I Can Only Say One Word

In 1912, upon returning from the second Agudath Yisrael Convention, Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik was noticeably displeased. His disciples asked him, “what’s wrong? How was the convention?” After a few moments pause, he answered them with a story:

When I was a young boy, my mother went to shop at one of the local markets. She asked the boy who worked there how much a tomato would cost. “Tzen,” ten, was his answer. Then she went over to the potatoes and asked the boy the same question: how much would a potato cost? The boy answered, tzen. Puzzled by the uniformity in price, my mother picked up a carrot and asked for its price. The boy once again answered, tzen.

I Can Only Say One Word

She turned to the shop’s owner and inquired about the boy’s answers. Was everything indeed the same price? The shop owner shook his head. “No, this boy has a speech impediment. The only word he can say is tzen.”

With the story finished, R’ Chaim turned to his disciples.” When I went to the convention, a German rabbi was asked to give the opening sermon. This rabbi effused stature and charisma, wielding commanding rhetoric and prose, but not one word of Torah. “But as for me,” he insisted, “I have a speech impediment, and I can only say one word: Torah. Without that commonality, I can’t move forward.”

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