Many years ago, in the village of Chelm, there were two families, the Chiribim and the Chiribom. They were enemies. They fought over everything. They fought over land, they fought over water, they fought over cows and horses and chickens. They fought over air.
The Chiribim and Chiribom didn’t talk to each other. They were stubborn. They didn’t look at each other.
In the synagogue and village hall, they would sit on opposite sides of the room and glare or shout or scream. Or spit. It was disgusting.
The feud had been going on for years, decades, perhaps centuries. No one knew where it began or how it had originated. What insult had provoked the first Chiribim to scorn the first Chiribom? It was long ago and long forgotten.
Sometimes the anger came to blows, but, fortunately, so far no one had been seriously injured or killed.
Rabbi Kibbitz, the oldest and wisest of leaders, was sick of it. He was tired of the malice, tired of the hatred, tired of the tension. He was tired of mopping spit off the floor of the synagogue.
So he decided to solve the problem. The Chiribim and Chiribom needed to come together to work out their differences. They were farmers, they worked the land. They were neighbours, living so close to each other but so far away.
The problem was that he couldn’t get them all in the same room without someone blowing up.
It had been pouring rain for most of the week of Passover, and everyone was cranky.
In those days, after a long rain, everyone in the village would go out into the woods to pick mushrooms. Mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters would all pack up their lunches, bring along empty baskets, and hunt for wild treasure. The youngsters would find dozens of kinds of fungi, and the elders would teach them which ones were tasty, which were revolting, and which might kill you.
During the rainstorm, Rabbi Kibbitz sent a note to the Chiribim, asking them to join him in the forest for lunch. He also sent a note to the Chiribom, asking them to join him for lunch in the same place, at the same time.
Early the next morning, the rabbi pulled on his boots, put a basket over his arm and plodded into the Black Forest. First, he would find the Chiribim and then the Chiribom. And then they would work it all out.
Unfortunately, he forgot his glasses, so he was having a hard time seeing where he was going.
Soon, he came upon a group of people.
“Chiribim?” he asked them.
They shook their heads. “Chiribom,” they answered.
Sighing, the rabbi continued his search.
He realized he should change his tactics. He would meet with the Chiribom first, and then the Chiribim.
Soon, he came upon another group of people. “Chiribom?” he asked them.
They shrugged, “Chiribim.”
“Hmm.” The rabbi wandered off, muttering, “Chiribim bom bim bom bim bom.”
Another group of people were asked, “Chiribom?” and they answered, “Chiribim.”
The next group were queried, “Chiribim?” and they replied “Chiribom.”
The rabbi was getting frustrated. “Ai Chiribiri biri bim bom bom! Ai Chiri biri biri bim bom bom!”
Back and forth the rabbi went racing through the forest. If he asked, “Chiribim?” they told him, “Chiribom.” If he asked “Chiribom?” they told him, “Chiribim.”
“Ai Chiri biri biri bim bom bom. Ai Chiri biri biri bom!”
The Chiribim and Chiribom were stubborn. They loved an argument, and neither group liked to be pinned down or admit to anything. Perhaps they were playing tricks on the rabbi. Perhaps they were just being obstinate.
“Bim!” the rabbi shouted.
“Bom!” they answered.
“Bom?” the rabbi yelped.
“Bim!” came a chorus.
“AAAGH! Bim bom bim bom bim bom!”
He began to twirl about.
He asked another group, “Bom?”
They answered, “Bim!”
The next had to be … “Bom?”
“Impossible! Bim bom bim bom bim bom!”
The rabbi was running and twirling, almost dancing. “Ai Chiribiri biri bim bom bom.”
His hair was everywhere. His coat was open. “Ai Chiri biri biri bim bom bom. Ai Chiri biri biri bim bom bom. Ai Chiri biri biri bom.”
Well, the Chiribim and the Chiribom started laughing. They couldn’t help themselves. Their rabbi, this wise old man, was acting like a chicken with his head cut off, like a frog trying to escape a pack of curious boys, like a school teacher with a cube of ice dropped down his back. All the time he was muttering to himself like a crazy man, “Chiribimbombimbombimbom.”
They laughed and they grinned and they smiled, and then they looked up.
Across the forest they saw something that they had never seen before.
They saw each other smiling and laughing and grinning.
They looked and they realized that they all wore the same kind of clothes. They had the same kinds of shoes and hats and hair. They all held baskets full of mushrooms.
So the Chiribim and the Chiribom came together in the middle of the forest and shook hands, and they kissed cheeks, and they hugged.
And, of course, they had a Passover lunch.
Such a feast! Chopped liver on matzah with fresh-picked mushrooms. Beet salad. Brisket. And Mrs. Chaipul’s light-as-a-feather lemon meringue pie. So delicious!
When they were done eating and finished cleaning up, they lifted the poor rabbi up on their shoulders, because he was still too dizzy to walk, and all together they carried him back to the village of Chelm, singing: “Ai Chiri biri biri bim bom bom….”
From that day on, they were no longer known as the Chiribim or the Chiribom, but as the Chiribimbombimbombimbom…. Bim…. Bom.
“Ai Chiri biri biri bim bom bom.
“Ai Chiri biri biri bim bom bom.
“Ai Chiri biri biri bom….”
Izzy Abrahmson is a pen name for author and storyteller Mark Binder, who lives in Providence, R.I., and tours the world – virtually and in-person. Abrahmson’s Winter Blessings: Warm Stories from the Village was a National Jewish Book Awards finalist. This story about Chiribim and Chiribom is from his latest book in the Village Life Series, The Village Feasts: Ten Tasty Passover Stories, which is available on Amazon and at books2read.com. To listen to the audio version of this story, narrated by Binder, visit izzyabe.com.