Sometimes my Bubie lets me help her write her stories. She asks me questions in the middle of her stories and depending on how I answer, she continues the story. This is fun for me and also fun for her, I think. The next story comes out of my desire and my sisters’ desire to have lots of shoes. My Bubie and Zada buy us shoes for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Pesach (Passover). Sometimes, if my shoes break or become uncomfortable, I can convince my Bubie to buy me another pair at another time and of course this means that all of the grandchildren will get new shoes a third time during the year!
Once there was a King who lived in a castle with his family. The King had a beautiful castle, a warm family and a kingdom of people who were happy to live in their country.
The King had one problem. His feet always hurt him. He tried all the shoes that were made in his kingdom and went to every shoemaker far and wide. No one could make a pair of shoes that were comfortable for the King and so he suffered greatly from pain that he had in his feet when he walked.
In a town outside of the King’s kingdom lived a man with his wife and daughter. They lived in a very small house and the man, Rubin, made his living as a shoemaker, but business was never good because the people in the town were poor and almost never bought new shoes. Rubin repaired a lot of old shoes but he did not charge much money for that because he knew how poor the people in his town were.
One day a man came into Rubin’s shop. He said that he had traveled to the kingdom next to their town to deliver a closet that he had made for a family. This man made very strong furniture that would last for many generations and sometimes, people in the kingdom would ask him to make their furniture for them. This man, Leib was his name, came into Rubin’s shop and told him the story that he had heard about the King who could not find a pair of shoes that didn’t hurt his feet.
Rubin thought, “Well I am a simple shoemaker but maybe I could help the King”. Rubin’s daughter was now at the age that she was ready to get married, but her family didn’t have any money for the wedding. Rubin thought that, if he could make a pair of shoes that the King liked, perhaps he could earn a little money to have a wedding for his daughter. Rubin told his wife and daughter that he had decided to travel to the kingdom to see if he could arrange a meeting with the King to make him a pair of shoes that would be comfortable.
After three days Rubin arrived at the castle. He approached the guard and told him that he was a shoemaker from the town next to the kingdom and he had heard about the King’s problem. He wanted a meeting with the King to see if he could help.
Now, normally the guard would not let some simple poor person meet with the King; however, the King had given orders to allow anyone who was a shoemaker to meet with him. He was very desperate to have a comfortable pair of shoes that he could walk in.
And so, the guard took Rubin to the King’s chamber and announced that a shoemaker from the town next to the kingdom wanted to make the King a pair of shoes. When Rubin entered the King’s room he bowed his head and asked permission to measure the King’s feet. He took out his measuring tools and began to take all kinds of measurements, of all parts of the King’s foot- the toes, the heel, the arch, the length and width of his foot.
When Rubin was finished measuring he asked the King what color shoes he wanted. The King loved the color blue and told Rubin that he would be so happy to have blue shoes. Rubin left the King’s chambers and returned to his home.
For many weeks Rubin worked on the shoes for the King. He still fixed the people’s shoes who lived in the town, but mostly he concentrated on making the blue shoes for the King.
Finally the day arrived when Rubin finished making the King’s shoes. He told his wife and daughter that he was going back to the kingdom to present the shoes to the King. At this time, Rubin’s daughter, Miriam, had found a young man whom she liked very much. He was kind and loved her very much. Miriam wanted to get married but her Father did not have enough money for a wedding and her young man, Levi, was working to have a little home that they could live in after the wedding. Rubin kissed his wife and daughter goodbye and told them that if all went well, (B’ezrat Hashem) the king would be happy with his shoes and would pay Rubin so that they could have a beautiful wedding for Miriam and Levi.
Rubin traveled for three days until he arrived at the King’s castle. He told the guard that he had finished making the shoes for the King and that he was ready to bring them to the King to try on.
What do you think happened? Well the King put on the blue shoes, slowly stood up and began to walk. He didn’t say a word. He then turned to Rubin and began to smile. “You have done it”, he said. “You made me a pair of shoes that do not hurt my feet! I feel that I could walk all over my kingdom in these shoes and my feet would never hurt!”
