Yossi’s Evil Urge

How Yossi Beat the Evil Urge
Chaikin & Mathers

Submitter: When this book surfaced in the last weeding of my library’s children’s room, the current children’s librarian and I were aghast and befuddled by it’s title and it’s appearance. What is Yossi’s evil urge?! It sounds so ominous and well…dirty. What could Yossi be resisting?? The mind is full of possibilities. Could it be…no…it couldn’t be that… could it? And no it isn’t anything dirty or particularly evil in any way shape or form. Yossi’s evil urge is the urge to daydream and not focus on God when praying. I know, so benign and boring in the end. The library is located in neighborhood with a small Orthodox Jewish community but the fact that this 1983 book has survived in the library so long is really just wrong.

Holly: So the sewer monster is something Yossi is daydreaming about? Well, the author certainly hooks you with the title and cover art!  If it’s still circulating and in good shape, I guess it’s probably ok.  It’s a subject that probably not a lot of children’s books cover (or do they??).  If there’s something newer, in better shape, or with a less ominous title I’d weed this one too!


  1. Well, I didn’t find any that describe evil urges, but I found a list of books that, while some were published in the 1980s, would probably prove more entertaining.


    This one to me sounds really interesting –

    Esther Silverstein Blanc; Tenessee Dixon, illus.
    Volcano Press, 1989.

    Not all Jewish immigrants settled in New York. The plains of Wyoming were home to a community of Jewish farmers and when one of them, a Yiddishe Mama, finds an orphan colt, she nurtures it, loves it, and joyfully greets the day when the colt, whom Mama named Berchick, can run wild and free. In the award-winning Berchick and another of the author’s books called Long Johns for a Young Chicken, kindness to animals and acts of lovingkindness are expressed through heartwarming writing and pictures.

    And, just from the description, this one looks good too, but it’s intermediate, not primary –

    The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Wisdom and Wit in the Wild West
    Steve Sheinkin
    Jewish Lights Publishing, 2006.

    Stories about honesty, hospitality, forgiveness, saving face, wisdom, and humility are wrapped in a lively cartoon strip format and based on traditional Jewish tales. The wise and witty sequels are Rabbi Harvey Rides Again: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Folktales Let Loose in the Wild West and Rabbi Harvey vs. the Wisdom Kid: A Graphic Novel of Dueling Jewish Folktales in the Wild West.

    Anyway, there’s a list of recommended books to choose from.

  2. We should open a competition : everybody tell what he or she had in mind when reading “evil urge”, and the one with the most usual wins a prize.

    In fact, it could be an interesting psychology test : you show this book cover to someone and then you ask what they think the “evil urge” may be. It could tell a lot about that person.

  3. Hey ladies,

    “Evil urge” is the English translation for “yetzer hara” which is basically the temptation to do wrong. Think of old cartoons that put an angel on one shoulder & a devil on the other….the devil would be the yetzer hara. Not scary/ominous at all, when one considers the target market. 🙂


  4. Well, Fantasio, sorry to disapoint but having read a lot about the subject and knowing the age range, I figured evil urge could be anything from not saying “Please” and “Thank you” to not doing his homework and playing hooky.

    Had it been aimed at older children, then I might’ve thought differenently.

  5. You’re better informed than I am, Jami ! Chava got the explanation, thought. Us goyims would have never guessed !

    To be honest, at first sight I thought the book was about incontinence. That’s what the word “urge” spawned into my head. Thus being said, English is not my native language.

    By the way, the cityscape behind Yossi totally reminds me of Antwerp.

  6. My first thought was Yossi had urges to feed blue birds to monsters hiding under man hole covers.

    However, I feel much better knowing the real explanation though…and a bit more culturally educated.

    But also a bit lost…I really thought I’d found a book to help keep me away from those tasty tasty blue birds. Drats.

  7. I clearly have a dirty mind, because I thought the evil deed was masturbating immediately.

    I’m pleased to hear I was wrong.

  8. I’m with Sid…not caring about any age group, I thought the “evil urge” was to beat off. Besides, Yossi looks to be about the age when….oh, you know.

  9. Seems even amongst the Orthodox community there’s two minds about self pleasuring. Some of course say it’s always wrong. Others say it’s only wrong if you are married. If you’re single and it keeps you from having sex outside of marriage then it’s okay. If you’re married and you’d rather masturbate then have sex with your spouse then you’re an evil, bad, disgusting person.

    Keep in mind in Judaism sex is all about the woman. Rabbis have even set down rules, according to jobs, how many times a year a man must sleep with his wife, but even then only if she wants it. And it’s always all about her, not him. If she’s not pleased, she has a right to divorce him.

    So that’s another reason I didn’t think that.

    I’m Jewish on mom’s side (which is the side that counts according to Jewish law – if your maternal ancestry is Jewish, then you’re a Jew even if you weren’t raised it, but if it’s your paternal side, it doesn’t count – or as one Rabbi told me, because it’s mom’s side of the family I’m “As Jewish as Moses, Abraham, and Barbara Striesand!”) but it was a Big Family Secret for years until I shook the family tree. So I’ve been reading a lot to better understand my heritage. I’m far from an expert but I wore out my library’s resources.

  10. I’m with Sid & Mare. With his hands in his pockets and that blissful smile, I was pretty sure Yossi was fapping.

  11. Yeah, I definitely thought “masturbation” as soon as I saw this. Figured it would be one of those horrid “God will punish you for your disgusting and unnatural sins!!11!!” kind of books.

  12. The monster in the sewer symbolically suggests having your mind in the gutter, perhaps wanting to look at dirty pictures, etc. So maybe the author should share some blame in the title confusion.

  13. I had pretty much the exact thought process described in the original post. “Oh, masturbation…wait, in a *picture book*?…that’s sure what it sounds like…”

  14. Yeah it’s nasty ol’ Yetzer Hora, the Evil Inclination. We try to tell him to “hit the road, Jack” when my son misbehaves. His teachers thought he was nuts when he mentioned it in school, that darn Yetzer Hora, making me do bad things. Of course, he goes to a regular school, not a yeshiva, and we’re not really religious in any way. But I tell him that good old Yetzer Tov is who he should listen to, the Good Inclination. Yeah, just like the angel and devil on the shoulders. But if I didn’t know about this, I definitely would have thought masturbation or hooky or stealing or whatever.

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