How the Gonif

Every Jew in the temple

Loved Chanukah a lot,

But the town’s biggest Gonif

Most certainly did not.

The Thief hated Chanukah, the whole Chanukah story.

He hated the Maccabees and all of their glory.

It could be his mezuzah wasn’t screwed on just right,

Or maybe he wrapped his tefillin too tight.

But I think that the most likely reason of all,

Was maybe his kippah was two sizes too small.

Whatever the reason

The whole Chanukah season,

He stood all eight nights

Hating the menorah’s bright lights.

While staring down at the town

With his Gonif-like frown,

He knew the Jews in the shul

Were opening presents so cool.

“They’re playing with dreidels,” he snarled with a sneer.

“They’re making jelly donuts, like they do every year.”

He growled while his Gonif fingers were nervously drumming:

“I must find a way to stop Chanukah from coming.”

For tomorrow he knew all Jewish girls and boys

Would wait until sunset to play with new toys.

And with Chanukah’s start, the town’d fill with joyful noise,

That’s the one thing he hated noise, noise, noise, noise.

They would feast on latkes, for dessert chocolate gelt.

They would eat so much brisket they would all bust their belt.

And then they would do something he liked least of all,

Every Jew in the temple, the tall and the small,

Would turn off their cellphones to keep them from ringing,

They would light their menorahs and the Jews would start singing.

They would sing of their dreidels, their dreidels of clay,

And when their dreidels were ready, oh dreidel they’d play,

And the more the Gonif thought of the Chanukah singing,

The more the Gonif thought, I must stop this whole thing-ing.

Then he got an idea! An awful idea!

The Gonif, oy vey, got an awful idea.

"I’ll go house-to-house, quiet as a mouse,

I’ll act like a guest, but I’ll be just a louse.

While the Jews are singing ‘Oh Chanukah’ and dancing the hora,

I’ll blow out the candles burning on each menorah."

He entered the first house; he blew and he wheezed,

The candles went right out; “This will be such a breeze.”

He scooped up the gelt, the dreidels and kippahs.

The Gonif just knew this would surely end Chanukah.

"Pooh-pooh to the Jews!" he was Gonifly humming.

"They’re finding out now that no Chanukah is coming.

Their mouths will hang open a minute or two.

Then the Jews in the temple will all cry boo-hoo."

When he stared at the temple, the Gonif popped his eyes,

Because what he saw before him was a shocking surprise!

Every Jew in the temple, the tall and the small,

Was singing even though no candles were burning at all.

He hadn’t stopped Chanukah from coming! It came!

Somehow or other, it came just the same.

And what happened then? Well, in the temple they say,

Even a Gonif can become a mensch when he sees the light of day.

And the minute his tefillin didn’t feel quite so tight

He brought with him matches to give back the light

The Jews in the Temple celebrated Chanukah that year

As always, the Festival of Lights was happily still here.

Matthew Wunderlich, a seventh-grader at Beverly Vista School in Beverly Hills, wrote this poem last year when he was at Walter Reed Middle School. He will be bar mitzvahed in May at Temple Isaiah.