What Really Caused World War I
TOLD BY ELIMELEKH FAYGENBOYM TO YIFRAḤ ḤAVIV
The Holy One, Blessed Be He, is sitting in Heaven, surrounded by the heavenly host, discussing the affairs of the world.
The accusing angel appears and delivers an indictment: "The world is not good. Sinners, transgressors, as usual."
Counters the defender: "That's not true. That's not how it is. That's not how it is."
Their debate heats up.
One jumps up to oppose the accusing angel. "Have you been there?" he calls.
"Have you seen it with your own eyes?"
"If so, go down and see it with your own eyes."
"All right," says the accusing angel.
He puts on a bekeshe and a kapote* (which is how people dress in Galicia) and goes down to Berdichev, a famous Jewish town. It's winter, rain and wind and cold and darkness, very early in the morning.
The accusing angel turns round and round, looking for shelter. Then he sees, far away, a light twinkling. He goes there and opens the door, and sees Jews sitting and learning: one is studying halakhah** another is reciting Psalms. It will soon be morning light, and one Jew goes up to the lectern to lead the morning service.
The accusing angel tells himself, "In matters between man and God, everything is in order. Those who wear a§ and have beards pray and observe the commandments. But what about relations among human beings?"
He went out and observed, during the course of the day, that those
*Both words refer to a long coat; a bekeshe is lined with fur.