Rubin was so happy; thrilled in fact, that he had created a special pair of shoes that enabled the King to walk without pain. “Thank God”, thought Rubin. Now he could finally bring some money home so that he could have a wedding for his daughter Miriam and her groom, (Chatan) Levi.
The King told Rubin that he could sleep in the castle overnight and that they would meet again in the morning. Rubin was happy to have a warm and safe place to sleep and was sure that in the morning the King would pay him for all of his efforts.
The next morning Rubin packed his bag; prayed, ate some breakfast, and returned to the King’s chamber. The King once again thanked him for the beautiful and comfortable shoes that he had made him and preceded to say, “Rubin, you are an amazing shoemaker and I am a King who has many outfits. A King cannot wear the same pair of shoes with every robe that he has. Therefore, I want you to make me five pairs of shoes that are as comfortable and beautiful as this blue pair that you made for me.”
Rubin was flattered by the offer that the King made to him but he explained that he needed to go home first and have a wedding for his daughter with the money that the King would give him for the first pair of shoes. He told the King, “First you must pay me and then I will make you some more shoes.” He would come back to measure the King’s feet again and help him choose the colors that he needed to match all of his robes.
The King said, “Rubin, I don’t think that you understand. I am not going to let you go home. You now must serve me and do what I say, and I say that you must make me five more pairs of shoes to match all of my robes!”
Well, Rubin was very upset and sad and angry all at the same time. Have you ever been upset, sad and angry all at the same time? He didn’t know what to say to the King. It wasn’t fair! He did what the King asked him and he even agreed to come back to make more shoes for the King, after his daughter Miriam was married.
Rubin said to the King, “Dear King, what you are asking of me is not fair and not right! I must return to my family and make a wedding for my daughter and her Chatan!”
“What!” yelled the King? “Guards, put him in jail and only give him tools to make shoes and some bread and water to eat every day”.
And so Rubin, the simple shoemaker, sat in jail in the kingdom next to the town where he lived. He refused to make the King his shoes until the King agreed to let him go back home to have a wedding for his daughter. His friend, Lieb, who made furniture, found out that Rubin was in jail and reported it to his wife and daughter who cried and tried to figure out how they could help him get out of jail.
One day, after many weeks, the King had the guards bring Rubin to his chambers. “Rubin”, said the King. “Why are you so stubborn? I don’t want to hurt you because you are the only person, who can make me a comfortable pair of shoes for my feet, but I am the King and you must listen to me!”
Rubin responded, “You are the King of this place, but you are not the King of the Universe. The King of the Universe requires that I support my family and that when it is time for my daughter to get married that I make a wedding for her. You will not let me do that and I will not make you any more shoes until you do.”
What could the King do? What would you do? Would you keep Rubin in jail? Would you punish him? Would you let him go back to his family, have a wedding for his daughter and then bring him back to make you your shoes?
The King sent Rubin back to jail. In jail Rubin decided to start to make the shoes for the King. He made four pairs and told the guard to bring him to the King. When Rubin came to the King he said, “Now you have four more pairs of shoes and you must give me money so that I can have a big, beautiful wedding for my daughter.” The King happily agreed and let Rubin go after he paid him a lot of money.
Rubin had a big wedding for Miriam and Levi. They made the chuppa, wedding canopy, and gave a lot of presents to the Chatan and Kallah (groom and bride). After the wedding, the King offered to build a house in his Kingdom for Rubin and his family so that he could live near the King and make him shoes whenever the King needed a new pair of shoes.
Levi, Miriam’s husband, also learned how to make shoes. People from the kingdom and all of the towns surrounding the kingdom would come to the shoe shop of Rubin and Levi to order their shoes. They thought that if Rubin was the King’s shoemaker he must be very talented and gifted. Rubin, his wife, Miriam and Levi had parnasa (a good living) all of their lives.
There were times when their lives were hard, because life can be a challenge, but they were good people and did their best to make shoes that helped people who couldn’t walk on regular shoes so, like the King, they too would be able to walk from place to place without any pain.