Folktales of the Jews - Vol. 2

By Dan Ben-Amos | Go to book overview

27
The Gentile Beggar'sSecret

TOLD BY ESTHER WEINSTEIN
TO YEHUDIT GUT-BURG

A poor Jew with many children came to see the rebbe. The Jew was a tailor by profession—he patched up the garments of poor Jews and gentiles—and his name was Hayyim Yankel. His circumstances could hardly have been worse, yet they got more serious from day to day. So it was no wonder that the Jew complained to the rebbe about his bitter lot.

The rebbe pressed the tailor's hand. "The old beggar Ivan is ill," he said, "and will die soon. They will sell his clothes for almost nothing. You must go buy them. Rip his clothes apart, and with God's help you'll be rich. But don't tell anyone what I have said."

The tailor Ḥayyim Yankel swore to keep the secret. "But Rebbe," he added, "I don't even have money to buy the clothes." The rebbe put his hand in his pocket, took out a few coins, and gave them to the tailor. "Use this money to buy the clothes. But don't wash them and don't shake them. To be doubly safe I'll send my shammes* to help you."

The rebbe blessed the tailor, and he set off, accompanied by the rebbe's shammes.

The two set out. They traveled all night by train, reaching the tailor's town at daybreak. What should they hear, but that the poor gentile, Ivan the beggar, had died, and there was no money for a coffin. Ḥayyim Yankel and the shammes went to the deceased's hovel, where they found an old man who was watching the corpse and sighing that there was no money to pay for the funeral.

"How much do you need?" Ḥayyim Yankel asked the old man.

"Fifty gulden."

"What will you give me for that sum?"

"There is nothing except for these rags," said the watcher, pointing to the tattered clothes in the bare room.

*Synagogue caretaker.

-207-

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