The Seven Beggars
Who brought gifts to the beggar bride and groom
A famous story of the nineteenth century chassidic Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav, told by Meyer Levin in “Classic Chassidic Tales” (Jason Aronson, 1996)
There was once a king who had an only son, and while he lived the king decided to give his crown to the prince. He made a great festival to which all the noblemen of the kingdom came, and in the midst of pomp and ceremony the king placed the crown upon the head of his young son, saying, “l am one who can read the future in the stars, and I see that, there will come a time when you will lose your kingdom, but when that time comes you must not be sorrowful; if you can be joyous even when your kingdom is lost, I too will be filled with joy. For you cannot be a true king unless you are a happy man.”
The son became king, appointed governors, and ruled. He was a lover of learning, and in order to fill his court with wise men he let it be known that he would give every man whatever he desired, either gold or glory , in return for his wisdom; than all the people in that kingdom began to seek for knowledge, in order to get gold or glory from the king. And thus it was that the simplest fool in the land was wiser than the greatest sage of any other country; and in their search for learning, the people forgot the study of war, so the country was left open to the enemy.
Among the philosophers in the young king’s court there were clever men and infidels who soon filled his mind with doubt. He would ask himself ,”Who am I; why am I in the world?”. Then he would heave a deep sigh, and fall into melancholy. Only when he would forget this doubt would he again become a happy king; but more often everyday he thought, “Why am I in this world?” , and sighed.
One day the invader came and attacked the unprotected kingdom, and all the people fled. Men and women left their fields and their homes,and the high- ways were filled with carts and wagons, with people on foot carrying infants in their arms. The fleeing people went through a forest, and there it befell that two five-year-old children were lost: a boy and a girl. After all the people had passed, the children heard each other crying. Then they went up to each other and joined hands, and wandered through the forest. Soon they were hungry, but they did not know where they could get food.
Just then they saw a beggar going through the woods, carrying his beggar’s sack. They ran to him and clung to him.”Where do you come from?”, he asked.”We do not know”, the children answered.He gave them bread to eat, and turned to go on his way. They begged him not to leave them alone, but he said,”I cannot take you with me.” Then the children saw that the was blind, and they wondered how he found his way through the forest.But as he was leaving, he blessed them, saying, “May you be as I am, and as old as I am.” Then he left them.
Night came, and the children slept. In the morning they cried again for food: then they saw another beggar. They began to talk to him,but he placed his fingers against his ears and showed them that he was deaf. He gave them bread to eat, enough for the day, and as he went he blessed them, saying, “May you be as I am.”
On the third day when they cried for bread another beggar came, who stammered so that he could not speak to them. He, too, fed the children, but would not take them with him, and as he went away he blessed them with the wish that they might become like himself.
And so each day as they wandered through the forest the children were fed: on the fourth day by a beggar with a crippled throat, then by a hunchback, then by a beggar who had no hands, and at last there came a beggar who had no feet. And each beggar left them with the wish that they might become as he was.
On the eighth day they came out of the forest to a town: they went to a house and asked for food, and as the people saw that they were only little children, they were given food and drink. So the children said to each other, “We will go on like this from one place to another, and we will always remain together”. They made great beggar’s sacks for themselves, for carrying whatever was given them,and they went over the countryside, into the towns, to the fairs,and into the cities. Wherever they went, they sat among the beggars,until they became known to all the poor folk on the roads as the “Two children who were lost in the woods.”
Years passed, the children grew. Once, when all the beggars of the kingdom were assembled at a fair in a great city, a leader among them thought,”Let us marry the children, one to another” He told his companions of this thought, And they told others and when the children were told they said, “Good”. So it was decided to marry them at once. All that was needed was a place for the wedding. Then the mendicants remembered that the king was holding a festival, where food and drink would be provided to all who came. “That will be the wedding feast ” they cried.
