Kimmel provides three winning tales for the most solemn days of the Jewish calendar, one for each mitzvah, or good deed, a Jew must perform to obtain forgiveness for wrongs done during the previous year. He opens with the longest, on charity, or Tzedakah--the requirement for which Jewish tradition is most uncompromising.
The glove maker's wife Rivka prepared for Rosh Hashonah, placing two loaves of round challah into her oven next to a pot of scraps of meat and some potato--hardly enough to be called stew. But she was grateful, as times were hard and others had even less.
After a knock at the door, she expected a beggar, to whom she was embarrassed to have little to give. Instead, an elegant officer appeared. He asked her to care for his samovar--a family heirloom--during his seven-year posting to a distant land. She unwrapped the samovar to find it black with tarnish and covered in cobwebs, and polished it, with no effect.
Another beggar knocked and she gave him a coin. The samovar brightened. She puzzled and polished it again. A poor old woman, barely able to pay her rent, passed in the street. Rivka ran to give her the larger of her two challahs.
She returned to find the samovar again strangely brighter still.
Rivka's husband then then rushed in, excited that a nobleman had bought a pair of leather gloves for which a widow had refused to pay. When Haskel asked for five crowns, the nobleman offered 100 and gave the glove maker 900 crowns more to make nine more pairs.
The couple, confused, turned to their rabbi, who advised them that they had been visited by the Prophet Elijah himself. At the end of seven years, they would have to give the samovar back, and everything would be as it was before. "You have been given seven years of good luck. Use them well."
Rivka rushed back to the market, buying a fish for the widow, and bread, meat and vegetables for the other poor people. The samovar was now nearly clean. After the holidays, all the money was gone but Haskel sold gloves as fast as he could make them. Of this wealth, they used only what they needed and gave the rest to others. After seven years, the officer returned to find the samovar shining perfectly.
"This samovar is older than the world," he explained, his eyes beaming with kindness and wisdom. "In all the years of its existence, no one has taken better care of it than you. I believe you have earned the right to keep it."
Rivka and Haskel refused, but as they turned to take the samovar down for the officer, he disappeared. They lived for many years, and the samovar remained on their shelf, gleaming brighter than 1,000 suns.
Kimmel's stories of prayer and repentance gleam as well.
---Alyssa A. Lappen