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Win or Lose: Chapter 7

Chaim Finkelstein

“Don’t worry a bit, Mr. Levinson,” he stammered, “we won’t try to take away any of your old furniture… I mean your treasure”

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

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kay, Mr. Greenbaum,” stammered Rabbi Levinson, “that’s fine. This is your apartment, and if you don’t want us here, we won’t come here. We’re just happy that you will join us for the Shabbos seudah this week.”

“Yes, yes, yes,” grumbled Mr. Greenbaum. “If I said I would come, I will come. Sidney Greenbaum always keeps his word.”

Rabbi Levinson smiled. “Thank you so much for agreeing to come, Mr. Greenbaum,” he said. “Our family will be so happy to have you.”

Yitzy looked around the apartment. Everything looked very old. It looked like Mr. Greenbaum hadn’t gotten one new piece of furniture in the 60 years he’d lived here.

Rabbi Levinson tapped Yitzy on the shoulder. “Come, Yitzy,” he said, “we have to leave now.”

Yitzy didn’t want to leave yet, though. Something was bothering him.

“Mr. Greenbaum,” he blurted out, “why don’t you want us to come to your apartment?”

“Yitzy,” admonished Rabbi Levinson, “it’s not nice to ask too many questions. Let’s leave Mr. Greenbaum alone.”

Yitzy looked up at the old man. Mr. Greenbaum looked into Yitzy’s eyes.

“Young man,” he said, “if you really want to know why I don’t want visitors, I will tell you.”

Yitzy nodded his head eagerly.

“Please close the door, Yitzy,” Mr. Greenbaum said.

Yitzy ran over to the door, closed it, and then ran back to stand beside his father.

Mr. Greenbaum’s face grew very serious.

“You must not tell anyone what I am about to tell you,” he said in a hoarse whisper. “Do you agree?”

Rabbi Levinson and Yitzy both nodded.

“Good,” said Mr. Greenbaum. “The reason I do not want strangers in my apartment is because I am worried that they will try to take all my treasures.”

Mr. Greenbaum stopped and waved his hand around the room, indicating all the old pieces of furniture around him.

Yitzy’s eyes grew wide with wonder. Did Mr. Greenbaum really believe that his old furniture was a treasure?

“I have had these treasures for 60 years, since I came to America as a young man. I do not want anyone to ever take them from me.”

Rabbi Levinson took a step toward the door.

“Don’t worry a bit, Mr. Levinson,” he stammered, “we won’t try to take away any of your old furniture… I mean your treasure.”

Mr. Greenbaum smiled. “Good!” he said.

“Good night, Mr. Greenbaum,” called Mr. Levinson as he and Yitzy made their way to the door.

“Good night,” answered the old man.

Rabbi Levinson suddenly stopped. “Mr. Greenbaum,” he said, “before we leave, I must ask you how your leg is feeling.”

Mr. Greenbaum looked down at his knee. He moved it around a little, to test it out.

“Baruch Hashem, it feels much better now,” he answered.

“Baruch Hashem,” said Rabbi Levinson and Yitzy together. Father and son walked out the door.

“Goodnight,” Mr. Greenbaum called after them, “and thank you both for your help.”

Yitzy left Mr. Greenbaum’s apartment with a lot of questions on his mind. He knew that he needed to wait for the right time to ask them.

Later that night, after a very busy supper and bedtime for the younger Levinsons, Yitzy made sure to catch his father alone.

“Ta,” began Yitzy, “could I talk to you privately?”

Rabbi Levinson could tell that Yitzy had something serious on his mind. He found a quiet place for the two of them to sit. “What’s up, Yitzy?” he asked.

Yitzy stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Can I ask you something?” he said.

Rabbi Levinson smiled. “Ask away.”

“Thank you, Ta. Could you please explain to me why Mr. Greenbaum is always so grumpy?”

Rabbi Levinson sighed. “You are asking a good question, Yitzy,” he answered. “The answer to your question is not simple. I don’t know the exact answer, but I can give you some things to think about.”

Yitzy nodded his head.

“I don’t know if you know this,” said Rabbi Levinson, “but Mr. Greenbaum did not grow up in America. He lived in Russia, when he was younger.”

(Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 742)

 

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