The beggars went to the king’s garden and received meat and bread and wine; then they dug a great cave in the ground, large enough to hold a hundred people; they covered the cave with branches and with earth, and they sat up a wedding canopy within the cave. There they made the wedding, and feasted, with eating and dancing and merriment.But the children sat together , and all at once they remembered their days in the forest, and the blind beggar who had been the first to bring them food. And they longed for the blind beggar to be at their wedding.
The Blind Beggar
Just then they heard him call out, “Here I am, I have come to your marriage. And as a wedding gift I bestow upon you the blessing I wished you before: may you live to be as I am, and as old as I am.You must not believe that I am blind; I am not blind at all, but in my sight the entire world is not worth the blink of an eye, and so,as I never look upon the world, I have the appearance of one who is blind. I am very old,” he said, “but I am quite young, and I have not yet begun to live. Nevertheless I am aged, and it is not I alone who say this, but I have the word of the great Eagle. I will tell you the story.
“Once there was a ship sailing on a sea; a great storm came,and the ship was broken, but the people were saved. They climbed toa high tower, and in the tower they found clothing and food and wine and everything that was good. In order to pass the time pleasantly,they said, .Let each of us tell the story of his oldest memory , and we shall see whose memory is longest.”
Aged and young were there. and the first that spoke was the eldest of them all. and he was white with years.” ‘What shall I tell you?’, he said, ‘I even remember when the apple was cut from the bough.’ Though many sages were among them,none understood the meaning of his tale, yet they all agreed that the story was indeed of olden times.”Then the second eldest in years said, as one who wonders and admires, ‘That is truly an ancient tale!I remember that happening, and I even remember the candle that burned.'”Everyone agreed that this was even an older story than the first,and they wondered how a younger man could remember a story of older times; then they asked the third eldest to tell a story in his turn.” ‘ I even remember when the fruit first began to grow ‘ he said,’for then the fruit was only beginning to take form.'” ‘ That is yet a more ancient story,’ all agreed. But the fourth in years spoke: ‘I remember when the seed was brought that was to be planted in the fruit ‘; and the fifth said,’ I remember the sage who thought of the seed’; then the sixth, who was younger still. declared,’I remember the taste of the fruit before the taste went into the fruit ‘; and the seventh said, ‘I remember the odor of the fruit before the fruit had an odor’ ; but the eighth said, ‘ I remember the appearance of the fruit before the fruit could be seen, and I was but a child.’ ”
Then the blind beggar who was telling the story said,”I was the youngest in years among them in the tower and when they had all spoken, I spoke.”I remember all those things, and I remember the thing that is Nothing.'”All who were there agreed that mine was a story of something far, far back. further than all the other happenings, and they wondered at the child whose memory was longer than that of the eldest man.
But there came a beating of wings and a knocking upon the walls of the tower, and we saw great Eagle come.”He cried, ‘You have been poor men long enough, you may return now to your treasures.’And he added, ‘I will take you out of the tower, the eldest first,and so according to your ages’.
Then he took me out first, and the eldest in years he took out last, and when we were all taken out of the tower, the Eagle said to us,’I can explain all the tales that have been told; for he who remembered when the apple was cut from the bough, remembered how at his birth he was cut from his mother;the candle that burned was the babe in the womb, for it is written in gemara* that while the child is in the womb a candle burns over his head; and he that remembers when the fruit began to grow remembers how his limbs first began to form in his mother’s womb;he that recalls the bringing of the seed remembers how he was conceived;and he that knows the wisdom that created the seed, remembers when conception was but in the mind;the taste that preceded the fruit is the memory of Being the scent is Spirit and vision is the Soul but the child that remembers nothing is greater than them all, for he remembers that which existed before Being, Spirit, or Soul; he remembers the life that hovered upon the threshold of eternity.’
Then the Eagle said, ‘Return to your vessels, for they are your bodies that were broken, and they are built again.’He blessed them all, but to me he said, ‘You must come with me, for you are as I am, you are very old, but still young, and you have not yet begun to live.’And so you see that it was from the great Eagle himself that I learned the secret of my age and of my youth: and today I give you this as my gift that you may be as I am, and as old as I am.”
