Chava Berman Borowsky

The Elements of a Chassidishe Story

The Innkeeper: He has a bed and breakfast which is also a tavern where home-made alcoholic beverages are served

The Gvir: He’s extremely wealthy and owns half the town, including all the factories

The Kamtzen: He’s incredibly rich but equally incredibly miserly. The peak of his miserliness is when he refuses to give food to a homeless man.

The Poretz: The evil satanic non-Jewish landlord. He is a vicious anti-semite and fantasizes about causing great harm to the Jews.

The Illuy: The town genius. He is just above bar mitzvah age but he already knows all of Shas by heart and his name is either Shloimy or Zalmy.

The Lamed-vavnik: He is one of the secret 36 tzaddikim that exist in every generation.

The Wagon Driver: He drives the wagon even though he’s disabled either in his arm or foot. In every moment of his spare time he fervently reads Tehillim.

The Shoteh: He’s a very stupid person who trusts in every con-man who tries to sell him something.

The Shoe-maker: He’s a very pious man and he’s an immutable fixture in the town.

The Matchmaker: She’s also the town Yenta and shamelessly matches people up according to hierarchy.

Yossele: He’s either the wagon driver or the innkeeper

Kappel: He’s the simple Jew who reveres all the town rabbis

Avremele: He’s either the Shoteh or the Wandering Jew who goes from town to town to give mussar.

The lesson of each Chassidish story lies in the famous saying of Rav Yossef from the Talmud: עולם הפוך ראיתי. “I went to the World of Truth and I saw an upside-down world: The people who were respected and given honor were the people who were belittled and disparaged in this world and vice versa.”

The Kamtzen dies on Thursday and no one comes to his funeral. Then on Friday all the poor of the city come running to the Rabbi saying that the money they received each week for Shabbos at their door-step suddenly stopped. Only then does the entire town realize that the town miser was actually just trying to give tzedakah anonymously in the most exalted way.

The Shoteh is actually secretly an Illuy. He’s scared that if people know that he’s an Illuy the pride might get to his head and so he remains careful not to be a ba’al gaivah.

The Lamed-vavnik is the person responsible for canceling the decrees of the Poretz. It’s his prayers that are answered in Heaven because of his humility and piety.

The Wagon Driver and the Shoemaker marry off their kids to each other and use all their savings to make a beautiful wedding in the fancy hall up the hill. On the way down from the hill they are derided by the Gvir. As a punishment for this behavior it is decreed from above that in the coming year the Gvir will lose all of his money.

Avremele, the wandering Jew, wears beautifully tailored suits and boots. From the outside he is impeccable in every way. Unbeknownst to anyone except for his Gabbai, his shoes have no soles. He’s actually walking barefoot to be able to fully empathize with the poor.

The Yenta is just the Yenta. There are no other attributes ascribed to her other than Yenta. There is however one secret that she takes to her grave. The poor orphaned woman who she married off to the Shoteh doesn’t actually have a genetic predisposition to give birth to full term babies after only four months.

About the Author
Chava Berman Borowsky grew up in Los Angeles, CA in an Orthodox community in the La Brea Fairfax neighborhood. She moved to Israel in 2008 and has since lived in Jerusalem, Bet Shemesh, Holon, and Ashdod. Her hobbies include cooking, hiking, painting, and writing.