The Book of Delight and Other Papers

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THE BOOK OF DELIGHT

AND
OTHER PAPERS

BY

ISRAEL ABRAHAMS, M.A.

Author of “Jewish Life in the Middle Ages,” “Chapters on Jewish

Literature,” etc.

1912

PREFACE

The chapters of this volume were almost all spoken addresses. The author
has not now changed their character as such, for it seemed to him that to
convert them into formal essays would be to rob them of any little
attraction they may possess.

One of the addresses—that on “Medieval Wayfaring”—was originally spoken
in Hebrew, in Jerusalem. It was published, in part, in English in the
London Jewish Chronicle, and the author is indebted to the conductors of
that periodical for permission to include this, and other material, in the
present collection.

Some others of the chapters have been printed before, but a considerable
proportion of the volume is quite new, and even those addresses that are
reprinted are now given in a fuller and much revised text.

As several of the papers were intended for popular audiences, the author is
persuaded that it would ill accord with his original design to overload the
book with notes and references. These have been supplied only where
absolutely necessary, and a few additional notes are appended at the end of
the volume.

The author realizes that the book can have little permanent value. But as
these addresses seemed to give pleasure to those who heard them, he thought
it possible that they might provide passing entertainment also to those who
are good enough to read them.

ISRAEL ABRAHAMS

CAMBRIDGE, ENG., September, 1911

CONTENTS

I. “THE BOOK OF DELIGHT”

II. A VISIT TO HEBRON
III. THE SOLACE OF BOOKS
IV. MEDIEVAL WAYFARING
V. THE FOX’S HEART
VI. “MARRIAGES ARE MADE IN HEAVEN”
VII. HEBREW LOVE SONGS
VIII. A HANDFUL OF CURIOSITIES

i. George Eliot and Solomon Maimon
ii. How Milton Pronounced Hebrew
iii. The Cambridge Platonists
iv. The Anglo-Jewish Yiddish Literary Society
v. The Mystics and Saints of India
vi. Lost Purim Joys
vii. Jews and Letters
viii. The Shape of Matzoth

NOTES
INDEX

[Transcriber’s Note: Index not included in this e-text edition.]

“THE BOOK OF DELIGHT”

Joseph Zabara has only in recent times received the consideration justly
due to him. Yet his “Book of Delight,” finished about the year 1200, is
more than a poetical romance. It is a golden link between folk-literature
and imaginative poetry. The style is original, and the framework of the
story is an altogether fresh adaptation of a famous legend. The anecdotes
and epigrams introduced incidentally also partake of this twofold quality.
The author has made them his own, yet they are mostly adapted rather than
invented. Hence, the poem is as valuable to the folklorist as to the
literary critic. For, though Zabara’s compilation is similar to such
well-known models as the “Book of Sindbad,” the Kalilah ve-Dimnah, and
others of the same class, yet its appearance in Europe is half a century
earlier than the translations by which these other products of the East
became part of the popular literature of the Western world. At the least,
then, the “Book of Delight” is an important addition to the scanty store of
the folk-lore records of the early part of the thirteenth century. The
folk-lore interest of the book is, indeed, greater than was known formerly,
for it is now recognized as a variant of the Solomon-Marcolf legend. On
this more will be said below,

As a poet and as a writer of Hebrew, Joseph Zabara’s place is equally
significant. He was one of the first to write extended narratives in Hebrew
rhymed prose with interspersed snatches of verse, the form invented by
Arabian poets, and much esteemed as the medium for story-telling and for
writing social satire. The best and best-known specimens of this form of
poetry in Hebrew are Charizi’s Tachkemoni, and his translation of Hariri.
Zabara has less art than Charizi, and far less technical skill, yet in him
all the qualities are in the bud that Charizi’s poems present in the
fullblown flower. The reader of Zabara feels that other poets will develop
his style and surpass him; the reader of Charizi knows of a surety that in
him the style has reached its climax.

Of Joseph Zabara little is known beyond what may be gleaned from a
discriminating study of the “Book of Delight.” That this romance is largely
autobiographical in fact, as it is in form, there can be no reasonable
doubt. The poet writes with so much indignant warmth of the dwellers in
certain cities, of their manner of life, their morals, and their culture,
that one can only infer that he is relating his personal experiences.
Zabara, like the hero of his romance, travelled much during the latter
portion of the twelfth century, as is known from the researches of Geiger.
He was born in Barcelona, and returned there to die. In the interval, we
find him an apt pupil of Joseph Kimchi, in Narbonne. Joseph Kimchi, the
founder of the famous Kimchi family, carried the culture of Spain to
Provence; and Joseph Zabara may have acquired from Kimchi his mastery over
Hebrew, which he writes with purity and simplicity. The difficulties
presented in some passages of the “Book of Delight” are entirely due to the
corrupt state of the text. Joseph Kimchi, who flourished in Provence from
1150 to 1170, quotes Joseph Zabara twice, with approval, in explaining
verses in Proverbs. It would thus seem that Zabara, even in his student
days, was devoted to the proverb-lore on which he draws so lavishly in his
maturer work.

