Only Yesterday

By S. Y. Agnon; Barbara Harshav | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOURTEEN
Stray Dog

1

Once, Isaac was working in the neighborhood of Rehovoth, called the Bukharan quarter. A rich landlord of Bukhara ascended from his hometown to Jerusalem to pray to God in the holy places and to prostrate himself on the graves of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs beloved of God, cherished by the Almighty. When the time came for him to return to his place, he was brokenhearted to leave Jerusalem the Holy City, for all who leave seem to fall into Hell. But his business in his hometown was extensive and his wife and his sons and his daughters urged him to return. He said to himself, I just came here and I already have to leave. I'm like a bird flying off into the air, when he flies his shadow flies with him. He delayed his journey from ship to ship and lingered a little bit more and a little bit more, and at night sleep wouldn't come because of his grief at having to leave here. Heaven took pity on him and planted in his heart the idea of making himself a memorial to the Lord. And since the Holy-One-BlessedBe-He loves the poor, he considered building a house for the poor. He built a stone house and put up a marble tablet in it, that the house was for the poor and must not be sold or redeemed until the coming of the Redeemer. And as Isaac Kumer became famous as an expert artisan and his colors are never wiped out, he commissioned him to paint the tablet with exquisite and handsome colors. And he didn't haggle with him, so he would do good work and not stint on the paint. Isaac took his brush and embellished the tablet with his colors. The name of the donor he painted in gold and the words of the ban in red and the poor in black, and each of the other words had its own color, until the tablet rejoiced in its hues.

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