THE TALE OF THE SEVEN BEGGARS
seven beggars (illustrations by Moreen Greenberg from Safed
WHO BROUGHT GIFTS TO THE BEGGAR BRIDE AND
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
wil1 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 knowl- edge, 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
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 every day he
thought, "Why am I in this world?" , and sighed.
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.
then they saw a beggar going through the woods, carrying his
beggar's sack. They ran to him and clung to him.
do you come from?", he asked.
"We do not know", the
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 he 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
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 p1ace 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
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.
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
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 to a
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 tel1 the story of his
oldest memory , and we shall see whose memory is
Aged and young were there. and the first that
spoke was the eldest of them all. and he was white with
" 'What shall I teIl 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
"Then the second eldest in yean said, as one who
wonders and admires, 'That is truly an ancient tale!
I remember that happening, and I even remember the candle that
"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
yean 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 odour of the fruit before the fruit had an
odour' ; but the eighth said, ' I remember the appearance of
the fruit before the fruit could be seen, and I was but a
Then the blind beggar who was telling the story
"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
"All who were there agreed that mine was a
story of something far, far back. further than a1l 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
"He cried, 'You have been poor men long enough, you
may return now to your treasures.'
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;
that remembers when the fruit began to grow remembers how his
limbs first began to form in his mother's womb;
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
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.
* gemara = part of the Talmud
The deaf beggar
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! ".
And he came and kissed them, and said, "Today I
bequeath upon you as a wedding gift that which I once gave
you in blessing: be as I am, and live a life as good as
mine; surely you believe that I am deaf: I am not deaf at
all, but the error of the world is not worth my hearing, for
the world is all error, and the cries of its people are but
folly, and even their joy is filled with error: what need
have 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
that there is nothing in the world so good to eat as bread,
and no drink better than water.
"Once all the people of the Land of Luxury came
together and vied with each other in telling of the ease in
which they lived; one man spoke of the humming bird's wings
upon which he feasted, and another told of the rare wine he
drank, and each boasted of a luxury greater than his
neighbour's, until I said, 'I live a life of rarer ease and luxury
than 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 filled with trees overladen with marvellous fruits. Once
the fruits had every tempting odour and flavour and beauty
in the world, and every good thing that grows was in that
A gardener watched over the trees, and pruned
them, and cared for their growth; but the gardener has
disappeared and cannot be found, there is no one to take
care of the trees, and the people live only from the wild
growth of the dropped seed. Even of this, they might have
lived well; but a tyrant king invaded their land. He did not
harm the people, and he did not himself spoil their garden, but he
left behind him three companies of soldiers: one company made the
taste of the garden into bitterness, the other made the odour
into stench, and the third made its beauty into clouded
"Then l said to the people of the Land of Luxury,
'Help the people of this other kingdom, for the taste, the
beauty, and the odour is gone from their fruit, and if you
do not help them, the same evil may reach to your land! ' So
they set out for the spoiled kingdom, but lived in luxury on
their journey, until they came close to the garden, and then
the beauty, and the taste, and the delectable odour began to
go 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, and
they tasted all the riches of their fine foods, and they breathed
all the delectable odours, and they saw al1 the beauties of
the fruits in the bread and water that I gave
Meanwhile the people of the spoiled kingdom
remembered that their gardener was of one root with the
people of the Land of Luxury, so they decided to send envoys
to that kingdom of plenty. The envoys met on the road with
the people from the Land of Luxury, and they took council
together, and sent me first into the spoiled land.
"Then I went into the city and saw people.
assembled in the street; I listened to them, and heard one
whisper to the other, while the other laughed and 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 quarrel
again and go to another court, until the whole city was filled
with judges and bribery; and the city was also filled with
Then I knew that the invading king had left his
three battalions in the city to spread the three diseases:
of filth that had spoiled the taste in their mouth, and
bribery that had made their eyes blind, and lust that was a
stench in their nostrils. So I said to them, 'Let us drive
out these strangers; and perhaps the gardener will be found
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 wherever they caught one of the
soldiers, they drove him from the land.
"There was a
madman that wandered in the streets and cried continually
that he was a gardener; everyone laughed at him, and some even threw
stones 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 the gardener. and he was restored to the
garden. So the people again knew the taste of their fruit.
and the scent. and the beauty of it; and in 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
third day the children cried, "What has become of the
stammerer! "Then the heavy-tongued beggar came, and embraced
them, and said, "Here I am!".