Dr. Steinschneider, to whom belongs the credit of rediscovering Zabara in
modern times, infers that the poet was a physician. There is more than
probability in the case; there is certainty. The romance is built by a
doctor; there is more talk of medicine in it than of any other topic of
discussion. Moreover, the author, who denies that he is much of a
Talmudist, accepts the compliment paid to him by his visitor, Enan, that he
is “skilled and well-informed in the science of medicine.” There is, too, a
professional tone about many of the quips and gibes in which Zabara
indulges concerning doctors. Here, for instance, is an early form of a
witticism that has been attributed to many recent humorists. “A
philosopher,” says Zabara, “was sick unto death, and his doctor gave him
up; yet the patient recovered. The convalescent was walking in the street
when the doctor met him. ‘You come,’ said he, ‘from the other world.’
‘Yes,’ rejoined the patient, ‘I come from there, and I saw there the awful
retribution that falls on doctors; for they kill their patients. Yet, do
not feel alarmed. You will not suffer. I told them on my oath that you are
no doctor.'”

Again, in one of the poetical interludes (found only in the Constantinople
edition) occurs this very professional sneer, “A doctor and the Angel of
Death both kill, but the former charges a fee.” Who but a doctor would
enter into a scathing denunciation of the current system of diagnosis, as
Zabara does in a sarcastic passage, which Erter may have imitated
unconsciously? And if further proof be needed that Zabara was a man of
science, the evidence is forthcoming; for Zabara appeals several times to
experiment in proof of his assertions. And to make assurance doubly sure,
the author informs his readers in so many words of his extensive medical
practice in his native place.

If Zabara be the author of the other, shorter poems that accompany the
“Book of Delight” in the Constantinople edition, though they are not
incorporated into the main work, we have a further indication that Zabara
was a medical man. There is a satirical introduction against the doctors
that slay a man before his time. The author, with mock timidity, explains
that he withholds his name, lest the medical profession turn its attention
to him with fatal results. “Never send for a doctor,” says the satirist,
“for one cannot expect a miracle to happen.” It is important, for our
understanding of another feature in Zabara’s work, to observe that his
invective, directed against the practitioners rather than the science of
medicine, is not more curious as coming from a medical man, than are the
attacks on women perpetrated by some Jewish poets (Zabara among them), who
themselves amply experienced, in their own and their community’s life, the
tender and beautiful relations that subsist between Jewish mother and son,
Jewish wife and husband.

The life of Joseph ben Meïr Zabara was not happy. He left Barcelona in
search of learning and comfort. He found the former, but the latter eluded
him. It is hard to say from the “Book of Delight” whether he was a
woman-hater, or not. On the one hand, he says many pretty things about
women. The moral of the first section of the romance is: Put your trust in
women; and the moral of the second section of the poem is: A good woman is
the best part of man. But, though this is so, Zabara does undoubtedly quote
a large number of stories full of point and sting, stories that tell of
women’s wickedness and infidelity, of their weakness of intellect and
fickleness of will. His philogynist tags hardly compensate for his
misogynist satires. He runs with the hare, but hunts energetically with the
hounds.

It is this characteristic of Zabara’s method that makes it open to doubt,
whether the additional stories referred to as printed with the
Constantinople edition did really emanate from our author’s pen. These
additions are sharply misogynist; the poet does not even attempt to blunt
their point. They include “The Widow’s Vow” (the widow, protesting undying
constancy to her first love, eagerly weds another) and “Woman’s
Contentions.” In the latter, a wicked woman is denounced with the wildest
invective. She has demoniac traits; her touch is fatal. A condemned
criminal is offered his life if he will wed a wicked woman. “O King,” he
cried, “slay me; for rather would I die once, than suffer many deaths every
day.” Again, once a wicked woman pursued a heroic man. He met some devils.
“What are you running from?” asked they. “From a wicked woman,” he
answered. The devils turned and ran away with him.

One rather longer story may be summarized thus: Satan, disguised in human
shape, met a fugitive husband, who had left his wicked wife. Satan told him
that he was in similar case, and proposed a compact. Satan would enter into
the bodies of men, and the other, pretending to be a skilful physician,
would exorcise Satan. They would share the profits. Satan begins on the
king, and the queen engages the confederate to cure the king within three
days, for a large fee, but in case of failure the doctor is to die. Satan
refuses to come out: his real plan is to get the doctor killed in this way.
The doctor obtains a respite, and collects a large body of musicians, who
make a tremendous din. Satan trembles. “What is that noise?” he asks. “Your
wife is coming,” says the doctor. Out sprang Satan and fled to the end of
the earth.

