Not to Worry: Jewish Wisdom and Folklore

By Michele Klein | Go to book overview

2 Coping Strategies

“Do not worry about tomorrow because you don’t even know what may happen to you today,” advises the Talmud (B. Yevamot 63b). This teaching assumes that we can stop ourselves worrying and should do so.

Toward the end of the fourteenth century, the son of a certain Shmuel Levi wrote his autobiography. Aged thirty-three and apparently sensing that his life was ending, the Ashkenazic Jew began his account when he was sent as a boy from his home in Dürren to study in Mainz in 1370. Three months after arriving in Mainz, he received the news that his father was seriously ill and about to die. After three days of travel on his long trip home, some highwaymen captured him. A wealthy relative living in the vicinity paid a redemption fee for the boy’s release, but by the time he reached home, his father had died. A year later, the boy joined the army of a duke who was at war with another noble. When he returned, he enraged his mother for some reason, and left home again. Although only fifteen, he soon asked to marry a girl whom he had chosen, but the local community did not approve, and he left to study in another town. He later married another girl and settled in a town near Dürren with his new wife. In 1378, the wealthy cousin who had redeemed him as a teenager was arrested and killed. The following day, the young husband was arrested, together with his mother and two sisters, and all their possessions were confiscated. They were eventually released from prison, and his sisters died three years later. For a while, he gained a meager

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