Mendel and Mottel lived with their wives in a small town near the great city of Lodz. They were next-door neighbors and got along splendidly. Although they had no children, they still loved their wives in spite of their barren wombs.

Now it came to pass that when autumn turned to winter, and the winds blew hard and the air got cold, both wives of Mendel and Mottel came down with the flu. Now it was nearing the onset of the Sabbath that both husbands, caring deeply for their wives lifted up their voices saying;

“Oh, dearest wife, my dearly beloved, be at ease and be at rest. Fret not for the cares of preparing the Sabbath meal for infirmity is upon thee. Rest in thy bed for I, thy husband, will prepare the Sabbath meal. I will light the fire and put on the stove water to boil. I will cut up the chicken and chop the carrots, onions, garlic, and potatoes. I will add the spices like you are accustomed to. I will even put in some white wine and a bit of schnapps. Then, when the sun goes down and the Sabbath begins, I will get thee up to light the Sabbath candles and thus welcome into our home the blessed Sabbath.”

Upon hearing these words, both wives looked up into the eyes of their husbands and smiled. They were both so blessed to have such caring husbands who would see to their needs in times of ill health.

“Oh, and what’s more”, continued their husbands, “I’ll even prepare and bake the Challah loaves for the Sabbath.”

Now, at the mention of ‘preparing and baking Challah loaves’ both wives rolled their eyes and sighed;


Now, upon hearing the “oi” from the lips of their wives, both husbands remembered last winter when their wives got sick, that they attempted to bake Challah loaves in their kitchen ovens. But when the Challah loaves came out, instead of soft and fluffy loaves of bread, out came two very hard and heavy oblong loaves of petrified Challah. So hard were the loaves that if launched from a cannon, they would have indeed made a hole in a wall or would have caused a ship to sink.

So as not to make any holes in walls nor sink any ships during the time of Sabbath, both husbands decided to go into Kosherville to purchase Challah loaves from the bakery of Jakob Jakubowicz, who had one of the best bakeries in town, if not in all of Poland.

So, Mendel and Mottel got warmly dressed, and with money in their purses set off for Kosherville to purchase the Challah loaves for the Sabbath. Now there was only one road to Kosherville that went through a dense forest. At a certain point, it separated into two smaller roads both ending up in Kosherville, one in the Northern part and the other in the Southern part.

The difference between the two smaller roads was that one was a longer route and the other was a shorter route. Now when Mendel and Mottel got to the point where the main road divided, they saw their old rabbi sitting on a large tree stump deep in thought. Now the story behind the tree stump was that it used to be a very large and tall oak tree. It was just a sapling during the time of the great sage Maimonides.

The tree had survived all these years only to be cut down a few years back in order to build one of the great synagogues of Lodz. Now the rabbi just sat on the stump thinking, pondering on things that only a rabbi would ponder on. The cold wind was blowing his long, gray beard across his long, black Bekishe. He took his right hand and pushed his black hat more firmly on his head. The old rabbi smiled as he saw Mendel and Mottel nearing the fork in the road.

“Gut Shabbos to you both” greeted the rabbi.

“Gut Shabbos to you too rabbi.” Replied Mendel and Mottel.

“On your way to Kosherville, are you?” asked the rabbi inquisitively.

“Yes,” replied Mendel, “We’re on our way to buy some Challah for the Sabbath.

“You see”, added Mottel, “both our wives are under the weather and we want them to rest in bed, especially since the Sabbath is almost upon us. They must take it easy while we occupy ourselves with the Sabbath meal.”

“You are fine husbands,” nodded the rabbi, “to care for your wives so, but allow me to impart some knowledge, and with this knowledge, you may make a wise choice since wisdom always accompanies knowledge.”

“Say on,” said Mendel and Mottel, now a little curious as to what the rabbi would say next.

“Behold, two paths lay before you and both paths lead to Kosherville. One path is the long route and the other path is the shorter route, yet allow me to speak on, for now here lies the bit of wisdom.”

“Continue.” Replied Mendel and Mottel.

“I tell you this that the short route will be the longer route, and the long route will end up being the shorter route.”

“How’s that?” questioned Mendel, a bit perplexed at the rabbi’s words.

“But how can that be?” replied Mottel, equally a bit confused.

“For the sake of wisdom and knowledge, I will repeat myself this one more time. I say to you that I know these parts and you must take my words on faith, for this is part of living and trusting. I am your rabbi and I would not lead you wrong. If you choose the short way you will indeed be choosing the longer route, but if you choose the longer route you will indeed walk the shorter route.”

Mendel and Mottel looked at each other and shook their heads. “The rabbi is daft. He makes no sense” said Mendel

"No sense indeed" responded Mottel.

“Nay,” responded the rabbi, “I am letting experience speak for itself for I have walked these paths for years. Let age and wisdom be your guide. Take heed and make the right choice.”

