Rabbi Hershel Fooks was a klutz. He was the klutziest Rabbi around. A klutz is somebody clumsy who is always dropping stuff and messing things up.
Rabbi Fooks was so kluzy that one time, during Torah reading, he dropped the silver pointer of the Torah scroll on the Gabbai’s foot by accident. That hurt! All of the congregation sighed. What a klutz!
Another time, during a big Kiddush luncheon, Rabbi Fooks’s bumbling hands dropped the kiddish cup and spilled all the grape juice on the white dress of the cantor’s wife, Fanny Greenspoon. “You’ve ruined my dress, you klutz!” Mrs. Greenspoon shrieked.
There was no getting around it. Rabbi Fooks was the biggest klutz in town.
“Maybe I should quit,” mumbled Rabbi Fooks to himself one Shabbos. “I just mess things up. I should find a different job where I won’t annoy so many people.”
That was the Shabbos of the Bar Mitzvah of the mayor’s son, Joshua. The shul was packed with guests, all waiting to hear Joshua read from the Torah.
But where was Joshua? It was time for him to go up to the Torah, and suddenly he was nowhere to be seen.
“Will all the men please look under your seats!” said the Gabbai. All the men looked under their seats. No Joshua.
Up in the women’s section, Fanny Greenspoon commanded the women: “Ladies, please look under your seats.” But Joshua was not in the women’s section either.
“Great,” said the mayor, “my son’s Bar Mitzvah is ruined.”
“Wait,” said Rabbi Fooks, “I have an idea.”
Everyone watched as Rabbi Fooks walked down the aisle, tripped on his left foot, got up, and walked out of the shul.
“He’s finally quit,” whispered Rose Saperstein, the chairlady of the women’s club.
Rabbi Fooks went down the hall and all the way to the bathrooms. He opened the door to the men’s room and went inside. It was empty. Then, he bent down, fell on his face, picked himself up on his elbows, and look at the stalls. In the last stall, he could see two shoes attached to two feet. Rabbi Fooks walked over to the stall and knocked on the door.
“Go away,” said a voice.
“It’s Rabbi Fooks,” said the Rabbi. “Is that Joshua?”
“No,” said the voice.
Rabbi Fooks scratched his head, making his kippah fall off. He picked it up. “You know,” he said, “I’m thinking of quitting too. I’m such a klutz.”
“So why don’t you quit?” asked the voice.
“Because I have a job to do,” said Rabbi Fooks.
There was silence. Then the voice said. “But I can’t sing. Everybody’s going to laugh at me.”
“I won’t laugh at you,” said Rabbi Fooks.
The voice chuckled. “Then you don’t know how bad I sound. If you heard me, you’d laugh.”
Rabbi Fooks stroked his beard. Some strands of hair fell out. “Why don’t you try me, Joshua.”
The door to the stall opened and Joshua walked out. “OK,” he said.
“We’d better leave the bathroom first,” said Rabbi Fooks.
Joshua and Rabbi Fooks washed their hands, and left the bathroom. Rabbi Fooks took Joshua to his office and they both sat down. Rabbi Fooks opened a Torah book for Joshua. He was such a klutz that he couldn’t find the right spot. Joshua helped him.
“Are you sure you want to hear this?” asked Joshua. Rabbi Fooks nodded.
Joshua began to sing, “Vayomer Moshe el B’nei Yisrael…” his voice was cracking, and each word was on a different octave. It sounded like a pack of wild geese trying to sing an opera.
“Great,” said Rabbi Fooks. “It sounds great.”
“It’s not awful?” asked Joshua.
“Not at all,” said Rabbi Fooks. “But I have something that will make it even better.”
Rabbi Fooks reached into his private refrigerator and took out some orange juice and a carton of eggs. He poured the orange juice into a cup, spilling a lot of it on the floor, and then cracked a few eggs over the cup until one of them got mostly into it (the others got on Rabbi Fooks’s slacks). Then he mixed it up with a spoon and gave it to Joshua. “Try this,” he said.
Joshua shrugged and gulped down the mixture. He made a face. “That was gross, Rabbi Fooks.”
“I know,” said the Rabbi, “but trust me.”
Together they went down the hall and into the sanctuary. Everyone hushed as they walked down the aisle and up to the Torah altar. Rabbi Fooks began to trip as they climbed up the steps, but Joshua grabbed his arm and steadied him.
“I’m ready,” he said to the Gabbai.
Joshua recited the blessing and began to read his Torah portion.
“Vayomer Moshe el B’nei Yisrael…” it was amazing – Joshua’s voice was as smooth as honey. He read through the entire portion without a single hitch. (Except for one point where a Pazer accent came out sounding like a broken engine – but nobody even laughed at that).
When it was done a mighty whoop of Yasher Koach’s arose from the congregation. Joshua smiled. Rabbi Fooks beamed.
“Duck,” said the Gabbai.
Joshua ducked. Rabbi Fooks was not in time.
Fanny Greenspoon was a mighty good shot with a hard candy.