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More Stories About Hershele Ostropolier

Although Hershele Ostropolier was a scholar, he was better known as a jester, and more than once he would refer to the Talmud in Ta 'anis 22a where Elijah the prophet pointed to two men and told Rabbi Beroka, "These two men have a share in the World to Come." Rabbi Beroka approached them and asked, "What are your occupations?"

They replied, "We are jesters. When we see depressed people, we cheer them up."

He Made Them Deaf

When Hershele Ostropolier came to Rabbi Boruch of Medzhiboz to cheer him up and to lighten his burden, he was met with hostile stares from the rabbi's wife. She used every opportunity to abuse him and make his life miserable. Once, when he tried to defend himself, she turned her back on him insultingly and shut him up with the remark, "Your excuses make me deaf - you are making so much noise that I can’t hear you!”

Hereshele smarted under this abuse, but he kept quiet. He bided his time to make her regret her actions.

Sometime afterwards, the rabbis wife said to Hershele, "Send your wife to me, I would like to get to know her."

"It will be a great pleasure," replied Hershele. "She'll regard it as a great honor. But I must warn you, she is deaf, stone deaf, and if you want her to hear you, you will have to shout."

"It is a pity indeed, but I understand," replied the rabbi's wife, commiserating. "But I will manage. Tell her to come to see me."

Both Women Meet

When the two women met, they both began to shout and scream at each other, ever louder and louder. They shouted so loud that their screams reached the rabbi’s study where he was closeted with his disciples. Frightened, the rabbi rushed into his wife's room with his disciples following him. Imagine his amazement when he saw the two women shouting at each other. Their voices were hoarse and they were both at the point of collapse.

"What is the meaning of this?" cried the rabbi. "Why are you shouting at each other?"

"Hershele's wife is deaf," gasped his wife, "and I had to scream to make her hear me."

"And why do you shout?" asked the rabbi of Hershele's wife.

"What could I do? Your wife is stone deaf," whispered the poor woman barely able to talk.

"My wife is stone deaf? Are you crazy, woman!" cried the rabbi. "Who told you that?"

"Hershele did," she replied. Hershele, in the mean¬time, stood near the rabbi, enjoying himself.

"You impudent person," said the rabbi angrily. "Explain yourself, what kind of a joke is this?"

"I am innocent, rabbi," replied Hershele. "You can blame your wife. The other day she claimed that I was making her deaf with my excuses. Well, what did you expect? I shouldn't believe her? One must never doubt a rabbi’s wife and, accordingly, I had to warn my wife about her."

"But why did you tell me that your wife was deaf?" whispered the rabbis wife in a hoarse voice.

"What a foolish question," replied Hershele. '"Imagine, if after only a few months I made you deaf with my excuses, how deaf do you think I've made my wife after being married 20 years to her? Don't either of you say that I didn't t warn you!"

Kept His Word

It seems that Hershele's life consisted of only one problem - raising enough money to feed his wife and children. One day, as Hershele walked into his home, his wife greeted him at the door with one word, "Money!"

Hershele replied, "I have no money."

"I must have it," she replied, "or the children will go hungry tonight. I don't care how you do it, but I must have money to buy food."

Calling his oldest son over, Hershele said to him in a stern voice, "Go to our next. door neighbor and borrow a whip."

His wife began to tremble. "Perhaps I have gone too far with him and now he is going to whip me," she thought with dismay.

But Hershele would never have such ideas. When his boy returned with the whip, he took him along to the market place and cracking the whip aloud, shouted, "I am taking people to Slutzk for half fare!"

Soon a crowd gathered eager to participate in such a bargain. Hershele collected the money from them and gave it to his boy, saying, "Run home and give it to your mother."

"Don't worry, just follow me," Hershele replied. "I'll take you right into Slutzk."

They followed him without further questions.

They had already left the town and in the distance they saw the bridge. "He must have the horses on the other side of the bridge," they all thought. But, to and behold, when they crossed the bridge they still saw no horses. But by this time they had already walked half the distance and they became angry with Hershele, but what could they do? They might as well continue onward.

Finally they reached Slutzk. "Give us back our money, you thief!" they shouted at Hershele. "You fooled us!"

"I fooled you?" said Hershele innocently. "Did I or did I not promise to take you to Slutzk?"

"Yes, but ride there, not walk!" they all shouted in unison.

Hershele looked amazed. "Did I say a word about horses? I merely said I would take you to Slutzk."

The passengers looked at each other dumbfounded, and since there was nothing they could do about it they departed in disgust.

When Hershele arrived home, his wife was waiting for him at the door, beaming. "I cant understand it," she said. "I know you had a whip, but where did you manage to get the horses?"

"You ask foolish questions," Hershele replied. "Why do I need a horse? You know the saying, 'If you crack a whip you can always find some horses.”

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