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Kids Speak


Children Talk
About Themselves

by Chaim Walder

translated by Shifra Slater

Illustrated by Yoni Gerstein

Dedicated to all
my beloved students




The Businessman


My name is Aryeh. I'm in sixth grade.

I'm a pretty good student, but that's not what
I'm known for. Everyone calls me "Aryeh the

Are you wondering why?

It's because I'm always thinking up ways to
make some money. Once, when collecting bottle
caps was very popular, I got a bright idea. I
prepared a hundred small sandwich bags, filled
them each with ten bottle caps, and tied each
one with a yellow ribbon.

During recess, I sold the bags for twenty
cents apiece. Figure it out: a hundred times
twenty cents is twenty dollars  all of it earned
from bottle caps, which I got for free from the
corner candy store!

That's just one example. I keep coming up
with new ideas and making money out of them.

At the beginning of this year, I had a real
brainstorm. I bought ten different greeting
cards for Rosh Hashanah. Then I went to a
store that has a copy machine, and made eight
photocopies of each Rosh Hashanah card. I
went home and carefully pasted the copies onto
sheets of oak tag. I had eight sheets of oak tag,
with ten different greeting cards on each one.
Then I made more photocopies of the sheets
of oak tag, and had several hundred greeting
cards altogether.

The next morning, I arrived in school with my
stock. I hung up a sign that said: SPECIAL SALE OF


CLASSROOM. What a sensation it made! All the
cards were sold on the first day. There are six
hundred kids in the school, and lots of them
figured it was smarter to pay half a dollar for
eight cards than to go to a store and buy cards
for a dollar each. Some of them even bought a
few sheets of oak tag.

And I went home with a hundred and fifty

Well, the next day, I made double the
amount, and those were also grabbed up. That
day I came home with three hundred dollars.
With four hundred and fifty dollars in my little
bank, I couldn't believe how rich I was!

I kept it up, and as the days passed, business
got better and better. The word had spread, and

kids from other schools started coining to buy
my cards. And I just kept earning more and
more money.

During class time, my mind was constantly
on my business. I was always calculating how
many more copies to make, how much the cost
would be, and what my profit would be. I was
so involved in my long columns of figures that
sometimes when the teacher called on me, I
didn't even know what the subject was.

During one recess, with sales in full swing
and kids lined up outside the room, the teacher
suddenly appeared beside me. Some of the kids
got nervous and ran off. Then a few more left,
and then the rest disappeared, and I found my-
self alone with the teacher.

"Well, well, Aryeh," the teacher said. "Now I
see why your marks have gone down! Your head
is full of business deals, so how can you learn?"

He picked up one of the sheets of oak tag and
looked at it. As he studied it more closely, his
face darkened. The longer he looked, the angrier
he got. He raised his eyebrows, and asked me
sharply: 'Tell me, did you ask permission to
photocopy all these greeting cards?"

"Permission? From whom?" I didn't know
what he meant.

"From the person who designed and pro-
duced the cards," he replied. "He invested a

lot of time, work, and money in the produc-
tion of these cards, you know. And then you
come along and buy one, and make hundreds
of copies, and instead of paying him for them all
- people pay you! Does that seem fair to you?"

I was stunned. "Oh! How is it that I never
thought of that?" I wondered. I realized right
away that had I not done this copying, a lot
of the kids would have gone to the stores and
bought the cards there. The man who had made
them would have earned the profit.

"You know, it's as if I stole from him!" I told
the teacher, bitterly ashamed. "What should I
do now?"

"I think you have to return the money to the
one you stole it from," was his answer.

That afternoon, I went back to the card store,
and I asked the storekeeper for the phone num-
ber of the manufacturer of the Rosh Hashanah
cards. He looked at me suspiciously, but he gave
it to me.

I went home and, with a trembling hand, I
dialed the number.

The voice that answered sounded like that
of an older man. I told him my name and, of
course, he had no idea why a boy named Aryeh
was calling him. In a shaky voice, I explained
to him what I was calling about. He listened to
me, and from time to time-he interrupted me to

ask a question. I could hear the surprise in his

After I finished telling him the whole story,
he asked for my number, and he said he'd think
about it and call me back later on.

That evening the phone rang. My father
picked it up. "Yes, I am his father," I heard
him say. Then he was silent as he listened to
what the caller had to say.

His face seemed to get sterner and angrier
by the minute.

The conversation ended with some words of
apology from my father, and his agreement to
some suggestion which the caller had made.

My father replaced the receiver and gave me
a long hard look. "Now I understand the sharp
drop in your schoolwork lately," he said, and
I burst into tears. He waited till I had calmed
down and then he said: 'The fact that you went
to the man yourself shows me that you really do
regret what happened with all your heart, and
that you didn't intend to do anything wrong.

"I know that you enjoy being the 'business-
man.' But you also know that there are things
which are far more important. Most important of
all is remembering that the Torah is worth more
than any sum on earth, as in the verse 'Your
Torah is more precious to me than thousands
of gold and silver coins.' I am very sad to have

to say, Aryeh, that it often seems as if you forget
this, because your 'business deals' get in the
way. Something that should be secondary has
become the main thing in your life.

"And as for all that money you made," said
my father, "the man says he is willing to forgo it
and to forgive you - - but on one condition: Half
the money must go to tzedakah and the other
half must be put in the bank until your wedding
day. At that time, you will be permitted to use
it, but only if you are a real Zomdan,"

My father went on to explain that the kind
and understanding man had told him, "If your
son uses that sharp head of his to learn Torah,
then the money can be his wedding gift. If not,
it must be returned to me." My father looked
me straight in the eye, and, after a moment, I
nodded my agreement.

I know this whole story may seem unreal
to you, but you should know that, as a result
of these things, I started to concentrate on my
Torah study, and to forget all about business!
Now I really feel, deep in my heart, that Torah
is more precious to me than gold or silver could
ever be.

After the incident, the principal went around
to all the classes in our school and announced
that from now on, no business whatsoever could
be transacted on school premises.



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