On the evening of June ninth, on the Christian calendar, Itzik the Banker fell asleep in his modestly comfortable bed in his humbly adorned home located in the center of the small shtetl of Tumvik. Geographically, there is little need to go into the placement of Tumvik, for its importance lay only in the minds of Tumvikers, and who needs a map when all who must know where things are already know. Itzik’s sheets were recently cleaned by his wife, Ruchel, and his pillow, a gift from his brother, Sacha the Farmer, on the occasion of his being named the town Banker only a few months prior, felt like a bit of the word to come wrapped in linen under his weary head.
For twenty years Itzik had ben known to all Tumvikers as Itzik the Candler. Every night he would sit at his table outside the chicken coop with specially made candles and inpect every single egg to make sure it was edible, and that they would not be wasting the life of any unsuspecting chicks. Should a newborn bird be found, it would be moved back into the coop and hatched, then aged, cut, plucked, and distributed evenly among all members of the shtetl as was tradition. But more likely than not the result was a heap of scrambled eggs, or perhaps a nice glaze for a Shabbos challah, that braided baked good that was eaten on the holiest day of the week.
This was an important job in Tumvik, second only to Villmer the chicken farmer and lover of all fowl, who was in turn second only to Rebbe Herzman himself. Some quipped that the town holy man, rather than being second only to Hashem locally, answered solely to Rebbesson Herzman, a distinguished scholar in her own right whom any man should fear should she choose to bear down on him.
Only one hundred fifty men, women, and children lived in the town of Tumvik, and for a century they provided all they needed for themselves from the earth, together. They built their own houses, raised their own livestock, grew their own crops, and so forth. The earth was good to them and gave them all they required and nothing they despised. From the plumpest rutabagas to the healthiest chickens, from the finest wool off of prize-worth lambs to the odiferous beeswax in nearby hives that helped make long-wicked candles to last longer than most imagined possible outside the introvertive shtetl. Never was any member of the town given a thing to fear, for Hashem had provided them with perfection. Most had even given up prospect of ever returning to the biblical homeland, the land of milk and honey where the Temple has been destroyed twice. Why hope to return to a graveyard when life here was more perfect than promised there? Even Reb Herzman felt this strongly about Tumvik’s level of perfection over all other towns. That is until he returned from a trip to Ponzik.
Reb Herzman was the first man to leave Tumvik in thirty years and the only one to return. The last was Zalman the Wise, though some you ask may call him Zalman the fool. Regardless of nomenclature, it is agreed that he is the engineer behind the methods that allow the Tumviker’s to enjoy such a quality of life on their own. Their farming and building skills, their social and religious actions, the way in which the Tumviker thinks so differently from any Ponziker or anyone else, is all accredited to the man they called Zalman.
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