“For the moment, I can’t seem to find it,” he said.
“That proves it then,” the man said. “I’m sorry, but I don’t have much time, and I really don’t want to fight. Please give it to me now.”
Ehud didn’t want to fight either. Ehud didn’t like fighting. Fighting was barbaric. Fighting was cruel. Perhaps the man was too embarrassed to admit he was poor. And maybe the man’s children really didn’t have a TV to watch. If so, the situation truly wasn’t fair. After all, Ehud’s children watched every night. It was, Ehud finally decided, the right thing to do. So he walked to the den, pulled out the television plug from the wall, and to the cries of his startled children, he carried the set to the front door and handed it to the man, feeling in his heart that he was doing something noble, something majestic, something good.
When the man left, Ehud sat down with his unhappy children to explain why it was so important to have done what he did. Everyone in the world was equal, he told them, and it was important for everyone to share things equally. When there were differences between people, there was envy, and envy led to fighting, and fighting brought an end to peace. Just as they had enjoyed watching television, so would some other children now. Ehud’s wife stood listening in the doorway, a soft smile on her lips. This was the reason she loved her husband so much. He was so caring, so open-hearted, so good. More important than the television was the example her husband was setting for the children, and the valuable lesson they would learn.
“But what will we do now?” the older boy asked.
“Read,” Ehud said. “From now on, I’ll read you books.”
The very next evening, Ehud sat in his armchair, reading a book to his children, almost awaiting a knock on the door. When it came, he sprang up and hurried across the room.
“Good evening,” the man said. “I came for my clothes.”
For a moment, the two men stared at each other. Ehud sensed his wife and his children behind him, watching to see what would happen.
“They are upstairs in the closet,” Ehud said.
He invited the man inside. He felt he was being tested. To see if he could really practice what he believed; that all men were brothers; that everyone was equal; that his claims on the world were the same as all other peoples, without firsts or seconds, better or worse.
Ehud led the man upstairs to his bedroom. Maybe, he reasoned, the man really didn’t have any clothes besides the same very nice suit he wore every night. Maybe he had no job, and no money to buy what he needed. Ehud opened his closet, took out his clothes, and spread them out on the bed: pants and shirts, sweaters and jackets and shoes.
“A suitcase would help,” the man said.
Ehud gave him two. The man filled them both. Ehud wasn’t worried. He was glad. He had a job. He could always buy more clothes. And even with all the man took, Ehud still had more than he needed. Magnanimously, Ehud helped him carry the suitcases downstairs. With smiles on their faces, Ehud, his wife, and his children said goodnight to the man at the door.
The next night, the children were waiting at the windows, but the man didn’t come.
“Where is he, Dad?” one son asked
“I don’t know,” Ehud answered.
“I wish he would come,” the girl said. “I like him. I think that he’s fun.”
His wife also seemed disappointed. She had even prepared something for the visitor to eat. Ehud felt glad that they all liked the man, but when the man didn’t come, he felt unquestionably relieved.
But the very next day he was back.
“He’s coming! He’s coming!” the boy called from his post at the window. The little girl ran to the door. Ehud greeted him with a cordial hello.
“I’ve come for my house,” the man said. “My family wants to move back tonight.”
Ehud’s voice stuck in his throat. He felt dizzy. He felt weak. Giving up his house was too much.
About the Author: Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press
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