(Great Characters in Literature)

Characters Discussed

Reb Yudel Nathanson

Reb Yudel Nathanson, a Hasid (member of a Jewish mystical sect) who has devoted his life to the study of the Torah (Jewish sacred literature). An ascetic who has no concern with earthly goods, he wears rags, sleeps on a floor mat, rises early to begin the long day’s study and prayer, and eats only to keep body and soul together. At the beginning of the novel, he leaves his town of Brod in Poland to wander far and wide among Jewish villages to seek a bridegroom for his eldest daughter. As naïve as a child, he is exposed by his journey, for the first time, to a vast array of people, each with his own story to tell, and he is involved in continuous adventures and misadventures. He finds a moral and a purpose in all things, and all that he sees and hears draws from him an endless stream of commentary and gloss from Hebrew holy books. He lays all problems in the lap of the Almighty, including his complete ineptitude in fulfilling the goal of his travels. Through a series of coincidences and fortunate accidents, he arranges his daughter’s marriage to the son of a very wealthy man, and he happily returns to his life’s work of prayer and study.


Nuta, the drayman who takes Yudel on his search. Fat and robust, he is as secular as Yudel is religious. Because he and his wife are constantly quarreling, he is eager to accompany Yudel for as long as possible and finds no greater happiness than to fill his belly with fine food and drink and to listen to the stories of those they meet on their travels. He is not above an...

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