“We will take the shorter route as usual.” Spoke Mendel.

“Yes,” added Mottel, “The short-cut is the fastest way to Kosherville.”

“Very well,” replied the rabbi sadly, “I will see you both again, and very soon, yet without the Challah loaves.”

“With the Challah!” resounded Mendel and Mottel confidently.

But the rabbi did not respond, he only turned his head and went on thinking and pondering on things that only rabbis ponder on, perhaps the Sabbath message or something of the sort.

So, Mendel and Mottel set off down the short route to Kosherville. In almost no time at all, they could see the outline of the town ahead of them. Now there was a river that separated the wooded area from Kosherville. The river was shallow and there was an old bridge that crossed over the river to the town.

Now for the past few days, it had rained heavily and the river had swelled and now it was flowing quite swiftly. Besides that, when Mendel and Mottel arrived at the old bridge, they discovered to their dismay that it had collapsed into the river.

Both just stood there staring sadly at the bridge and the river. They thought and thought, and pondered upon their situation. They could not ford the river nor swim across least the current sweep them downstream into oblivion. Besides, the water would be very cold, too cold for comfort's sake.

Now they realized that what the rabbi had said made sense. They would now have to return the way they came which now would be time wasted, then go the longer route which would now be even longer. Had they trusted the rabbi’s judgment and advice, they might be almost arriving at Kosherville by now. No matter, this would be a lesson learned.

So, Mendel and Mottel both started back from the short route which now proved to be the longer route. When they came to the fork in the road, they noticed that the rabbi was still sitting there on the tree stump, just thinking and pondering on things that rabbis ponder over and think about, perhaps the Sabbath message.

“Let’s walk behind him” whispered Mendel.

“Good idea,” replied Mottel, “Maybe he won’t see us.”

“Nor hear us,” added Mendel, who always wanted the last words.

So, Mendel and Mottel, upon nearing where the rabbi was seated walked ever so quietly a little distance from the tree stump. As they went behind the aged Torah teacher, Mottel stepped on a dry tree branch which went;

“crunch” “snap”

“Did I not tell you both that the short route would result in the longer route?” asked the rabbi would not even bother turning around.

“Yes indeed,” sighed Mendel, “you were right after all.”

“This is proving to be longer than we expected,” added Mottel.

“Then you had better hurry and start walking faster least you reach Kosherville with the Sabbath upon you.” advised the old Torah teacher.

So, Mendel and Mottel continued their journey to Kosherville, half walking, half running down the road which was now the longer route. The time passed and they grew tired, yet they kept the pace and they finally saw the outline of Kosherville and heard the flowing of the river.

When they got to the river’s edge, they saw another bridge, but this bridge was strong, new, and well built. The two friends entered Kosherville, they quickly found the bakery, purchased the Challah loaves, and then headed home as fast as their feet could carry them.

As they went by the old tree stump, they noticed that the old rabbi was no longer there for he had already returned to his home to greet the Sabbath with his family. Mendel and Mottel finally reached their own homes just as the sun was setting. They got their wives up from their beds to light the Sabbath candles. Then Mendel and Mottel blessed the bread and the wine and served the delicious chicken stew to their beloved wives.

“Shabbat Shalom my beloved,” said Mendel and Mottel to their wives.

“Shalom Shabbat,” replied their wives, “I bless HaShem that he has given me such a husband as you.” Then both families sat down for a wonderful and tasty Sabbath dinner.

You are probably thinking about where all this is leading to? Well, this much I can tell you. When it comes to life, there are always long paths to follow and short paths to follow. Some take the short paths, others take the long paths. At times, taking the short path is not such a good choice. Taking the short path is the lazy man’s path. When it comes to teaching Torah, God’s Word requires study and understanding, and with understanding comes wisdom to put into practice what one has learned.

This requires taking the longer path, which is the “Road to Study”. If one tries to understand and teach God’s Word without study, without preparing oneself, then how will a person respond to those who have questions? Does not the Word of God tell to be “prepared in season and out of season?” (2 Tim 4:2). If one takes the short route, without study, without sitting under Bible and Torah scholars, how will one know how to respond to those with questions?

I imagine that the one who takes the short route will be embarrassed and will not know how to answer. Then, the shorter route walker will have to go back and take the longer route of study. It is well worth the while to sit under those who have expounded on God’s Word. What do they have to say?

It is like the student who came to the Sage Hillel and asked him about a certain portion of scripture. He told him to find out what the Sage Shammai had to say. Afterward, to compare the teaching of both sages and come to a conclusion. Always let the Holy Spirit be the guide. To know God’s Word is a life of study, it is certainly not a shortcut.

So, “Study to show thyself approved, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightfully dividing the Word of Truth” (2 Tim 2:15)

“Gut Shabbos” Good Sabbath in Yiddish
“Bekishe” A long, black suit-coat

By J. Ben Avraham