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December 23, 2014 / 1 Tevet, 5775
 
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The Downtrodden People

Tales of the Gaonim-logo

The great sage Don Yitzchak Abarbanel (1437-1508) would never stop lauding the brilliance and sagacity of his fellow Jews to King Alfonso V of Portugal. Abarbanel was the King’s treasurer and he was respected and loved by the monarch.

Once, while riding in the royal chariot, a discussion came up.

“You can never make me believe that every Jew is a genius or at least smarter than his heathen neighbor,” said the king.

“Very well,” answered Abarbanel. “Let us experiment with the first Jew we encounter on the road.” Turning a corner they encountered a poor Jew with a walking stick wearing tattered clothes. He carried a sack on his shoulders that contained all of his belongings.

“Stop the coach!” commanded the king as he invited the frightened Jew into the royal coach.

“Fear not,” said the king. “I only want to discuss something with you.”

Noticing Don Yitzchak in the coach, the Jew felt relieved.

“Tell me,” asked the king, “where do you come from and what is your occupation?”

“I live in one of our provinces, Your Highness,” he answered. “I am a junk peddler and my wife, children and myself barely eke out a living.”

 

The Chosen People

“Listen to what I have to say, Jew,” said the king. “You are one of the people who believes himself to be the chosen of G-d and that the world was only created for you. Then why are you so miserably poor wandering from town to town, hounded and chased in every country? You remind me of a poor creature we have in the insane asylum who keeps shouting that he is King Alfonso, although he is beaten every day by the guards. What is your answer to this?”

The peddler suddenly grasped his forehead and exclaimed, “Woe is me. I just reminded myself that I lost my dear heirloom, which is very valuable to me. My mind will not be at ease until I find it.”

“Don’t worry,” said the king, “what could it be worth, two or three talents of gold? I’ll give you ten talents of gold, so you can forget about it.”

“Not so,” said the Jew. “No money in the world can replace its value to me.”

“Very well,” said the king. “Tell me where you lost it and I’ll arrange for my servant to look for it.”

“It is near a new building that is being built a few kilometers back where I stopped to rest this morning.”

The king ordered the coach to turn about, and they rode until they came near a building in the process of being built.

 

Who Is The Proprietor?

Pointing to the workers, the Jew asked the king, “Your Highness, can you tell me who the proprietor of this building is?”

“Surely,” answered the king, “the man who is standing on the bottom watching all the working men climbing over the building.”

“I beg to differ,” answered the peddler. “I believe the owner of the building is the man who is standing at the top shouting commands to the workers. Also, your man seems to be afraid that something may fall on him and he is now running into the house.”

Turning to Abarbanel, the king laughingly said, “This is your smart Jew? Any fool can see that the foreman of the construction is only the temporary boss.

“While he and his workingmen are building the house they are on top and the real boss has to keep quiet. But when the house is completed the real owner will take it over and he will eject the workmen.”

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It’s a special one. Some sort of family heirloom.

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The man was overjoyed to see his benefactor and gave them food and water besides shelter and safety.

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Because of this I wandered about and found friends in similar situations who were also unhappy and I began to hang out with them.

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Time passed and Zemira gave birth to a son but not even this could awaken Avinadav from his melancholy.

Yonadav was greatly impressed at the vast sums of money the young man had in his possessions.

“I do nothing worthwhile,” he modestly replied and refused to discuss any of his deeds. For the man was a very modest and humble person.

While he slept, he dreamed of Eliyahu HaNavi, who was trying to awaken him from his sleep.

“I’ll pay you whether you cure her or kill her,” shouted the loyal husband.

He lacked for nothing materialistic and could have lived the rest of his life, had he chosen to, in the luxury and laziness that dominated the Roman upper class life.

When the soldiers heard this they exclaimed happily: “You mean this is the sacred Jewish fruit? Hurry, get on the horse. You are coming with us to the palace.”

Now let me ask you, what would happen to an infantryman if he deserted his regiment and went to serve in the cavalry? He would be court-martialed, wouldn’t he?”

Dug out beneath his bunk was a little chest which he guarded with his very life. It contained a small Sefer Torah, miniature size, but kosher, and a shofar.

So began a marvelous period of good fortune. He invested the twenty-four gold pieces in many types of businesses and everything his hand touched turned to gold.

Pressing close to the cage, the Ibn Ezra shouted the words, “Shema Yisrael…”

“You can have your choice,” said the wise king. “You can choose to take this gold, 100 pieces each, or I can give you each three pieces of advice.”

“It isn’t the work,” said Eliezer. “I want to learn our holy Torah.”

More Articles from Rabbi Sholom Klass
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The man was overjoyed to see his benefactor and gave them food and water besides shelter and safety.

Tales-of-The-Midrash-logo

Because of this I wandered about and found friends in similar situations who were also unhappy and I began to hang out with them.

Time passed and Zemira gave birth to a son but not even this could awaken Avinadav from his melancholy.

Yonadav was greatly impressed at the vast sums of money the young man had in his possessions.

“I do nothing worthwhile,” he modestly replied and refused to discuss any of his deeds. For the man was a very modest and humble person.

While he slept, he dreamed of Eliyahu HaNavi, who was trying to awaken him from his sleep.

“I’ll pay you whether you cure her or kill her,” shouted the loyal husband.

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