Israel Stories

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Dealer

The room was deadly silent, you could’ve heard a pin drop if you had one, but as it happened none of us had one, just two cards and another five on the table in front of us. The silence was shattered by five red poker chips being thrown into the pot. “See your five and raise you five”. One by one all of us peered at out cards, making all the necessary calculations, trying to count the cards, trying to assess what each other was holding and hoping for a little luck.

In Edward Whittemore’s classic Jerusalem Poker, the stakes are no less than control of Jerusalem itself, but this game the stakes were higher, this was a morality play, charity over lies.

“Ok. I’ll see your five” called my friend, “and raise you ten, what the hell its only money.” I have a little bit of a social conscientious and the phrase ‘what the hell it’s only money’ some what disturbs me especially when I think of Jews lying on the streets of Jerusalem in poverty. I threw my additional five chips in, “see you” I called and made a mental note to divide my winnings, half for me half for charity. The human mind has a wonderful way of justifying and rationalizing two concepts which are the antithesis of each other i.e. throwing money away and poverty.

I lost.

Now I was upset, he had prevented me from making a sizable donation to charity. I resolved to continue playing until I was ‘up’. Anything over twenty shekels would do it. This was big time gambling.

“Look”, I said to myself or maybe it was a deal with heaven, ‘I need to win so I can give charity, its up to you, you make the cards fall right and the poor get a few shekels, if they don’t fall right I lose and have to lie to my wife, its all in your hands.”

I lost, again.

This was ridiculous; “look”, I whispered under my breath, “are you seriously telling me you would rather I lie to my wife than have the opportunity of giving charity?”

I lost again.

Then came the knock at the door. A voice mumbled tzeddaka, tzeddaka. We all counted our chips. Making the mental calculations. I came with twenty and am now three up, but I have a good hand and might have to bet more than I have, but I could win. Then again I could lose, but if I give him my money I will never know.

I answered the door, and a long black clothed arm with a letter from some Rabbi was thrust at me. It was written in Yiddish so it could have been about anything. “What do you know about Texas Hold’em?” I asked. He looked at me blankly.

My cards were good but my conscientious better. I removed twenty shekels from my wallet and handed it over. He nodded his head in thanks and walked off.

No change in my luck though, I lost again and again and again. When I went for my reserve twenty I realized I had given it away so I left the table despondent, thinking up an excuse for my wife.

“So how was it tonight? You win?”, “Actually, darling, I gave my money away to charity!” “Yeh, yeh, I’m sure you did”.

I lost again


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