In a clear voice he spoke to them. "On that day
when we met in the woods I blessed you with the wish that
you might be as I am; and today I bestow it upon you as a
gift: for look you, you believe that I am dumb, yet in truth
I am not heavy-tongued, but I have no use for all men's
words except those that are uttered in praise of God, and
all other earthly words are not worthy of utterance. Indeed I
am gifted with speech, and can sing so beautifully that there is not
one creature in the world, bird or beast, that will not stop to
hear my song.
And I have proof of this from that great man who
is called the Truly Godly Man. For once all the sages of the
world came together to prove who was cleverest; the first
said, 'I have brought iron out of the earth'; 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, and still
another had discovered gold; then one came who had made guns
and cannon for war, and yet another had discovered how to make
But one said, 'I am wiser than all of you, for I
am as wise as the day'. They did not understand him, and so
he said, 'If all of your wisdom were taken together it would
not make a single hour, for one of you takes things out of
the earth and mixes them together to make powder, and
another takes iron out of the earth, and another brass, but
all of your silver, and iron, and brass, and gold is taken out
of the earth that God made in a day, and all of the things that you
take out, if put together, would not make a single hour of that
day; while I, I am as wise as the entire
"Then I asked him, 'What day?' And he tumed to me
and said, 'No matter which day it may be. you are wiser than
I, for you have asked. "What day?" '
I explained my wisdom to them, saying. "You must know that
time does not exist of itself and that days are made only of
good deeds. It is through men who perform good deeds that days are
born, and so time is born; and I am he who goes all about the
world to find those men who secretly do good deeds: I bring
their deeds to the great man who is known as the Truly Godly
Man, and he turns them 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 world there is a mountain,
on the mountain top is a rock, and a fountain of water
gushes from the rock.
This you know: that everything in
the world possesses a heart, and the world itself has a
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 is more worthy than any
So at one end of the earth there is the
fountain that flows from the rock 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 place far at the
other end of the earth, but it is filled with an unutterable
longing, it burns with an endless desire for the distant fountain
In the day, the sun is like a b1azing
whip upon the heart, because of its longing for the spring;
but when the heart is utterly weak from the punishment of
the sun, a great bird comes and spreads its wings and gives
the heart rest.
But even while it rests, it longs for the
mountain spring, and it looks toward the peak of the
mountain, for if it were to lose sight of the spring for but
one instant the heart would cease to live.
of its great longing, it sometimes tries to go to the
fountain, but if it goes nearer to the foot of the mountain it can
no longer see the spring on the top of the mountain, and so it
must remain 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 heart would die, and then all the
world would die, for the life of the world and 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 spring has no
share in Time, but lives on a mountain peak far above the time
that is on earth.
And the mountain spring could not be
of the earth at all, since it has no share in the earth's
time but for the earth's heart, which gives the spring its
And as the day draws to its close, and time is
ended, the heart becomes dark with grief, for when the day
is done the mountain spring will be 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 upon the
earth will die.
"And so, as the day draws to a close,
the heart begins to sing farewell to the fountain; it sings
grief in wildly beautiful melody, and the
mountain spring sings farewell to the heart, and their songs
are filled with love and eternal longing.
Truly Godly Man keeps watch over them, and in that last moment
before 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 to the heart; then the heart gives the day to the
spring, and so they live again.
As the day comes, it is brought with melody, and
with strangely beautiful words that contain all wisdom; for
there are differences between the days, there are Sabbaths
and Mondays, and there are holidays, and days of the first
of the month; and each day comes with its own song.
"A11 these days that the Godly man gives to the
heart of the world he has through me, for it is I who go
about the world to find the men who do good deeds, and it is
from their deeds that time is born, for each deed becomes a
melody in my mouth, and from the melody the Godly man makes
a day, and the day is given to the heart, and she sings it to
Therefore I am wiser than the sage who said he had
the wisdom of an entire day, for from the Truly Godly Man I
have a gift enabling me to 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 as I am." At once
there was joy among them, and the beggars all sang together
So they ended that day with joy.
The beggar with the twisted
But on the fourth day the children longed for the
beggar with the twisted throat, and he came and said
"I am here! Once before I blessed you that you might be as I
am, and today I bestow upon you this wedding gift: be as I
"You believe that I have a twisted throat, but see,
my throat is really beautiful and straight, but there are
foolish and evil things in this world, 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 wonderful in song, for through my
throat I can imitate the call and the song of 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 smallest
child, is wondrously skilled in music; some play the harp, others
the violin, and some p1ay many instruments.
