Since this is a story about a gragger, it is of course a Purim story.
One Purim many, many years ago, in the little town of Vardik, in far-off Russia, everyone was very sad and worried. Instead of looking forward to the gaiety of the holiday, they were afraid that their entire Jewish community would be destroyed. It almost seemed like the times of the first Purim--that's how great the danger was.
The son of the great powerful Czar had gone hunting in the woods with a group of friends. They had lost their way and by chance arrived in the town of Vardik. All the people were excited to have this distinguished visitor in their midst. They gave him the finest room in the local inn, the finest food, and delicious cakes.
The next day, the prince suddenly became very ill and was unable to return home. Messengers were sent to the Czar to report the bad news. In a very short time, the Czar and several important ministers arrived in Vardik.
They had brought several doctors with them who immediately began to examine the prince. Each one tried to cure him, but none was successful. The prince was moaning in pain. His face was flushed, and he was burning with fever. Most of the time he slept. He refused all food and drink. His very life was in danger.
And then one of the ministers said that it was the fault of the Jews that the prince was sick, because they gave him bad food. This was of course ridiculous and untrue, but everyone was so worried about the sickness of the prince that they believed him. Unfortunately, many times in history, when there was any kind of trouble, evil men placed the blame on innocent Jews.
And so the Jews of Vardik were very frightened, for they knew that their lives might be in danger.
On the day before Purim, two notices were put on trees. They said that if the prince did not recover by the end of the next day, all the Jews in Vardik would be held responsible. Also, since the prince was very weak, everyone had to be very quiet.
But the Megillah had to be read. The Jews gathered silently in the little shul on the main street, right near the inn where the prince lay gravely ill. Everyone in shul was told to sit absolutely still, for the Rabbi would read in a soft, low voice. The children had been told to leave their graggers home, for the notice had requested silence. (A gragger is a noisemaker that is used during the reading of the Megillah: whenever the name of the wicked Haman is mentioned, children swing their graggers and make a lot of noise to show their contempt and hate for him.)
The fathers looked very serious and sad. The mothers in the women's section were crying. There was no feeling of Purim in the air, that's for sure.
Suddenly, there was an awful noise. The name of Haman had been read, and little Yaakov was swinging his gragger with all his might. Happily, with a big smile on his face, he was swinging that gragger.
Everyone became very frightened. The Rabbi continued reading. People were shaking their heads. They made signs to Yaakov that he must be quiet. One man wanted to take the gragger away from him, but Yaakov would not even let him touch it. Everyone was afraid that Yaakov would scream and make a lot of noise if forced to give up his gragger. So he was allowed to keep it. No one could tell him to stop using the gragger, for during the reading of the Megillah it is forbidden to speak. They were hoping that Yaakov would understand and put the gragger away.
The windows to the prince's room were open to let in some fresh air. Gathered around his bed were the ministers, the doctors and the Czar. There was total silence in the room. The prince was pale and weak. He had no strength left. His eyes were closed and he seemed not even to be breathing.
What was that? Who dared to break the rule of silence? All the people in the room ran to the window to see who the guilty one was. The next moment they jumped in fright, for they heard a voice behind them asking for some water.
There was the prince, sitting up in bed, wide awake. "What a jolly noise I hear! What is it? Please bring me some water. I have never been so thirsty in my whole life. Hurry, please. I feel so dry." The noise of the gragger had awakened the prince.
In a few days he was well, and the whole company returned in peace to the palace. The Jews in the town were saved, and they had the happiest Purim day you could ever imagine.
Yaakov was the hero of the day. People hugged him and kissed him. They gave him so much nasherei that he had enough to eat till Passover.