Folktales of the Jews - Vol. 2

By Dan Ben-Amos | Go to book overview

55
I Came from Mád and Returned to Mád

TOLD BY GERSHON BRIBRAM

There probably wasn't a more common or widespread saying in Hungary than, "I reached the same place as the Jew from Mád."

I heard about the source of this adage from my late grandfather, who was a shoḥet* in Abauszantó. Here I report exactly what he told me:

The community of Mád was small, but it was well known throughout Hungary. It was in the Tokay district, which is famous for its wines. In that place, there lived a Jew who made his living buying and selling secondhand (alte zakhen) goods. He traveled from city to city and village to village, trying his luck and hoping to make enough to live on.

One day, he started for Szantó to try his luck there. To make his load less burdensome, he filled his pipe with tobacco and tried to light it. But it was his bad luck that a strong wind was blowing and he couldn't get the match to light. Refusing to give up, our Jew turned around and faced in the other direction. Standing with his back to the wind he had no trouble lighting his pipe. When he was satisfied with the smoke rising from his pipe he continued his journey.

This was all very well—except that, having forgotten to turn around again, he continued his journey back toward the place he had started from. When he reached his intended destination, you can imagine his astonishment that the place was so similar to Mad. The same houses, the same streets and shops and everything.

Here is the synagogue! This synagogue and that of Mád are as alike as two drops of water. And not only on the outside. Inside, too. There is the same "jesters' pew"** as in Mád—and a synagogue without a jesters' pew is like the Holy Temple without the frankincense (a component of the incense that by itself had a terrible smell).

*One who slaughters animals according to the kosher laws.

*In Hebrew: moshav letzim; after Psalm 1:1, "Happy is the man who does not sit in the seat of the ir-
reverent."

-404-

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