Wednesday, March 03, 2004

A purim Shpiel

Rebbe Melech was the biggest Rebbe in the world. His Chassidim were to be found from New York to Tel Aviv, in a total of 127 kehillas. One day he decided to make a Tish where all were invited. It was the greatest Tish ever. Great big banners decorated the hall and there was shirayim for whoever asked for it- on brand new paper plates straight from the packet.

As the atmosphere thickened the Rebbe wanted to show off his team and he let his Gabbai be called to sing a zemer. The Gabbai had a sore throat and declined the honour. The Rebbe was very angry and he consulted with his confidantes as to what should be done with a Gabbia who displayed such arrogant Chutzpah. They were adamant, such insolence could not be tolerated and the Gabbai was relieved of his duties with immediate effect and forever branded a Schwanz. Some naysayers thought that a little petty, but the confidantes were very convincing in their arguments. It would be seen as a sign of weakness for the Rebbe to have anyone disobey a direct order.

The Rebbe however was now Gabbeless and that was unacceptable too. So the order was spread all over town that the activists were to start recruiting young men. In the school-yards and shuls, in playgrounds and streets all young boys that did not belong to any chassidus were invited to join Shabbes tehillim groups and chevras hamismidim (evening school). The objective; to get them hooked up before any other chassidus got there, and to start grooming them so one could become the new Gabbai. He would have to be meek and respectful too but above all he had to be taught how to keep a secret because that is what keeps the kingdom intact.

Years they spent next to the Rebbishe Tish and much they did learn, of polishing silver and serving the fish. Also polishing off bottles of wine and some members of ‘another Rebbes’ team.

Among these fine young lads was a sensitive orphan called Chesksel. He was known to be under the protective wing of one of the Rebbes sons (I forget now which) so he could get away with being a bit a shaigetz. One day he heard some misnagdim (the Rebbes dissidents inside) plotting to shame the Rebbe by hiding the silver wine bottle that was used at the Tish. This would have made the Chassidus ridiculous, as then some other Rebbe would have a finer display on his Tish than ours. He immediately informed his foster parent who had them both reported to the IRS. Heskel became the new Gabbai and peace reigned on in the happy fiefdom for a while.

The Rabbis sons were getting older as was the Rebbe himself and, in anticipation of the unspoken event, they started each one to cultivate their own movements among the young men. This was done surreptitiously of course because everyone knows - Rebbes never tolerate unilateral withdrawals and illegal settlements are never allowed. The older one as crown prince was stronger of course but he was unpopular so things balanced out.

Meanwhile another son of the Rebbe was becoming a little a jealous of the attention his brother was getting and decided to put a spoke his wheel. He decided to go over and have the whole issue out with his dad the Rebbe. Ideally his brother would be excommunicated but if that were not possible how about a little shul on the 50th floor of some skyscraper far away.

It was a Lail Shishi (Thursday night when Chassidim traditionally stay up late to study) and the Rebbe was beginning to nod off. A chassid told the tale of the shameful time when a major calamity was avoided by a whisker. The Rebbe, wide-awake now, asked whether this person was ever rewarded for his good deed. Just as he heard that not, a knock on the door announced the arrival of Reb Jealous son.

“What would you do in my place my son, if you wanted to show favour to a certain child?”
Reb Jealous said to himself “He must mean me so now’s my chance.”

“I think” he said with a secret smirk “he should be allowed to have his very own Tish. He should be allowed to wear Rebbishe Bekishe and the Rebbes own silverware should adorn the table.”
“You are right my son and I like your idea. Go and tell Heskel the Gabbai to arrange exactly that for your brother whom I owe a favour. Reb Jealous felt his face go white and a sense of defeat swept all over him but he did as he was bidden. What else could he do? He walked home in the pouring rain dreaming of that shul on the fiftieth floor and ruing the fact that it stood so empty. His wife was not very sympathetic either when he got home.
“Yes my dear that’s the way these things go. When you win you get it all and when you lose he does.”

In his rage Reb Jealous decided there and then to kick out all of his brother’s crowd in one fell swoop. He went over to his father and explained the situation as he saw it. You have a group of Chasssidim who are all laidigayers and shgatzim and they are ganging up together and causing trouble. “They make a bad name for us,” he explained plaintively “and they are so strong and burly that they are always the first in by catching Shirayim” (bits of food shared out at the Tish). “I think we should get rid of all of them.”
“How do you propose to do it?” the Rebbe asked.
“I will send around Pashkevillen (pamphlets) in all the town and we will inform everybody that on a certain day it is OK to bash up all the Laidigayers and Shgatzim and kick them out.”
The Rebbe found this a fine idea and very soon the literature was making its way to all four corners of the Rebbe’s parish. When the other son Reb Nebich saw this paper it was his turn to turn a whiter shade of pale. He knew exactly what was going on. That what this paper really meant was the end of his campaign hopes.

With his advisors he made a cunning plan to use the new Gabbai Cheskele to foil the wicked plans.

What happened next is not really known except to the exclusive few. It is clear that the Gabbai had his way and now it is his group that is standing proud. Reb Jealous is now the one thinking of having his Shul on the Fiftieth floor of a Skyscraping building and Chassidusville will carry on with its intriguing infighting.

disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organisations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely intentional.

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