“Why do you look so upset? You look like someone who just lost a contest, not someone who won!”
azel Tov!” cried Rav Millstein as he grabbed Yitzy’s hand and shook it.”
Yitzy didn’t answer. He was too shocked to speak.
Yanky Dorfman was the next person to approach him. Yitzy couldn’t believe that he was actually smiling at him.
“Mazel tov, Yitzy,” he said, “you worked so hard this year, you really deserved to win.”
“Th…thank you, Yanky,” was all Yitzy could manage to say, as he shook Yanky’s hand.
Then Rabbi Davis shook Yitzy’s hand.
“Mazel Tov, Yitzy,” he said. “I am very proud of you.”
“Th…thank you, Rebbi,” Yitzy stammered. He looked around the auditorium. Everyone in the yeshivah was walking out the auditorium doors, except for the boys in his class. They were standing against the wall opposite him and had begun to cheer.
“YITZY! YITZY! YITZY!”
Yitzy smiled and waved to them. As he waved to his classmates, he noticed someone sneaking out of one of the auditorium’s emergency exit doors. It was Mr. Burtman, and he had a large scowl on his face. He obviously was not happy that Yitzy had won.
I won! Yitzy thought to himself. I really won! That means I get to keep Mr. Greenbaum’s building!
Suddenly, a horrible thought entered Yitzy’s mind.
Oh no! he almost cried aloud. I didn’t win the building yet. I still have to take the math test! He glanced up at the clock. In a few minutes he would have to sit through a long, hard math test. Not only did he have to pass the test, he had to get a 100 on it too.
Suddenly, Yitzy felt a hard slap on his back.
“Hey, Yitzy,” said Yossi, “Mazel tov! I’m so happy that you won. You must be the happiest person in the world.”
Yitzy let out a small groan.
“Huh?” asked Yossi. “What’s the matter? Aren’t you happy? Why do you look so upset? You look like someone who just lost a contest, not someone who won!”
“The math test is in five minutes,” Yitzy groaned.
“Who cares about the math test?” said Yossi. “You just worked so hard for so many weeks, and you won the Mishnayos contest. Why in the world would you be upset about a math test?”
Yitzy started heading for the auditorium door. “I don’t have time to discuss this,” he said, as he walked. “We have to get to math class right away. I don’t want to waste a second of my test time.”
Yossi scratched his head and shrugged. “Okay,” he said, as he followed behind Yitzy. “I guess the math test is important…. I think.”
Yitzy’s heart was beating hard as he raced down the hallways to his math class.
When he entered the classroom, Mr. Goldfarb was already standing behind his desk, holding a stack of test papers.
“Okay, gentlemen,” he said. “Please make sure to take everything off your desks, except for a pencil.”
Yitzy swallowed hard as he sat down at his desk, and cleared it off.
“Remember boys,” said Mr. Goldfarb. “Please read each question carefully. This test is the most important test of the year.”
No, it’s not, Yitzy thought to himself. This is the most important math test of my life.
Mr. Goldfarb began walking up and down the rows of desks, placing a test paper on each student’s desk.
When Yitzy looked down at the paper, his heart skipped a beat. There were 25 questions. That seemed like a lot.
He let his eyes skim over the first few questions. Hey! These are easy, he thought to himself. Even I know how to do these.
He solved the first four questions in no time at all. Then he stopped and scanned the rest of the test.
All of the problems looked familiar. He was pretty sure he knew how to solve them.
He swallowed hard.
Being able to do all the problems, and getting every single one of them perfectly right, were two very different things.
Yitzy put his pencil down. He felt like giving up. Even though he had gotten better at math, he had never, ever, gotten every single problem he tried perfectly right.
Then he remembered the Mishnayos contest.
He had worked so hard. He had won the Mishnayos contest. If he gave up now, all of that would have been for nothing. He couldn’t give up. He had to try.
Yitzy picked up his pencil and began working on the next question. As he worked, he clenched his teeth tightly together and tried to use every ounce of energy to focus on the math problem.
After he solved the problem, he carefully checked his answer to make sure it was right.
He paused for a second to take a deep breath, and went on to the next question.
Baruch Hashem, it was an easy one and didn’t take him much time to do. Even though he was sure he had done it right, he made sure to check his answer again. He needed to get a hundred on this test, and couldn’t afford even the slightest mistake.
The next five problems were very easy, and each one took less than a minute to solve and check.
He took a deep breath, and started on question number 11.
Panic gripped him.
He hated these kinds of problems. There were so many steps, and each step took so long.
He glanced up at the clock. Baruch Hashem, he still had plenty of time.
Slowly and carefully, Yitzy wrote the numbers down on the paper. Step by step, line by line, number by number, he focused on his work. Sweat began pouring down his face, but he didn’t even notice. He was too focused on solving the problem in front of him.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, he had figured out the answer.
He silently pumped his fist in the air as he wrote the answer. Then he went back and just to make sure, he checked his answer.
Baruch Hashem, it was correct.
His gaze went to the clock. It felt like it had taken an hour to solve that last problem, but all it had taken was 7 minutes.
Baruch Hashem, the next ten problems were easy. Each took under a minute to solve and check.
Yitzy looked up at the clock again.
There were only 12 minutes left until the end of math class. He hoped the last four questions wouldn’t be hard ones.
Yitzy turned to the last questions.
He felt his heart pounding louder than a hammer. He took a quick look around him. He was surprised that no one had noticed the banging sound coming from his chest.
“Hashem, please help me,” he whispered, as he picked up his pencil and went back to work.
Yitzy was pleasantly surprised to find that the last four problems were the easiest ones on the whole test. One by one, he solved the problems and then carefully checked his answers. Finally, he put the pencil down.
He was finished. After all these weeks of studying, he was finally finished with both the Mishnayos Competition and the math test. He couldn’t believe it. Now he could finally relax.
Wait a minute, he thought to himself. I can’t relax. I’ve got to find out if I got a hundred on this test.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 769)