When the blind beggar had spoken there was great joy and merriment among the wedding guests, and the bride and groom were happy.
The Deaf Beggar
On the second day of the seven days of celebration, the bride and groom remembered the second beggar who had fed them in the forest,and they were lonely for the deaf one: but as they thought of him,he called, “Here I am! “.
Andhe came and kissed them, and said, “Today I bequeath upon youas a wedding gift that which I once gave you in blessing: be as Iam, and live a life as good as mine; surely you believe that I amdeaf: I am not deaf at all, but the error of the world is not worthmy hearing, for the world is all error, and the cries of its peopleare but folly, and even their joy is filled with error: what needhave I to hear evil when I lead a life so good and flawless, for see,I have made even the people of the Land of Luxury understand thatthere is nothing in the world so good to eat as bread, and no drinkbetter than water.
“Onceall the people of the Land of Luxury came together and vied with eachother in telling of the ease in which they lived; one man spoke ofthe humming bird’s wings upon which he feasted, and another told ofthe rare wine he drank, and each boasted of a luxury greater thanhis neighbour’s, until I said, ‘I live a life of rarer ease and luxurythan yours!’, They all looked at my beggar’s mantle, and laughed,but I said to them, ‘I know a land where a garden grows that is filledwith trees overladen with marvellous fruits. Once the fruits had everytempting odour and flavour and beauty in the world, and every goodthing that grows was in that garden.
A gardener watched over the trees, and pruned them, and cared fortheir growth; but the gardener has disappeared and cannot be found,there is no one to take care of the trees, and the people live onlyfrom the wild growth of the dropped seed. Even of this, they mighthave lived well; but a tyrant king invaded their land. He did notharm the people, and he did not himself spoil their garden, but heleft behind him three companies of soldiers: one company made thetaste of the garden into bitterness, the other made the odour intostench, and the third made its beauty into clouded darkness.’
“Thenl said to the people of the Land of Luxury, ‘Help the people of thisother kingdom, for the taste, the beauty, and the odour is gone fromtheir fruit, and if you do not help them, the same evil may reachto your land! ‘ So they set out for the spoiled kingdom, but livedin luxury on their journey, until they came close to the garden, andthen the beauty, and the taste, and the delectable odour began togo from their own food, and they did not know what to do.So I gave them some of my bread to eat; and my water to drink, andthey tasted all the riches of their fine foods, and they breathedall the delectable odours, and they saw al1 the beauties of the fruitsin the bread and water that I gave them.
Meanwhile the people of the spoiled kingdom remembered that theirgardener was of one root with the people of the Land of Luxury, sothey decided to send envoys to that kingdom of plenty. The envoysmet on the road with the people from the Land of Luxury, and theytook council together, and sent me first into the spoiled land.
“ThenI went into the city and saw people. assembled in the street; I listenedto them, and heard one whisper to the other, while the other laughedand whispered to a third, and I knew it was filth that they uttered.I went further, and saw people quarrel and go to a court and quarrelagain and go to another court, until the whole city was filled withjudges and bribery; and the city was also filled with lust.
ThenI knew that the invading king had left his three battalions in thecity to spread the three diseases: of filth that had spoiled the tastein their mouth, and bribery that had made their eyes blind, and lustthat was a stench in their nostrils. So I said to them, ‘Let us driveout these strangers; and perhaps the gardener will be found again.’
Then the men from the Land of Luxury , who ate of my bread and water,and were well of sight and scent and hearing, helped me and whereverthey caught one of the soldiers, they drove him from the land.”There was a madman that wandered in the streets and cried continuallythat he was a gardener; everyone laughed at him, and some even threwstones at him. Then I said to them, ‘Perhaps he is really the gardener;bring him to me.’ They brought him, and I saw that he was indeed thegardener. and he was restored to the garden. So the people again knewthe taste of their fruit. and the scent. and the beauty of it; andin reward I was given the good life, and today I bestow it upon you.”Again the wedding guests rejoiced, and the bride and groom were happy.
