Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Hershel Ostropolier lived by his wits, and many a time the poor of the community looked to him for help. When a rich man would take advantage of them, they knew that Hershel would even the score and outwit the scoundrel.

One year, there was a grape crop failure and the people had very little wine. No grapes were available for the average person, with the exception of a local wine merchant in the capital city who imported large quantities of grapes from distant countries and made barrels upon barrels of wine. He took full advantage of the situation and charged inflated prices for his wine.


“I’m in no hurry to sell,” he would tell his would-be consumers. “I can afford to wait for my price!”

Because of his greedy attitude, the people from the surrounding towns had no wine and this evoked great resentment against the wine dealer. They appealed to Hershel Ostropolier to teach the rogue a lesson.

“Very well,” replied Hershel. “I’ll make it so that his own greed will be his downfall.”

Hershel borrowed some expensive clothes and dressed up to look like a prosperous merchant. He then took some people with him and went to see the wine dealer.

“Good morning! I would like to introduce myself. I am an expert wine-maker from Lemberg and people come to me from far and wide with their problems. I can make good wine even from vinegar.”

The wine merchant was overjoyed at this stroke of good luck.

“Are you intending to go into business in our town?” he asked.

“No, I am just passing through,” replied Hershel, “and I wanted to see how the wine business prospered in this city.”

“I would appreciate if you could give me some pointers on how to improve my wine,” said the wine merchant eagerly.

“With pleasure,” replied Hershel. “Take me down to your cellar and let me examine your stock of wine.”

Bores A Hole In The Barrel

They went down to the cellar where Hershel opened his traveling bag and took out a large drill and bored a hole in one barrel. He stuck his finger in the hole and put it into his mouth to taste.

“Not bad,” he remarked, shaking his head like an expert. Turning to the wine dealer, he said, “Will you be so kind to put your finger in this hole while I taste the wine in the next barrel?”

The wine merchant agreed.

Hershel then moved to the next barrel and repeated his actions. He drilled a hole in that barrel, tasted the wine and again he remarked, “Not bad! Will you also be good enough to place the finger of your other hand in the hole in this barrel to stop it up?”

The wine dealer did as he was told and when both of his hands were occupied, Hershel called in his companions and advised them to take all the wine they needed and to make sure to leave the proper amount of money they would have normally paid before the wine drought.

Too Greedy To Lose Wine

The wine dealer was livid when he realized he had been outwitted.

“You scoundrels!” he shouted. “I’ll have you all thrown into prison!”

“You notice that he will not withdraw his fingers from the barrel,” replied Hershel. “He is so greedy that he is afraid to even lose one drop of his precious wine. Very well, we’ll let him stay this way until he starves from hunger.”

The merchant became frightened. He was too greedy to allow two barrels of wine to go to waste by removing his fingers, so he began to plead with Hershel to help him.

“Very well,” replied Hershel, “we will help you but only on one condition: you sign a bill of sale that you sold us the wine at the low price in good faith.”

The wine merchant agreed and signed the bill of sale.


Like Father, Like Son

Once Hershel was traveling on a mission for the community. He arrived at a hotel late at night while everyone was asleep.

“I’m starved,” said Hershel. “Please give me something to eat.”

“I’m very sorry,” replied the owner of the tavern, “but my wife is asleep and I know nothing about the kitchen. However, I have a very nice room next to mine and I am sure that you can enjoy a good night’s sleep. In the morning we will prepare a very nice breakfast for you.”

Without listening to another word the proprietor turned and ushered Hershel into a small dingy room, adjoining his own.

Chuckling at the shrewd way he handled the guest, the innkeeper prepared to retire for the night.

Suddenly, he heard the guest shouting and muttering menacingly through the thin wall, “If I don’t get something to eat I’ll do what my father used to do!”

The innkeeper aroused his wife and they both listened terrified. “What in heaven’s name could his father have done?” the innkeeper asked his wife. “Perhaps his father was a murderer.”

The innkeeper jumped out of bed and, followed by his wife, cautiously approached the stranger’s room. Timidly, they opened the door and peeped in. The hungry guest, with hair disheveled, looked wild and he kept striding across the room repeating his threat.

“Tell me, what did your father do when he was hungry?” the timid host asked.

“Before I tell you I must have something to eat,” Hershel replied.

Quickly, the woman ran to the kitchen and prepared a large meal for the guest. When Hershel completed his meal the host asked, “Tell me now what your father used to do.”

“My father,” declared Hershel, “when he didn’t have any supper he would go to bed hungry!”


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