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Checkers in the Yeshiva

Several yeshiva students [were] found by their rabbi one day in the house of study, playing checkers when they should have been studying Talmud. Embarrassed, they returned immediately to their books. 

But the rabbi smiled and told them not to be ashamed, since they should always study the law wherever they find it. So he asked if they knew the three rules of the game of checkers. Obviously they assumed they knew what they were playing, but none would be so bold as to appear to teach the rabbi. 

Therefore, the rabbi, the master of the Talmud, Kabbala and Zohar, rehearsed for them the rules of the game of checkers. First, he said, one must not make two moves at once. Second, one may move only forward, not backward. And third, when one has reached the last row, then he may move wherever he likes. Such, he said, is what the Torah teaches. And he left. 

Only much later did the students grasp what they had been taught that day: that they should not clutter their lives with more than one move at a time, that they should always keep sight of the goal toward which they pressed, and that they would become truly free only as they moved to the last row, making themselves the servants of others. 

Freedom is discovered in obedience. The secret of playing one's life to its fullest is found in submission to the divine rules of play.

-Belden C. Lane, "Rabbinical stories: A primer on theological method," The Christian Century, December 16, 1981, p. 1308.
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