On the third day the children cried, “What has become of thestammerer! “Then the heavy-tongued beggar came, and embracedthem, and said, “Here I am!”.
In a clear voice he spoke to them. “On that day when we met inthe woods I blessed you with the wish that you might be as I am; andtoday I bestow it upon you as a gift: for look you, you believe thatI am dumb, yet in truth I am not heavy-tongued, but I have no usefor all men’s words except those that are uttered in praise of God,and all other earthly words are not worthy of utterance. Indeed Iam gifted with speech, and can sing so beautifully that there is notone creature in the world, bird or beast, that will not stop to hearmy song.
And I have proof of this from that great man who is called the TrulyGodly Man. For once all the sages of the world came together to provewho was cleverest; the first said, ‘I have brought iron out of theearth’; and the second said, ‘I have found a way to make brass’.;and a third knew how to make tin, and another could make silver, andstill another had discovered gold; then one came who had made gunsand cannon for war, and yet another had discovered how to make gun-powder.
But one said, ‘I am wiser than all of you, for I am as wise as theday’. They did not understand him, and so he said, ‘If all of yourwisdom were taken together it would not make a single hour, for oneof you takes things out of the earth and mixes them together to makepowder, and another takes iron out of the earth, and another brass,but all of your silver, and iron, and brass, and gold is taken outof the earth that God made in a day, and all of the things that youtake out, if put together, would not make a single hour of that day;while I, I am as wise as the entire day!’
“ThenI asked him, ‘What day?’ And he tumed to me and said, ‘No matter whichday it may be. you are wiser than I, for you have asked. “Whatday?” ‘
“And I explained my wisdom to them, saying. “You must knowthat time does not exist of itself and that days are made only ofgood deeds. It is through men who perform good deeds that days areborn, and so time is born; and I am he who goes all about the worldto find those men who secretly do good deeds: I bring their deedsto the great man who is known as the Truly Godly Man, and he turnsthem into time; then time is born, and there are days and years.
“And this is the life of the world: At the far end of the worldthere is a mountain, on the mountain top is a rock, and a fountainof water gushes from the rock.This you know: that everything in the world possesses a heart, andthe world itself has a great heart.The heart of the world is complete, for it has a face, and hands,and breasts, and toes, and the littlest toe of the world’s heart ismore worthy than any human heart.So at one end of the earth there is the fountain that flows from therock on the mountain top, and at the other end is the earth’s heart.And the heart desires the mountain spring; it remains in its placefar at the other end of the earth, but it is filled with an unutterablelonging, it burns with an endless desire for the distant fountainof water.
In the day, the sun is like a b1azing whip upon the heart, becauseof its longing for the spring; but when the heart is utterly weakfrom the punishment of the sun, a great bird comes and spreads itswings and gives the heart rest.But even while it rests, it longs for the mountain spring, and itlooks toward the peak of the mountain, for if it were to lose sightof the spring for but one instant the heart would cease to live.
“Because of its great longing, it sometimes tries to go to thefountain, but if it goes nearer to the foot of the mountain it canno longer see the spring on the top of the mountain, and so it mustremain far away, for only from a distance may a mountain peak be seen.And if it were for an instant to lose sight of the spring, the heartwould die, and then all the world would die, for the life of the worldand everything in it is in the life of its heart.
“So the heart remains longing at the other end of the earth,longing for the spring that cannot come toward it, for the springhas no share in Time, but lives on a mountain peak far above the timethat is on earth.And the mountain spring could not be of the earth at all, since ithas no share in the earth’s time but for the earth’s heart, whichgives the spring its day.
And as the day draws to its close, and time is ended, the heart becomesdark with grief, for when the day is done the mountain spring willbe gone from the earth, and then the earth’s heart will die of longing,and when the heart is dead all the earth and all the creatures uponthe earth will die.
“And so, as the day draws to a close, the heart begins to singfarewell to the fountain; it sings its
grief in wildly beautiful melody, and the mountain spring sings farewellto the heart, and their songs are filled with love and eternal longing.
