Tipping the Scales

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15 Feb 2006

I met her in the park in Bayit Vegan last week and she told me the story. I saw the glad look on her face and knew she had good news for me.

“We’re staying,” she announced, as she sat down next to me on the green, wooden bench.

“Shulamis, that’s wonderful. I’m so pleased for you. But what happened? I thought your husband was determined to go back.”

“You’re right, he was,” she shrugged blithely. “We had serious problems with the landlord, the kids were having difficulty adjusting to the language, our lift was tied up in yards of bureaucratic red tape – nothing seemed to be going smoothly. My husband had so many unpleasant encounters with rude clerks and indifferent officials that he decided that it just wasn’t worth all the aggravation. He had already booked tickets back to the States,” she confided. “Our dream of spending a year in Eretz Yisroel seemed to be just that – a dream.” Her eyes lit up mischievously and she paused. “It was all because of you, Rina.” I stared at her in surprise. She giggled and nodded emphatically. “It was your apple pie recipe, Rina. I decided late Friday afternoon that apple pie would be perfect for dessert for shabbos. I didn’t have enough apples in the house, so Tzvi offered to run down to the fruit store on the corner. You know what it’s like there on erev Shabbos – chaos! It was packed with a dozen last minute shoppers crowding the already narrow aisles. Tzvi waited almost twenty minutes in line to pay for his bag of green apples. Menashe, the owner of the store, was working quickly, since he was also anxious to go home and get ready for Shabbos.”

* * *
“Is that it, just the apples?” Menashe asked, as he put the fruit on the gleaming metal scale.

“Yes, that’s all I have,” Tzvi replied, impatient to go. He glanced at his watch for what seemed the tenth time since he had entered the store. He silently willed the man to finish swiftly as he unconsciously tapped his foot on the floor.

“Five and a half shekels, please.” Menashe tossed the change into the cash register and nodded to the next customer.

Tzvi was halfway down the block when he heard footsteps racing behind him. “Hey, mister, wait!” To his astonishment, Tzvi saw the fruit store owner running towards him, brandishing a pencil.

“What’s the matter?” He asked, alarmed.

“Come back, I made a mistake when I weighed your fruit. Please, give me your apples to weigh again.” Menashe panted, reaching for the bag of fruit.

“Did I pay you too little?” Tzvi wondered, as he allowed himself to be led back down the street.

“No, not at all. I overcharged you. I mistakenly left my pencil on the scale when I weighed your fruit. Baruch Hashem, I caught you in time.” Tzvi gaped uncomprehendingly at the shopkeeper. “You mean to tell me that you left your crowded store on erev Shabbos to call me back because of a few agurot? How much can a pencil weigh, for goodness sake!”

Menashe frowned sternly at his confused customer. “Stealing is a sin, whether it’s ten agurot or ten thousand dollars. Now let me have those apples to re-weigh,” he demanded, snatching the bag. With a sigh of immense relief, he handed my husband twenty agorot.

“Have a good Shabbos, and enjoy the fruit,” he called to Tzvi’s retreating form. A chorus of ‘gut Shabbos’ wishes accompanied him out of the store.

“Here are your apples,” Tzvi said pensively when he arrived home from his errand. “Shulamis, you’ll be pleased to know that I’ve changed my mind. I think that we had better stay here in Eretz Yisroel. How could I want to leave a place where I can learn fundamental lessons in mussar in twenty minutes at the local fruit store?”

* * *
Tzvi and Shulamis Roth managed to remain in Eretz Yisroel for three years. And every so often, Shulamis would send over a freshly baked apple pie to the delight, but utter bewilderment, of Menashe and his family.

Reprinted with permission. Sheila Segal teaches in a women’s seminary in Israel, where she has been living for the past 23 years. She enjoys writing in her spare time.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.