Faith is Not Foolish

In “Gimpel the Fool”, Isaac Bashevis Singer has created a character who is so full of faith he is perceived as foolish. But is this trait really something which should be looked upon as derogatory or is it a trait which should be celebrated and emulated? Gimpel, the main character, states, “What’s the good of not believing? Today it’s your wife you don’t believe; tomorrow it’s God himself you won’t take stock in” (Singer, page ? ).

Such blind faith in both fellow human beings as well as God dictates the path of Gimpel’s life and it causes him to accept, believe, and allow situations which everyone else deems foolishness, however it is Gimpel who wins out in the end by finding happiness in a life with no regrets. Gimpel is accepting of not only the treatment he receives by others, who see cause to ridicule him, but also of the personality traits of those who mock him. He readily admits that throughout his life he has been called names and played jokes upon and confesses, “I was easy to take in” (Singer, page ? ).

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Gimpel shrugs off the pranks and name calling and sees no merit in attempting to defend himself. When the townspeople find him a wife who does not enjoy a good reputation, he is still agreeable to the union. He accepts his wife as she is, faults and all. Gimpel also accepts the dictates of his religion. When he is told by the rabbi that he must not live with his wife after she has been accused of adultery, he goes along with the plan, against his own wishes. It is Gimpel’s acceptance of his status as a fool, his acceptance of the faults of others, and his acceptance of religious dictates, which allow him to go through life without regret.

Gimpel believes wholeheartedly in anything he is told, which makes him the butt of many a joke. In response to the townspeople’s tall tales, he says, “And I like a golem believed everyone” (Singer, page ? ) referring to a creature in Yiddish culture whose name is synonymous with the traits of foolishness, or silliness. His belief in himself allows him to agree with the assessment of the townspeople. When his wife denies sleeping with another man and instead blames Gimpel himself for his poor eyesight, still he believes she is telling the truth.

Even after the death of his wife, when Gimpel is visited by the “Spirit of Evil”, who exhorts him to do bad things back to those who deserve it and to renounce his faith in God, Gimpel suffers from but a small lapse of judgment before he again trusts in his own beliefs. It is this belief which allows him to accept others and accept what happens in his own life. As Gimpel states after 20 years of marriage to his wife, “I neither saw nor heard. I believed, and that’s all” (Singer, page ? ), and it was enough.

Through these traits of acceptance and belief, Gimpel allows himself to be taken advantage of, or at least what others perceive as him being disadvantaged. By not causing a fuss, Gimpel allows others to blow off steam and to take out negative feelings and emotions. When he allows others to use him as their whipping boy, so then may they find peace in other areas of their lives. In this way, Gimpel actually performs a service for the community. As well, he allows his wife to bear children whom he suspects, somewhere in the back of his head, are not his, but loves them regardless. It is his faith and beliefs which allow him to do so.

In “Gimpel the Fool” Singer portrays the main character not as a stupid man, but as one who is content with his lot in life and adamant enough about his beliefs to live by them. As the rabbi tells him, “Belief in itself is beneficial. It is written that a good man lived by his faith” (Singer, page ? ). The author imparts a lesson through the story that sometimes, neither foolishness nor faith are what we believe them to be, at first glance. Exemplified by Gimpel the Fool, choosing to have faith, to believe, and to accept circumstances in life is a fine way to leave the world with no regrets.