Only Yesterday

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

CHAPTER FIVE
Over a Cup of Tea

1

One day, Isaac found Hemdat sitting at Sweet Foot's place. Hemdat doesn't have anything to do and doesn't do anything. As long as he was Outside the Land and his heart was in the Land of Israel, he composed poems; now that he lives in the Land of Israel, what shall he do? Would he compose poems about the longings he once had?

But that is not why he was idle, but because if he would write, it seemed to him that this thing he wants to write would be his final work, and he was afraid he would die. As we were scared in our childhood, when we came to the saying of the Tanna, and repent one day before you die, for we were scared that that day was our last day and we wouldn't have time to repent.

Hemdat and Isaac are the same age, and should have been conscripted into the army. They slipped away and ascended to the Land of Israel on one and the same day in two different ships. Hemdat was friendly to Isaac, even though he wasn't comfortable with the craft Isaac practiced, for there is something misleading in it, since painters are wont to embellish ugly things.

Sweet Foot doesn't talk to two people at the same time, for talking to two is like talking to many, and talking to many is like orating, and there is no lack of orators in Jaffa. And since Hemdat and Isaac are both here, Sweet Foot withdraws from them and applies himself to his work.

When they were alone, Hemdat asked Isaac, What news do you hear from there? (From there means from Galicia), and his eyes became misty like a person remembering a beloved place. Isaac wasn't able to tell him a thing. Hemdat took him and said, Let's take

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