See The Spirit of Evil
Elka, who is known as the town prostitute, marries Gimpel when he agrees to get the town to take up a collection to raise a dowry for her. She is five months pregnant by another man when they are married, but she tells Gimpel the child is his and, when it arrives four months after their marriage, that it is simply premature. Throughout the story Elka commits numerous infidelities and eventually has ten children, none of whom are Gimpel’s. On her deathbed she admits her infidelities to her husband and asks him to forgive her.
The Spirit of Evil
The devil appears to Gimpel the baker and tells him to urinate in the bread intended for the village in order to get revenge for the many injustices the villagers have forced him to endure over the years.
Gimpel is a baker in the village of Frampol. Although he is constantly teased and tricked by his fellow villagers, he continues to believe in the essential goodness of others and to bear life’s burdens. After agreeing to marry Elka, the town prostitute, he states, “You can’t pass through life unscathed, nor expect to.” Gimpel represents the dos kleine menshele, or “the common man” of Yiddish literature; his innocence provides humor and conveys a simple goodness that combats evil.
The rabbi is the spiritual authority in the village of Frampol. Early in the story, Gimpel goes to him for advice after being teased numerous times by the other villagers. The rabbi, who is the only one in the town who recognizes and appreciates Gimpel’s goodness, tells him that “it is written, better to be a fool all your days than for one hour to be evil. You are not a fool. They are the fools.” Gimpel again goes to the rabbi when he finds Elka in bed with another man. The rabbi tells Gimpel to divorce Elka and to abandon her children. However, when Gimpel tells the rabbi that he loves his wife, the rabbi finds a precedent in the Torah to allow Gimpel to stay with Elka.
Short Stories for Students, Volume 2, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Edited by Kathleen Wilson, Published by Gale Research, New York, 1997.