Gornisht Mit Gornisht
There are tales of woe and then there are tales of woe.
This tale of woe was so woeful that if you took all the tales of woe ever concocted by a shnorer and put them to together, then this tale of woe was still a standout, a masterpiece, a magnificent composition of woeful woe that ended with the shnorer saying:
“If had more money, I could lose weight.”
The person who was being shnored, the shnoree, was a believer up to that point, but after that statement, had doubts as to the veracity of the tale of woe. This was because schnorers are poor, and poor people are notorious for being skinny and undernourished.
But let us start our story at the beginning, as all stories should.
It began one morning at Bais Simcha, the only Orthodox synagogue in Sunshine, a little town west of Miami. This little town contained perhaps 500 Jews, with most of them hiding from the Rabbi Levi when he went out prospecting for his hidden yidden. His yidden were hidden because they did not want to spend their spare money on charity, nor their spare time on God. They figured God had enough money and time, left to His own accords.
Rabbi Levi prospected the old fashioned way, by knocking on the doors of homes and businesses with obvious Jewish names like Gold, and its derivatives, Goldberg and Goldstein, and Silver, with its derivatives, Silverberg and Silverstein. He also checked under Diamond, but without derivatives because he had never heard of a Diamondstein or Diamondberg. Further, he checked the endings of all names that ended with a “berg” and “stein” or even a “witz.” His source was the white pages of the phone book, and the list of businesses up front in the Sunshine Yellow Pages.
After years of prospecting the Rabbi uncovered the richest Jew in town, and also the poorest.
The richest Jew was standing outside the front doors of Bais Simcha on this bright and sunny morning. He was Michael Fein, aged 45, wearing a two thousand dollar Pierre Cardin suit, and sporting a hundred dollar haircut. He was about to make shnorer history along with the poorest man in town, Heshy Pupchik.
Heshy Pupchik carried around 350 pounds of himself, and wore second hand black pants, a second hand white shirt with permanent grease stains, and worn out slippers over his swollen feet with his gigantic toes peeking out, each like a meatball.
Heshy inched foward, pushing ahead his new walker made of beautiful shiny chrome, with white wall tires on the four little wheels, the two grips above made of hand crafted leather, and a hand brake like a fine Italian racing bicycle. Each movement forward by Heshy was accompanied by an, “Oy vay!” and then a wipe of his forehead with an ancient, wrinkled handkerchief, which stood out in sharp contract to his shiny new walker.
“Heshy, where have you been?” Michael Fein asked. “I haven’t seen you around in a while.”
Michael was standing outside waiting for the morning service to start, and it couldn’t start without Rabbi Levi, who had not yet shown up. While he waited, he watched Heshy slowly labor his way forward, leaving a trail of “Oy vay’s” in his wake.
“You shouldn’t ask,” Heshy answered, sweating from great exertion. When he wasn’t asked, he stopped his forward movement, looked up to the heavens with pain and puzzlement on his face, and added, “I have been sick, Mr. Fein … very sick.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Heshy. What was wrong?”
Ordinarily, Michael would not have asked this question, but he did not see Rabbi Levi anywhere in sight, and time was weighing heavily on his hands. If Rabbi Levi had shown up, then this historic moment would not have happened, because Michael Fein would not have asked the question, “What was wrong?” He would have assumed that Heshy, a shnorer of normal renown, would have had a normal tale of woe, at which point, Michael, being a normal shnoree would respond with a normal donation to the shnorer’s Get Well Fund, perhaps a dollar or two, even a fiver if no small bills were available, and some injustice would be corrected in this world of injustices.
However, such was not to be the case on this day, a day that stood out as so unusual it was one in 3,000 years of days. It was like one of the Four Questions, only modified as: “Why is this shnorer different than all other schnorers?”
Ah, but we are getting ahead, and behind, ourselves here in this story. Let us slow down and capture the ambience of this once in a lifetime event, minute by minute, creation by creation.