In the little shtetl of Vaysechvoos, there was a bitter widow named Chaya Mara. Chaya’s lot in life was not a pleasant one. Her husband died young leaving her childless to support herself. Nevertheless, her bitterness toward everyone she met was not proper, even for her circumstances.
Chaya owned the other” tavern in the village. I say “the other” because it was mostly Mottel’s tavern across the mud road that the people frequented. Now it wasn’t that Mottel’s food tasted any better than Chaya’s, or that his prices were less. The main reason for his acceptance among the villagers was a good heart, a good-natured spirit. He cared for his patrons. He took nacheswhen they expressed approval over his roughly prepared kosher meals. He was forlorn if they thought he charged too much for a particular item and oftentimes, he would reassess his costs and try to adjust to suit his patrons. Those who couldn’t afford got a better price and a bigger meal and in Vaysechvoos, almost no one could afford.
Chaya, on the other hand, was not exactly a model hostess. She treated the people as though they did her wrong by patronizing her business. The closest she ever came to a smile was a once-in-a-while sarcastic sneer. To be fast in her service she would slam plates down and she expected the customers to eat and leave. Her disposition was such that anyone who came into her establishment left with indigestion, not from the food, but from her bad attitude.
Chaya’s niece, Esther, was very concerned for her aunt’s manner. Esther went to the sage of Vaysechvoos and asked him if he could help. The sage pondered, then said to Esther, “My child in Israel, this is what you must do! Invite your Aunt Chaya over for a meal at your house, and invite me at the same time.”
Two nights later, Chaya Mara was at the door of her niece’s cottage. She knocked, and to her surprise, it was the sage of Vaysechvoos who opened the door. With a broad smile on his face, he said, “Welcome, tonight you will not serve dinner, but you will be served.” He escorted her to the dining room table and sat her down. Then, he donned an apron and busied himself in the kitchen. Chaya could hear pans clattering, water being poured. She could hear the crackling wood, and was perplexed as to what on earth the sage could be doing in there. An hour later, he walked out carrying a covered platter.
“I have prepared what I consider a feast for you, Widow Chaya Mara. That which I serve you is better than you have ever tasted and it will make you strong. It was prepared with love and kindness.”
Chaya’s mind started percolating. Her face brightened with wonderment. “If this food is as good as he says it is,” she thought, “I’ll cook it myself and be able to get all of Mottel’s business. I’ll be a rich woman in Vaysechvoos. People will look at me with respect!”
The sage knew what she was thinking, and he said, “My dear woman, if you will savour this food, I can guarantee you that you will have more business in your tavern than you can handle. The people of Vaysechvoos will flock to your place.” With that, he lifted the cover, and behold, sitting on the plate was a simple loaf of dark bread such as peasants eat. A piece of parchment rested on the plate as well. There were words on the parchment, because the sage was, among other things, a scribe well known. And in his own hand he had inscribed the holy words:
“Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart…”