Only Yesterday

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

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN
Encounter on the Road

1

Balak sat wherever it was he sat and laughed at the woes of the children of Israel. Meanwhile, the day began to grow dark. He recalled where he wanted to go and recalled all those calamities that came upon him from there. He thrust his feet into the ground and folded himself and lay back down and shrank up, and it looked as if he wouldn't budge from here. Suddenly, his ears pricked up and he started sniffing and spinning his tail like half of a wagon wheel and he stood up and went away. And where did he go? To a place we doubted he'd go. And since he knew that the place was a place of danger, why did he go there, for it is forbidden to get yourself into mortal danger, but just then, he saw Reb Grunam May-SalvationArise, and Reb Grunam's cloak was dragging below his feet. He stuck to him and hid in the hem of the cloak and went in with him, and folks didn't notice that a dog was walking with Reb Grunam.

And when Meah Shearim saw Reb Grunam, they began running toward him, for everyone is eager for words of ethics and they love chastisement. They showed him love and affection and asked him to preach. Reb Grunam shrugged, one eye turned down to hint to the Holy One how meek was that man, and one eye turned to see how many are those who wanted to hear him. At last, he raised both his eyes to heaven to tell the Holy One that we are far from boasting and preaching in public, but since a Commandment has come to us to be fulfilled, to bring human beings back to repentance of course it is desirable for the Almighty that we preach. He turned to the crowd and said, Bring me a bench out to the courtyard of the big synagogue. Perhaps I'll say a word or two.

-318-

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