Since my total royalties in the month of December has been $0.70, (and I appreciate those who have bought the book) I thought as a Christmas and Hanukkah present I’d give a few parts of my book”The Tzaddik of Klaas” in serialized form. The story may be set in a Jewish world of Hassidic Fable, but it is also a Christmas story. The Kindle edition and the Paperback edition are available at amazon.com if you want to read the rest of the story.
Goniff was a thief. Now, I know what you are thinking. Naming a boy Goniff is going to be bad for his profession, for everyone will think that a man named thief is a thief, and nobody will ever trust him. Goniff wasn’t his real name, however, but a nickname. Goniff was a thief who had a very bad habit of returning what he stole. It made it hard to prosecute him, since he never actually had the goods on him that he stole; they were invariably back where they were originally taken, even if someone put him in jail immediately after stealing them. Sometimes things were just found somewhere they weren’t normally found in the house. Yet most in the town knew that if something disappeared for a bit, it was probably Goniff who took it, so he was nicknamed Goniff.
Because he never kept or sold any stolen goods, Goniff was a rather poor man. He made his real living selling wood that he had chopped in the forest. As a woodcutter, he made enough for a few morsels and a small hut in the forest. No one wanted him in town anyway. Yet while Goniff never made a lot of money being a thief, he was really the most skillful thief there ever was. There was no castle or house that was safe from him. No one would ever see him come in, and no one would ever find any trace that he was ever there. Even when locked in jail, he could break out and replace the stolen item before the court ever brought him to trial, then break back into prison so that no one even noticed he was missing. But he just never felt right about taking other people’s stuff. He had learned his Torah well: not to steal and what to do to thieves if they did steal. But it was irresistible to break into someone’s home and take something, just to say that he could do it.
Goniff was also very much alone. Since no one trusted him, much of his time was spent alone, carving. The smaller branches of the trees he felled he would keep for himself and carve into intricate curiosities. From a single piece of wood, he could carve a doll or a set of wooden gears. Much like his ability to steal, he was always trying to better himself and to push his art to even further levels of skill. But since no one trusted him, there was no one to show these wonders to. One Erev Hanukkah, after lighting his first Hanukkah candle, he was carving an intricate set of gears with a chain on one end and a crank on the other. It did nothing but hang on the chain, and the gears would spin around, but getting the gears right out of this piece of oak was a particular challenge. He felt despair as he carved for not having anyone to share his holiday with. Finishing it, he threw the wooden contraption aside, onto a pile of dolls, soldiers, chains, and thingamabobs all carved out of single pieces of wood. He had heard that a great rabbi, the Baal Shem Tov, was coming for Shabbat. Maybe the great master could tell him something that would help him to get over his loneliness. So he decided that he would go down into the village after Shabbat.