But the Truly Godly Man keeps watch over them, and in that last momentbefore the day is done, and the spring is gone, and the heart is dead,and the world is ended, the good man comes and gives a new day tothe heart; then the heart gives the day to the spring, and so theylive again.
As the day comes, it is brought with melody, and with strangely beautifulwords that contain all wisdom; for there are differences between thedays, there are Sabbaths and Mondays, and there are holidays, anddays of the first of the month; and each day comes with its own song.
“A11these days that the Godly man gives to the heart of the world he hasthrough me, for it is I who go about the world to find the men whodo good deeds, and it is from their deeds that time is born, for eachdeed becomes a melody in my mouth, and from the melody the Godly manmakes a day, and the day is given to the heart, and she sings it tothe fountain.
Therefore I am wiser than the sage who said he had the wisdom of anentire day, for from the Truly Godly Man I have a gift enabling meto sing the songs and know the wisdom of all the days on earth.And today I bestow upon you, as a wedding gift, the power to be asI am.” At once there was joy among them, and the beggars allsang together .
Sothey ended that day with joy.
The Beggar with the Twisted Throat
Buton the fourth day the children longed for the beggar with the twistedthroat, and he came and said”I am here! Once before I blessed you that you might be as Iam, and today I bestow upon you this wedding gift: be as I am!
“Youbelieve that I have a twisted throat, but see, my throat is reallybeautiful and straight, but there are foolish and evil things in thisworld, and I would not have any of them come into me through my throat,therefore my throat seems twisted.It is really clear and beautiful, and I have a voice that is wonderfulin song, for through my throat I can imitate the call and the songof every creature that lives! I have this power from the land of melody,for there is a land where everyone, from the king to the smallestchild, is wondrously skilled in music; some play the harp, othersthe violin, and some p1ay many instruments.
“Once,all of their greatest musicians came together, and each began to boastof his skill: one could play upon a harp, another upon a violin, andstill another could play upon a harp and a violin, while there wasone who said he could play upon every musical instrument; then a mandeclared that he could imitate the sound of a harp with his voice,and another could imitate the sound of violins, one could imitatea drum, and still another could make a noise like a cannon.
I too was there, and I said, ‘My voice is more wonderful than allyour voices. For if you are such great musicians, can you bring helpto the suffering nations?’ And I told them, ‘There are two peopleswhose countries lie a thousand miles apart, and when night comes overthose lands the people cannot sleep.
For with night, there comes a strange moaning and wailing, so drear,so heart-weary , that the very stones groan and weep. And when thepeople hear this sound, they too must begin to moan and weep; everynight all the men and women, and even the children of these countrieslie awake moaning and weeping with the sorrow that is over them. Andyou, who are so skilled in music, can you help those people?’
“Thenthey asked me, ‘Will you lead us there?’. And I said, ‘Yes!’ So theyall arose and I led them.We came to one of the countries, and at night we heard the strangemoaning; then even the sages from the land of melody wept and moaned,but they could do nothing.
” ‘Can you tell me,’ I said to them, ‘where this sound comesfrom? ‘ “” ‘ And do you know? ‘ they asked.” ‘I know. For there were two beautiful birds that had matedtogether, and they were the only two of their kind. But once theywere lost, one from the other, and they flew everywhere, each seekingits mate, until they became weary , and their hope was gone from them,for they knew they were far from each other.
Each settled alone where it was; one built his nest in his land, andthe other built her nest where she was a thousand miles away; nowwhen night comes the two birds begin to lament, each for the other,and it is their moaning lament that the people hear, and they toomust keen with the birds, until there is no rest for them at night.’
“The sages would not believe me, but said, ‘Can you take us tothe bird’s place?’I said, ‘I can take you there, but you will not be able to bear theweight of it by night or by day, for at night the 1ament is so greatthat you may not come near it, and during the day flocks of birdscome to her and to him. to cheer them in their loneliness, and allthe birds sing merrily until the joy is so great as to be unbearable:this joy cannot be heard from afar, but if you come near it, you willsuccumb’.
