The Two Friends
TOLD BY ABRAHAM KEREN
It happened many years ago, in a town in Galicia. Avrum was a boy from a Jewish family, who lived next door to a Polish family with a son named Wlodek. The two boys were good friends. They played together and got into mischief and indulged in all sorts of pranks suggested by their imaginations.
When the boys grew up, their paths diverged and they went their separate ways. Avrum and Wlodek were both very bright and gifted children. Wlodek studied in the local school. When he finished, his parents sent him to the big city, where he continued his studies and became a priest. Over the years, he rose in the church hierarchy.
Avrum, by contrast, studied in the Jewish religious school. Later, his parents sent him to the yeshivah* to study Torah. After that, he married and had sons and daughters. He never could make a living, though; and he and his family lived in abject poverty, with scant bread and scarce water. Years passed, and Reb** Avrum's family grew larger. But the poverty of his house increased in proportion.
One forenoon Reb Avrum finished his prayers and left the school with his tallit§ and tefillin§§ bag under his arm. He trudged slowly through the street, sunk in gloomy thoughts: Where would his help come from? Where would he find bread for his children? Suddenly, he felt a tap on his shoulder and heard a familiar voice: "Avrumek! How are you?"
Reb Avrum turned toward the speaker—a smiling man in clerical grab. "Don't you recognize me?" the priest asked. "I'm Wlodek." Despite the differences that separated them, Avrum was glad to see his childhood friend and invited him home. The priest accepted the invitation and promised to come that evening for supper.
*Jewish school of higher learning.
**Rabbi or Mr.
§§Small black leather prayers boxes, wrapped around the head and arm, containing passages from the