Only Yesterday

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

CHAPTER NINE
With His Townsfolk

1

After the midday meal, Isaac went to his fellow townsman, Reb Alter Shub the ritual slaughterer. Reb Alter saw him and didn't recognize him, not as on the first visit when he recognized him as soon as he entered. Hinda Puah, Reb Alter's wife, saw him and cried out, Isn't this the son of Judith. Reb Alter asked Isaac, How come you haven't come all this time. When he started telling that he had been in Jaffa and had found himself a good livelihood there, he stopped him and said in a singsong, Desires you may not entertain, Consider your accounts as paid, Thoughts allowed and not in vain, Making matches with a maid. As it says in Psalms 128:2, For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee. Go to the next verse. What is written there, Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house. Isaac smiled and said, That's just what Reb Moyshe Amram told me. Said Reb Alter, Moyshe spoke well. Who is that Reb Moyshe Amram? Isaac told him. Said Reb Alter, According to my accounting, Itzikl, you're approaching twenty-five. Tell me, my son, isn't there among your Zionists here a person who has a decent daughter? Are all of them bachelors like you? Isaac sighed and was silent. Reb Alter looked at him and said, Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop. Do you know how they interpreted that verse in the Talmud? One interpretation is that he will tell it to others. Reb Alter saw that Isaac wanted to weep. He scolded him and put a soft hand on his shoulder affectionately and said, Today is the Sabbath, to rest from any regrets. What is it, Itzikl, that troubles you and oppresses you. Said Isaac, Nothing, Reb Alter. Said Reb Alter, Don't be a fool, Itzikl, heaviness in the heart of a man

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