Thenthe sages asked, ‘Can you right this thing? ‘ And I told them thatI could make my voice like the voice of any living being, and thatI also could send my voice to all places on earth, so that it mightnot be heard where I stood, but would be heard far away.”I said to the wise men, ‘Will you go with me to a place thatis neither in one land or the other, but lies between them? For fromthat place I will send my voice with the sound of her voice to him,and I will send my voice with the sound of his voice to her, so thateach will hear the other’s voice, they will listen, and tremble, andrise and spread their wings and fly toward the place of the voice,and so they will meet together where I stand.’
“Then I led them to a place that lay between the two countries; theplace was in a forest, and the ground was covered with snow. I stoodand sang, but the men could hear no sound come from me.Only they heard the sound of a door opening and closing, and theyheard the sound of a gun, and they heard the barking of a hound asit ran over the snow for the kill. Yet they saw nothing. But I hadsent my voices, and soon there were two pair of wings above us.
Then the men from the land of melody understood how I had broughtthe two birds together, and they agreed that mine was the most wonderfulvoice of all, for I could send it wherever I chose; and so to- dayI bestow upon you this gift: that you may be as I am.”
Hefinished speaking, and all the beggars made merry, and sang.
Onthe fifth day the children, in the midst of merriment, sighed, “If the hunchback were only here ” And there he stood, and said,” I have come to your wedding, my children. And do you rememberhow I blessed you that you might be as I am? Today I bestow my wishupon you as a wedding gift: be as I am.
It seems to you that I am a hunchback, but indeed my shoulders arewide and straight and strong, and I have proof of this from the landwhere people once came together to see who could bear the heaviestburden upon the slightest support; then one said, ‘The top of my headis a small enough place and yet I carry myriads of creatures, withall their needs upon it’.But they made sport of him, while another man said, ‘You are likea creature I once saw: I thought he sat by a mountain, but when Icame near I knew that it was a mountain of refuse that he had thrownout of himself ‘
Then a third man said, ‘ I know of a smal1 place that bears a burdengreater than itself, for I have an orchard where fruit trees grow,and the fruit on the trees could many times cover the earth out ofwhich the trees grow.'” Many people said, ‘That is indeed a great thing come out ofa little thing,’ but another man declared, ‘ I have a tiny gardenso beautiful that princes and kings come to walk in it; then my gardenis only a smal1 place, but it has borne up the weight of a kingdom’.” Still another spoke, saying: ‘ My speech is a slender supportthat bears great burdens, for I am a minister to a king; I hear thecomplaints and the praises, the petitions and supplications of al1his subjects; al1 these utterances are taken within me, and my wordbears them to the king’.
“But a fifth man answered him: ‘ My silence is less and yet greaterthan your word. for there are torrents of accusation against me. andcurses, and foul names, but my only reply is silence, and my silencebears up against all the cries of my enemies: my silence is a littlething. and yet it withstands a great storm’.
“Then another contender spoke: he was hidden. because he was small,but he said: ‘ I am a little man, and yet I bear up a great burden:for I know a needy one who is far taller than myself, and though heis a Greater Light he cannot find his way! I lead him. and were itnot for me he might fall. and lose his path.’
“I, too, was there, and I said, ‘ It is true that some among you have the power of bearing up great burdens, for I have understood all that you have said, even to the last of you, who spoke of leading a Greater Light for the little man is greater than the greatest of you. since it is the wheel of the moon that he speaks of, for the moon is called a Greater Light and a Blind Light since her light is not her own,and though he is a little man he leads the great wheel of the moon through the heavens. and his deed is a help to all the world, for the world has need of the moon.
