Once in the town of Rutherford there lived a very contrary man named Ephraim Effenbacher. He had to do everything his own way. And no one could tell him anything. Rumor has it he used to wear his right shoe on his left foot and his left shoe on his right foot just to annoy people. And let me tell you, it was kind of annoying.
One day Effie decided he was going to write a commentary on the Torah. I know, this sounds like a challenging project, but just because he was contrary, that doesn't mean Effie wasn't smart as a whip, and hard working, too.
Effie called his commentary "Pi Hachamor," from the pasuk in parshat Balak which states Vayiftach Hashem et pi hachamor (and G-d opened the donkey's mouth). Most of his friends thought the name was uninspired, but Effie liked it just fine.
Effie started at the beginning of the Torah and wrote his commentary over an entire year. He wouldn't let anyone look at it until he was done. One friend, a fellow named Chaim Chacahameister suggested that Effie post his weekly commentary on an internet blog, but Effie just laughed.
"Blogging is for chumps!"
Well, he was a very contrary fellow.
At the end of the year, Effie finished the Pi Hachamor and looked for a publisher. Every Jewish publishing company that read it passed on the project. One editor, at Derech Hayashar Press, sent Effie a note which read:
Yes, it certainly took a lot of courage to write this book, but it would take even more courage to publish it.
Effie was undaunted. He believed in his book so strongly, he paid with his own money to have it published. It wasn't cheap, and it used up most of his life's savings, but he truly believed in the Pi Hachamor.
When the book was ready, Effie threw a big party and invited everyone he knew. All his friends were there, including many of his acquaintances from childhood. His old teachers were there, even Mrs. Heidelberg, his kindergarten teacher who predicted he was going to amount to no good and Mr. Rabinowitz, his eccentric gym teacher from high school who thought gaga should be an olympic sport. And Mr. Hershkowitz, the retired principal of Effie's grade school, made an appearance. In Rutherford's small Jewish community, this was a big event. It was quite a crowd.
Effie gave a brief, polite introductory dvar Torah, a cake was wheeled out, and then copies of the book were distributed to the crowd. The cover art was a braying donkey, though somehow the donkey looked Jewish. Hors D'oeuvres were served, and as people looked down into their copies of Pi Hachamor, between noshing and polite conversation, the crowd became louder. There were some truly wild divrei Torah in this book.
Noah's ark was made of fiberglass?
Eliyahu Hanavi was beamed up to a spaceship when he died?
The twelve sons of Jacob were ninjas?
Effie's commentary was filled with such pearls, and in each case he brought a proof from the weekly Torah portion. It was wild, it was original, it was--
"-completely insane!" Mr. Hershkowitz exclaimed. "The boy is nuts, meshuga, koo koo!"
"Alvin calm down," his wife Alma counseled. "You're going to give yourself a stroke."
"I can't calm down," Alvin Hershkowitz said. "The book is just crazy. And believe it or not, it's flying off the shelves of the Judaica House. Kids love it, and I've even seen some adults buying it, too."
"So what's wrong with that?"
"What's wrong with that?" the ex-principal muttered. "What's wrong with that? What's wrong is that it's not Torah, it's science fiction!"
Alma hadn't seen her husband's face this red since the time a fifth grader blew up the toilet in the boy's bathroom at the school with a cherry bomb fire cracker.
"Something must be done to stop this book from being sold," Mr. Hershkowitz said. "It's corrupting the children. And it's giving me an ulcer."
To be continued...