In the Little Shtetl of Vaysechvoos: The Wise Tailor
The pogroms in the province were occurring with more frequency, and a friendly gentile let the villagers know that Vaysechvoos was on the list for one of these destructive demonstrations.”
“What did we do to deserve such a thing?” cried Zlata the butcher’s wife.
Feivel the Tanner waved his arms heavenward and moaned, “It’s not enough that You made us to be poor, now we have to endure a visit from the murderous Cossacks!”
The people of Vaysechvoos were angry—not at the Czar, not at the anti-Semitic poison being spread across their land—they were angry with their God.
Berish the Tailor was the only inhabitant of the little shtetl who seemed to be unaffected by this news of impending disaster. Berish was not angry. He wasn’t even frightened. Now this could mean one of two things: either he knew something that the others didn’t know, or he was a fool.
The townspeople decided that Berish could not possibly know any more than anyone else. He was merely a tailor. Therefore, they reasoned that he must have come down with a disease that caused his mind to degenerate.
“I’d better get my Shabbos suit back from that crazy tailor,” thought Zvi the Innkeeper. “For all I know, he could have added a third jacket sleeve or sewn the two pant legs together!”
Berish found it curious that everyone was coming to him frantically demanding their yet-to-be-mended clothing back, or worse still, to cancel their orders for new clothes. No one would tell him why they were doing it. After all, how can you explain such a thing to a fool?
A pogrom was in the making, his means of earning a living was fading fast, and still Berish seemed peaceful—actually content with the plight before him.
Bad news kept coming. A village, not a day’s journey away, had been burned to the ground. The rabbi had managed to remove the Torah scrolls and bury them before the Cossacks arrived, but nothing else was preserved. All had perished in the carnage.
Meanwhile Berish, being without work to do, took a long stroll in the meadow just beyond Vaysechvoos. It was a beautiful summer day, the sky was a deep blue and the sun shone through the apple and pear trees that lined the fertile place. Berish found a soft patch of green grass to sit himself down on as he reflected on the events of the past few weeks.
“What if there is a plot by the Czar to destroy our little shtetl?” thought Berish. “Why should I worry about a situation that is not in my hands to control? If I fret and worry and blame the Almighty, then what am I saying about all that it means to be a Jew? God never promised us an easy life. Nor did He ever forsake us in our time of need. I don’t want to die anymore than Zvi or Zlata. I like sitting here and taking in the beauty of God’s creation. What do I have to fear with a God who makes such beauty? Besides, can a God who gave me life to begin with be faulted if that life is returned to Him?
“Our daily existence in the little shtetl of Vaysechvoos is but an instant in the measure of time we will have with our Creator. So, I should be upset with God because I might be taken away from the poverty and the pettiness of this life to live in a royal mansion in Gan Eden?”
Things were very clear to Berish, and he felt he owed it to his fellow townspeople to show them the silliness of their fretting. He headed back to Vaysechvoos, determined to say his peace.
But while Berish was away, news came to Vaysechvoos that the Cossacks roaming the countryside bent on rape, murder and looting had been stopped. Those who had caused so much fear had suffered a swift and horrible plague which decimated their ranks. The strongest and most fearful of them screamed themselves to death in pain with some strange malady that no one had ever seen or heard of before. There would be no pogrom as scheduled in Vaysechvoos.
As Berish approached the little town, he could hear sounds of joy and singing. His face became bright with gladness, for he reckoned that the people of Vaysechvoos had come to their senses. “They are rejoicing in the Almighty with death just around the corner. How greatly has their faith grown!” he smiled.
And Berish’s trade increased and prospered, as the villagers sought to do business with the wise tailor who knew all along that there was no cause for worrying.
Director of Communications, Missionary
Susan Perlman is one of the co-founders of Jews for Jesus. Susan is the associate executive director of Jews for Jesus and also director of communications for the organization. She also serves as the editor in chief of ISSUES, their evangelistic publication for Jewish seekers. She left a career track in New York City to help launch Jews for Jesus in San Francisco in the early 1970s. See more here.