Reb Zusha the Shoemaker
TOLD BY AZRIEL ZURIEL TO ABRAHAM KEREN
In those days, they didn't make new shoes. Most people mended their old shoes. My grandfather, the late Reb* Berish, told me that for thirty years he had been mending his boots. In Yiddish they called it untergeboyt, that is, resoling.
So most of this cobbler's "Reb Zusha's" work was to sew patch on top of patch on top of patch; and from this, of course, he did not make much of a living. The fact is that he had help. His wife baked bread for the wives of the rich men. His two daughters also helped. They were seamstresses. But even with three trades, poverty reigned in every corner.
A. K.: My friend Azriel told me how even such a destitute man could help others.
"Listen, friend Avrum," he said, "Reb Zusha the shoemaker knew who was ill in the city, he knew the old people and the widows—all those who had nothing, who had no way to prepare the Sabbath meals. Reb Zusha took it upon himself to make sure that those unfortunates would not have to celebrate their Sabbath with weekday fare. This was his mission, the holy mission that brought a little bit of light to those unfortunate people and also filled him with the breath of life.
"Every Thursday afternoon, he would put aside his work and begin his sacred labors, going from door to door. The local women knew that Reb Zusha Shuster** was coming, and they had to get something ready. This one offered a hallah, that one had some cholent,§ and another a piece of gefilte fish or chicken soup for a sick person. In this way, he ran around on Thursday and Friday until the afternoon.
"But this arrangement came to an end. Reb Zusha had a brother in New York who managed to make some money. He knew how desperately poor his brother Zusha was. The brother sent him a stream of letters, urg-
*Rabbi or Mr.
§A slow-cooked stew for the Sabbath among Ashkenazic Jews.