"Once, all of their greatest musicians came
together, and each began to boast of his skill: one could
play upon a harp, another upon a violin, and still another
could play upon a harp and a violin, while there was one who
said he could play upon every musical instrument; then a man
declared that he could imitate the sound of a harp with his voice,
and another could imitate the sound of violins, one could imitate
a drum, and still another could make a noise like a
I too was there, and I said, 'My voice is more
wonderful than all your voices. For if you are such great
musicians, can you bring help to the suffering nations?' And
I told them, 'There are two peoples whose countries lie a
thousand miles apart, and when night comes over those 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 the people hear this sound, they
too must begin to moan and weep; every night all the men and
women, and even the children of these countries lie awake
moaning and weeping with the sorrow that is over them. And
you, who are so skilled in music, can you help those people?'
"Then they asked me, 'Will you lead us there?'. And
I said, 'Yes!' So they all arose and I led them.
We came to one of the countries, and at night we heard the strange
moaning; then even the sages from the land of melody wept and
moaned, but they could do nothing.
you tell me,' I said to them, 'where this sound comes from?
" ' And do you know? ' they asked.
'I know. For there were two beautiful birds that had mated
together, and they were the only two of their kind. But once they
were lost, one from the other, and they flew everywhere, each
seeking its mate, until they became weary , and their hope
was gone from them, for they knew they were far from each
Each settled alone where it was; one built
his nest in his land, and the other built her nest where she
was a thousand miles away; now when night comes the two
birds begin to lament, each for the other, and it is their
moaning lament that the people hear, and they too must 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 to
the bird's place?'
I said, 'I can take you there,
but you will not be able to bear the weight of it by night
or by day, for at night the 1ament is so great that you may
not come near it, and during the day flocks of birds come to
her and to him. to cheer them in their loneliness, and all
the 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 will succumb'.
Then the sages asked, 'Can you right this thing? '
And I told them that I could make my voice like the voice of
any living being, and that I also could send my voice to all
places on earth, so that it might not 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 that is neither in one
land or the other, but lies between them? For from that
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 that
each will hear the other's voice, they will listen, and
tremble, and rise and spread their wings and fly toward the
place of the voice, and so they will meet together where I
" Then I led them to a place that lay between the
two countries; the place was in a forest, and the ground was
covered with snow. I stood and sang, but the men could hear
no sound come from me.
Only they heard the sound of a
door opening and closing, and they heard the sound of a gun,
and they heard the barking of a hound as it ran over the
snow for the kill. Yet they saw nothing. But I had sent my
voices, and soon there were two pair of wings above us.
the twisted throat calling the birds
Then the men from the land of melody understood
how I had brought the two birds together, and they agreed
that mine was the most wonderful voice of all, for I could
send it wherever I chose; and so to- day I bestow upon you
this gift: that you may be as I am."
He finished speaking, and all the beggars made
merry, and sang.
On the 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 remember how I blessed you that you
might be as I am? Today I bestow my wish upon you as a
wedding gift: be as I am.
It seems to you that I am a hunchback, but indeed
my shoulders are wide and straight and strong, and I have
proof of this from the land where people once came together
to see who could bear the heaviest burden upon the slightest
support; then one said, 'The top of my head is a small
enough place and yet I carry myriads of creatures, with all
their needs upon it'.
But they made sport of him, while
another man said, 'You are like a creature I once saw: I
thought he sat by a mountain, but when I came near I knew
that it was a mountain of refuse that he had thrown out of
Then a third man said, ' I know of a smal1 place
that bears a burden greater than itself, for I have an
orchard where fruit trees grow, and the fruit on the trees
could many times cover the earth out of which the trees
" Many people said, 'That is indeed a great thing
come out of a little thing,' but another man declared, ' I
have a tiny garden so beautiful that princes and kings come
to walk in it; then my garden is only a smal1 place, but it
has borne up the weight of a kingdom'.
" Still another
spoke, saying: ' My speech is a slender support that bears
great burdens, for I am a minister to a king; I hear the
complaints and the praises, the petitions and supplications of al1
his subjects; al1 these utterances are taken within me, and my
word bears them to the king'.
" But a fifth man answered him: ' My silence is
less and yet greater than your word. for there are torrents
of accusation against me. and curses, and foul names, but my
only reply is silence, and my silence bears up against all
the cries of my enemies: my silence is a little thing. 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 he is a Greater Light he
cannot find his way! I lead him. and were it not 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 favourite
tree whose shadow is pleasant to him, and there he makes his
place: and every bird bas his favourite 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
laboured 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,
they saw the tree, and they
saw the hunchback and the
tree of life
that it did not stand on any place
And since it did not
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
"'If you can only draw back the
first kind of arrow, ' I said to him, 'you cannot heal the
"Another man was there who said he had such a power
in his hands that whenever 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 bas 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
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
"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!'
he shouted to his men. ' KiIl 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 wal1s 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
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 may be 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
and will not be known until Mes-
siah comes. May he come
soon, and in
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