Tuesday, March 22, 2011

“if I knew how to sign my name I would have become the shamash"

An immigrant got off the boat in NY. With no language and no contacts, he went looking for a menial job at the local Lower East Side synagogue. He applied to be the shamash (sexton) of the shul. Following a positive interview, he was given a contract to sign. Instead of signing his name he placed an X on the dotted line. “No, that will not do,” said the employer, “we need you to sign the contract with your full name.” “I can’t,” the greenhorn immigrant blurted out, “I don’t how to write.” “Well, in that case, I am sorry but we cannot hire you. The job requires someone who can write in English.”
Dejected, he left and went off searching for opportunities. Resourceful as he was, with a pinch of desperation, he eked out a job. Over the years, with diligence, ingenuity and persistence he climbed the ladder and ultimately became a very prosperous man. He became known in town for his enormous wealth, and was greatly respected by his peers and above all, by the banks that readily issued him the loans he requested.
One day, a new bank manager was going over this fellow’s latest loan application, and notices that instead of a signature there is an X at the bottom. The manager calls him up and says, “my dear sir, you forgot to sign the application.” “I did sign it with an X,” he replied. She was bewildered. “Why do you sign with an X and not with your name, if I may ask.” “Well,” he sheepishly replied, “I never learned how to sign my name.” The bank manager smiled and remarked: “Now listen here. You made so much money without knowing the language. Just imagine how much more successful you would have become had you received an education and learned to sign your name.”
“Madam,” the gentleman calmly said, “if I knew how to sign my name I would have become the shamash in the local synagogue…”

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