Nevertheless, in me there is a support that is smaller and bears weightier burdens than any of these: for you know that every beast in the world has his favorite tree whose shadow is pleasant to him, and there he makes his place: and every bird has his favorite bough, and there he sits: hut once it was asked, is there not a tree in the world in whose shade all beasts might linger. and upon whose boughs all birds might rest? It was answered, there is such a tree!And it is indeed a pleasant tree, for all the beasts of the earth are assembled in its shade, they lie happily together, yet there is no preying of one upon the other; and all the birds sing in the boughs of the tree. Then my people cried, ‘How can we find that tree? ‘ And one wanted to go to the east, and another to the south, so that they became all confused.But a wise man said, ‘Why do you quarrel over the way? First, know whether you can come to the tree at all, for the tree has three roots:the first is Belief, the second is Fear of God, and the third is Poverty;and the trunk of the tree is Truth. Only those who possess these things can approach the tree.
“The people asked among themselves, but not many of them possessed the three qualities that are Belief, and Fear, and Poverty; those few might go, but they would not go and leave the others behind. ‘We are one people,’ they said, ‘ and all of us must go, or none: So they waited, and labored amongst themselves, that all the people might possess the three needed qualities.
And when all had Belief, and Fear, and Poverty, they found that they were agreed on the one way to go to the tree; they went for a long time,and then they saw the tree, and they saw the hunchback and the tree of life that it did not stand on any place at all! And since it did not stand anywhere, how might they come to it?
“But I”, the hunchback said, ” was there among them, and I said,’I can take you to that place. For the tree is not of this earth,but of a place higher than this earth. See, upon my back I have a little place where great burdens may be borne: it is a tiny thing that is on the very edge of this world, where a higher world begins,and so, upon my little hump, one may go from this world to the world that is higher than here.’
Then I carried them all upon my hump, from the earth to the tree that stood above the earth, and so you see that I carried a great burden upon a small support. For when I brought them to the tree they said, ‘You are indeed the master of us all, for upon the smallest place you have borne the greatest burden.’ And thus I have their word for my deeds,for upon my back I carry all the ills and the woes and the sins of the people of the world. And now I bestow my gift upon you, that you may be as I am.”
The Man with the Withered Hands
Then they were merry, but on the sixth day they remembered the beggar whose hands were withered, and they longed for him. Then he came and said,” Here I am, ” and he embraced the children, and gave them his gift.
“In the forest I blessed you, that you might be as I am, and today I bestow that upon you as a wedding gift: be as I am. You believe that I cannot use my hands,” he said, “but indeed my hands are strong, only there is nothing in the world worth their use, and I save their strength for other deeds. See, I have proof of their strength from the Palace of Water.
“There was a princess who was ill, and many people came together, each boasting that he had the power to heal her in his hands. One said, ‘I have such a power in my hands that when I shoot an arrow I can seize it and bring it back’. Then I said to him, ‘What sort of arrows can you bring back? For there are ten kinds of arrows, since there are ten sorts of poison that may be put upon arrows, and one is stronger than the other’ And again I asked him, .Can you draw back the arrow only while it is still in its flight, or can you draw it back even after it has stricken its victim?’.”He answered, ‘I can draw it back even after it has stricken its victim; but it is only the first kind of arrow that I can drawback.'”‘If you can only draw back the first kind of arrow, ‘ I said to him, ‘you cannot heal the princess!’
“Another man was there who said he had such a power in his hands that when ever he took something from someone, instead of taking, he gave. Then I knew he was a master of Good, and I said, ‘What sort of Good do you give?’.”‘ The tenth sort,’ he told me. So I said, ‘ You cannot heal the princess, for you could never come to her chamber; she is surrounded by ten walls, and you can only pass through the first of them.’
“A man was there who said he had such a power in his hands that he gave wisdom to whomever he touched, and it was he who had given wisdom to all the sages of the world: but I said to him, ‘There are ten degrees of wisdom, and which sort of wisdom can you give?’He could give only one of the ten, then I said, ‘You cannot heal the princess, for you could never find out her pain: there are ten degrees of pain, and you know only one, for you can give only one sort of wisdom with your hands.’
