Folktales of the Jews - Vol. 2

By Dan Ben-Amos | Go to book overview

11
The Happy Man

TOLD BY ESTHER BERGNER-KISH TO MALKA COHEN

At the start of World War I, some Galician Hasidim who had been conscripted were traveling to the front. They rode in third class. Even though they were on their way to the front, they sang and had a jolly time, because it was Hanukkah. Everyone who saw them thought they must be people without a care in the world.

A high-ranking officer was traveling in first class. He, too, was en route to the front. He heard the singing and noise that the Hasidim were making and, knowing that they were headed for the front, went to their carriage. "Why are you so merry?" he asked. "Don't you know that you are going to the front to fight?"

The Hasidim told him the following story about the happy man.

Once there was a merchant who traveled with his clerk. They carried a chest full of money to buy merchandise in the city. While they were traveling through a thick forest, the chest disappeared. The clerk was very much distressed by the loss, but the merchant himself only laughed. They stopped for the night at an inn. The clerk, who was too upset to close his eyes, went back to the forest to search for the chest of money. At last he found it, and not a single penny was missing.

The next morning the clerk brought the chest to the merchant, who began to cry. "Shouldn't you be happy, now?!" asked the clerk. "Why are you crying?"

"Finding the chest after it was lost—and with all the money in it, too— that is too much good fortune," he explained. "That's why I am crying."

After that, the merchant's luck did indeed turn, until he was compelled to sell his business. It was his former clerk who purchased it. The merchant left town. The clerk had nothing but good fortune and became very rich.

Years passed.

Once, on a Friday afternoon, the former clerk heard a loud noise.

-76-

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