Columns - 2011

    Harry Plotzer and the Gabbai of Fire

    by Doug Brook
    Southern Jewish Life columnist

    The villagers of Little Haggleton still called it "the Fiddle House," even though it had been many years since the Fiddler's family had lived there, after arriving from Anatevka. In this house, Voldybbuk (a Riddle, by any other name) is plotting the demise of Harry Plotzer, the soon-to-be fourth-year student at the Hogschwartz School of Mystics and Kaballah.

    Voldybbuk, of course, is the dark wizard who killed Harry's parents and gave him the infamous six-pointed Star-of-David scar on his forehead when he was a baby.

    Meanwhile, Harry turns fourteen and is invited by the Wiesels to join them at the greatest worldwide athletic event for mystics and kabbalists: The Kidditsch Cup. With his friends Ron Wiesel and Harzione Granger, Harry travels to the Cup by Potschke, an object that lets you mess around with space by warping it, to travel great distances instantly.

    The night after the game, several people are attacked by Treyf Eaters, followers of the evil Voldybbuk. A week of chaos ensues for the Ministry of Mystics, the Mysticry.

    All the students return to Hogschwartz to start the school year, where the ageless headmaster, Professor Dorledor, announces that this year they will host the great inter-school competition, the Tri-Mystic Tournament. He also carries on the seemingly annual tradition of introducing a new Defense Against the Dark Schwartz teacher, this time Mordechai "Mad Chai" Moody.

    Moody makes a good first impression on Harry, by turning his nemesis Draco Malgoy into a ferret. Moody teaches the students the three unforgivable curses, curses even slightly more lethal than the ones that mothers use when chores don't get done. Moody teaches Harry how to ward off one of the unforgivable curses, the one that's been used to make many mystics feel awful for generations, the Inferious Curse.

    In October, Tri-Mystic parties arrive from the other schools, Beauxburg and Durmstein. One competitor from each house is to be called up for his honor by the Gabbai of Fire. Due to the danger of the competition, only students over age sixteen can enter their names to compete. On weekday occasions like this, the Gabbai of Fire would always call up three honorees; no more, no less.

    At a very well attended weekday minyan, the Gabbai of Fire called up the three required honorees, one from each school: Cedric Diggorstein, Fleur Delacohen, and Viktor Kahn. However, inexplicably, a fourth competitor is called up, a competitor too young to submit his name, and who claims he never tried: Harry Plotzer. Once the Gabbai calls someone up, they must take the honor, so Harry's required to compete as well.

    Ron stops speaking to Harry, for not letting him in on how he snuck into the tournament. Tabloid journalist Rita Shikser accosts Harry, trying to turn him into a tragic icon and creating scandal around him.

    As the first competition approaches, Harry's exiled godfather, Shibboleth Black, appears to Harry to warn him that the head of Durmstein, Karkaroth, used to be a Treyf Eater and might still be a danger to him. He points out that Mad Chai Moody was the Mysticry's best dark wizard catcher, and he's probably around for a reason.

    Haggid, the Hogschwartz groundskeeper and Harry's friend, reveals to Harry that the first test involves dragons, and Harry warns Diggorstein. In competition, Harry uses his broomstick to fly to a sweeping victory, and reunion with Ron.

    Professor Magilgulim announces that the festive Shul Ball is soon, and that each Tri-Mystic competitor must bring someone. Harry does as many Jewish males do, and asks out an Asian classmate, Cho. (It comes from so many years at Chinese restaurants on Christmas Eve.) But as many males also do, he waited too long, because she's already going with Diggorstein.

    Harzione has a date as well, to Ron's chagrin, partly because her date is his Kidditsch idol and Harry's Tri-Mystic competitor Viktor Kahn. Harry and Ron fail to enjoy the Ball, feeling like they are at a bar mitzvah party wishing there was a lobby television with Saturday Night Live on.

    As Harry prepares for the second Tri-Mystic task, Shikser keeps writing scathing exposes about Harry and his friends, and Moody borrows Harry's Mamzer's Map, with which one can see where anyone is anywhere in Hogschwartz at any time.

    Harry learns that for the second task he'll have an hour to reclaim something from the bottom of the lake. To breathe underwater, Harry goes to Daveni, the house-elf he freed after the incident with the Chamber of Shpielkis. Daveni now works in the Hogschwartz kitchen, and provides him with something to eat that'll make him able to breathe like a fish: gefilteweed.

    Harry swims to find Ron, Harzione, Cho, and Fleur's sister tied up underwater. He stays to ensure every champion gets their person. When Fleur doesn't make it down, he brings back her sister and Ron. He comes in last, but receives credit for what he did.

    Shikser publishes an article about Harzione toying with the hearts of Harry and Viktor. They meet Shibboleth Black in the nearby town Hogsfeet, where they learn that the largely absent head of the Mysticry has a son who was also a Treyf Eater.

    While waiting to talk to Professor Dorledor, Harry looks into Dorledor's Pentateuch and is propelled into Dorledor's memory of the Treyf Eater trials years before. Dorledor pulls Harry back to reality and tells him that he fears the evil Voldybbuk is getting stronger.

    The day of the third task, Shikser writes about how Harry is deeply disturbed and a fame-seeker. Remarkably, nobody has punched her in the face yet. The third task puts all four champions in a large maze where they must find the trophy. Harry and Cedric find it first, at the same time, and agree to touch it together to claim mutual victory.

    The trophy, however, is a Potschke, which transports them both to a graveyard filled with Treyf Eaters. Voldybbuk returns to semi-human form at last, kills Cedric, and duels with Harry. Voldybbuk uses the third unforgivable curse, the Avodah Kedavrah -- a real killer, with which he'd previously killed Harry's parents. Harry defends himself, their two wands meet in midair, and visages of all of Voldybbuk's past victims come out of his wand to protect Harry long enough to get Cedric's body and return to the maze via the Potschke.

    Moody takes the weakened Harry back to his office, where Moody reveals that he gave Harry's name to the Gabbai of Fire. He'd left hints so Harry would make it all the way to the trophy and thus to the graveyard to meet Voldybbuk. Moody reveals that he's a Treyf Eater and prepares to kill Harry when other teachers arrive.

    Professor Snake, himself an eternal target of Harry's suspicions, reveals that Moody is really Barty Mitzvah, the missing Treyf Eater son of the also missing head of the Mysticry. To appear transformed as Moody all year, he's every hour taken PolyJews Potion, which lets someone look like more than one person. He reveals that he'd killed his father and pretended to be him, and hoped to bring Harry to Voldybbuk to help ensure the dark wizard's return to power.

    After telling Dorledor and Black what happened in the graveyard, Dorledor explained that Harry and Voldybbuk's wands had feathers from the same phoenix, so when the two wands met in battle Voldybbuk's had to spew out its past spells.

    At the end of the year, Dorledor tells all the students how Diggorstein was killed by Voldybbuk, even though the new Mysticry leaders didn't acknowledge that Voldybbuk could return. Harry gives his Tri-Mystic prize money to Ron's older twin brothers to start a practical joke novelty shop. Harzione once and for all compels Shikser to stop writing nasty articles. And Harry returns home for the summer.

    Doug Brook is a writer in Silicon Valley who will soon present the remaining Harry Plotzer tales: Harry Plotzer and the Seder of the Phoenix, Harry Plotzer and the Half-Cooked Blintz, and Harry Plotzer and the Deadly Challahs. For more information, past columns, other writings, and more, visit For exclusive online content, such as the latest Harry Plotzer episodes, become a fan at

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.