened!” the merchant cried. “How did you know?”

“Because that’s also what happened to them,” Shaul said, pointing to a group of merchants nearby who were also looking over papers with sour expressions. “I wish I could have helped all of you before the ganiv was successful.”

“There must be something I can still do!” the merchant moaned, becoming dizzy at the thought of the money he had lost. “You’re the smartest man in Brisk, surely you have an idea in that groyseh kup of yours!”

“There is a retired doctor nearby by the name of Dovydas Balthis. He can help you for a small fee,” Shaul replied.

“He can help me track down the ganiv?” the merchant asked excitedly.

“You know how life is for us,” Shaul said sadly. “Justice doesn’t exist for the Jews. There’s nothing anyone can do to get your money back. Not until some laws are changed...”

“Then what’s the use of going to this man?” the merchant demanded.

“He is a master of numbers,” Shaul replied calmly. “I myself have had many lengthy discussions with him regarding mathematics. He can teach you some foolproof methods to ascertain that all your business transactions are completely accurate. Also, he is a brilliant business strategist.”

“That’s the advice you gave the other merchants?” the merchant asked.

“Yes,” Shaul answered, his face sympathetic. “Hab a gutten tag. Have a great day.”

Shaul continued down the street, eager to make it back to his yeshivah on time.

“You’re mammish a zeyer kluger mensch! You’re a very smart man!” the merchant called after Shaul.

“No, no, no,” Shaul disagreed, already a good distance away. “I am no smarter than you are!” (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 705)