The inmates were playing cards, an activity strictly forbidden in prison. Sooner or later the guards would see the forbidden game and the prisoners would be punished. Indeed the guards were told of the game and came to inspect the cell, but they found nothing. As soon as the guards left, the inmates continued their game. The guards came again to inspect the cell and the inmates in it, but again they found nothing and left. Once again the cards appeared and the game continued. “How had the inmates managed to hide their cards?” wondered Reb Mendel, an inmate watching this scene unfold time and time again. The prisoners explained: “We are professional pickpocket-ers. As soon as the guard entered our cell, we slipped the cards into HIS pocket. Right before the guard left, we slipped the cards back out again. Obviously, it never occurred to the guard to check his own pockets . . .”
Often, when we make a spiritual, personal inventory, we instinctively look to place blame on those around us. “My parents are responsible,” “my wife is responsible,” “my education is responsible,” etc. But to really grow, perhaps we need to start by checking our own “pockets”…
Reb Mendel had been imprisoned for his “crime” of helping strengthen Jewish life in the Soviet Union. He would retell stories from his prison days, always taking lessons from the things he experienced.