“Another was there, who said, ‘ I have so great a power in my hands that I can catch a stormy wind as it flies, and hold it, and let it out as a gentle wind or strong, however I desire.’ But I said to him, ‘There are ten winds, and which wind can you catch? ‘ .”‘ The whirlwind ‘ he answered. Then I told him,’ you cannot heal the princess, for you know the melody of only a single wind, and there are ten winds, and each wind has a melody,and the princess may be healed only through song.’
“Then they cried to me, ‘What sort of power have you in your hands? ‘ And I told them, ‘All the nine parts of each of the things you cannot do, I can do:
“And this is the story: There was a king who fell in love with a princess,and he called sorcerers and made magic spells over her until he caught her in his love and brought her to his palace. But once at night he dreamed that the princess arose from her bed and murdered him. The king was terribly frightened; he called all his sages to him and asked them the meaning of his dream. They told him,
‘The dream is true. As you dreamed, so it will happen.’ At this, he did not know what to do. He could not kill the princess, for he loved her; and he could not send her away, for he had suffered so much for her, and if he sent her away someone else would have her, and if she went to someone else she might return to do what she had done in his dream; yet he was afraid to keep her by him.
The king did not know what to do, so he did nothing; and as the days passed his love for the princess waned, for he thought of her always as the murderess in his dream; and as his love waned the spell fell from the princess, and her love waned, until it became hatred, and she hated the king.Then she ran from the palace; but he sent out searchers to find her.The searchers returned and said, ‘We have seen her wandering near the Palace of Water.”For the king had a palace that was the most wonderful of all places on earth: it was built entirely of water! The walls of the palace were of clear water, they stood and glimmered in the sun; the earth upon which the palace stood was deep water, and the gardens about the palace were of water, and they were filled with all manner of fruits and flowers. luscious and gold and green, all liquid as the sea. The palace and its garden were surrounded by ten watery walls;no man might come into that place, for surely he would be drowned.
“When the guards told the king that they had seen the princess wandering near the walls of water, he cried. ‘We will catch her there!’ and the king went out with his men to pursue the princess. But as she saw them coming, she was seized with terror, she thought she would rather die than be taken by them again; she looked at the walls and thought, ‘ perhaps I can even pass through the walls and reach the palace!’ Then she ran into the water.
“As the king saw her run into the water, he cried. ‘My dream was true!She is a sorceress!’And he shouted to his men. ‘ Kill her!’They shot their arrows after her, and each of the ten arrows struck the princess, and upon each arrow was another of the ten poisons.But she found the gates beneath the watery walls, and she passed through the ten walls. and fell within the palace, and there she lies in a swoon.
“Only I can heal her, for only he who has the ten virtues in his hands can pass through the ten walls of water. And when the king and his men sought to run after her, they all were drowned in the sea.
“But under the walls of water are the ten winds, and each wind blows beneath the sea and raises the waters up into a wall, and while the wind remains under the ocean the water remains on high; but I can seize the ten winds, and I can pass through the ten walls of water,and I can go into the palace and draw the ten poisoned arrows from the princess; and I can heal her ten wounds with my ten fingers, for through ten melodies she may be healed entirely.
“And then they understood that I might truly heal the princess, they agreed that the greatest power was in my hands, and now I bestow that power upon you, my children!”
There was joy greater than ever before, all that day until the next day,and then they longed for the coming of the legless beggar.But now the story is heavy to tell, for every word in it is burdened with meaning; and whoever is filled with the knowledge of the book of mysteries may understand, for the meaning of the arrows that could be drawn back, is written in its passages, and the meaning of the virtue that could stand against the walls of water is in the lines:’ And their righteousness is as the waves of the sea! ‘and the ten sorts of wounds, and the ten healing melodies are also written in the Zohar .
But of the last beggar, who did not have the use of his feet, what maybe told?For in his story is the end of the beginning, and of the tale of the young prince who asked,” Who am I, and why am I in the world? ” and who sighed when he was told to be joyous.For with the coming of the seventh beggar, there will come the answer, but that may not be revealed, and cannot be revealed,and will not be known until Messiah comes. May he come soon, and in our day.