These tales and quips, it is true, are directed against “wicked” women, but
if Zabara really wrote them, it would be difficult to acquit him of
woman-hatred, unless the stories have been misplaced, and should appear, as
part of the “Book of Delight,” within the Leopard section, which rounds off
a series of unfriendly tales with a moral friendly to woman. In general,
Oriental satire directed against women must not be taken too seriously. As
Güdemann has shown, the very Jews that wrote most bitterly of women were
loud in praise of their own wives—the women whom alone they knew
intimately. Woman was the standing butt for men to hurl their darts at, and
one cannot help feeling that a good deal of the fun got its point from the
knowledge that the charges were exaggerated or untrue. You find the Jewish
satirists exhausting all their stores of drollery on the subject of
rollicking drunkenness. They roar till their sides creak over the humor of
the wine-bibber. They laugh at him and with him. They turn again and again
to the subject, which shares the empire with women in the Jewish poets. Yet
we know well enough that the writers of these Hebrew Anacreontic lyrics
were sober men, who rarely indulged in overmuch strong drink. In short, the
medieval Jewish satirists were gifted with much of what a little time ago
was foolishly styled “the new humor.” Joseph Zabara was a “new” humorist.
He has the quaint subtlety of the author of the “Ingoldsby Legends,” and
revelled in the exaggeration of trifles that is the stock-in-trade of the
modern funny man. Woman plays the part with the former that the
mother-in-law played a generation ago with the latter. In Zabara, again,
there is a good deal of mere rudeness, which the author seems to mistake
for cutting repartee. This, I take it, is another characteristic of the
so-called new humor.

The probable explanation of the marked divergence between Zabara’s stories
and the moral he draws from them lies, however, a little deeper. The
stories themselves are probably Indian in origin; hence they are marked by
the tone hostile to woman so characteristic of Indian folk-lore. On the
other hand, if Zabara himself was a friendly critic of woman, his own
moralizings in her favor are explained. This theory is not entirely upset
by the presence even of the additional stories, for these, too, are
translations, and Zabara cannot be held responsible for their contents. The
selection of good anecdotes was restricted in his day within very narrow
limits.

Yet Zabara’s reading must have been extensive. He knew something of
astronomy, philosophy, the science of physiognomy, music, mathematics, and
physics, and a good deal of medicine. He was familiar with Arabian
collections of proverbs and tales, for he informs his readers several times
that he is drawing on Arabic sources. He knew the “Choice of Pearls,” the
Midrashic “Stories of King Solomon,” the “Maxims of the Philosophers,” the
“Proverbs of the Wise”; but not “Sendabar” in its Hebrew form. His
acquaintance with the language of the Bible was thorough; but he makes one
or two blunders in quoting the substance of Scriptural passages. Though he
disclaimed the title of a Talmudic scholar, he was not ignorant of the
Rabbinic literature. Everyone quotes it: the fox, the woman, Enan, and the
author. He was sufficiently at home in this literature to pun therein. He
also knew the story of Tobit, but, as he introduces it as “a most
marvellous tale,” it is clear that this book of the Apocrypha was not
widely current in his day. The story, as Zabara tells it, differs
considerably from the Apocryphal version of it. The incidents are
misplaced, the story of the betrothal is disconnected from that of the
recovery of the money by Tobit, and the detail of the gallows occurs in no
other known text of the story. In one point, Zabara’s version strikingly
agrees with the Hebrew and Chaldee texts of Tobit as against the Greek;
Tobit’s son is not accompanied by a dog on his journey to recover his
father’s long-lost treasure.

One of the tales told by Zabara seems to imply a phenomenon of the
existence of which there is no other evidence. There seems to have been in
Spain a small class of Jews that were secret converts to Christianity. They
passed openly for Jews, but were in truth Christians. The motive for the
concealment is unexplained, and the whole passage may be merely satirical.

It remains for me to describe the texts now extant of the “Book of
Delight.” In 1865 the “Book of Delight” appeared, from a fifteenth century
manuscript in Paris, in the second volume of a Hebrew periodical called the
Lebanon. In the following year the late Senior Sachs wrote an
introduction to it and to two other publications, which were afterwards
issued together under the title Yen Lebanon (Paris, 1866). The editor was
aware of the existence of another text, but, strange to tell, he did not
perceive the need of examining it. Had he done this, his edition would have
been greatly improved. For the Bodleian Library possesses a copy of another
edition of the “Book of Delight,” undated, and without place of issue, but
printed in Constantinople, in 1577. One or two other copies of this edition
are extant elsewhere. The editor was Isaac Akrish, as we gather from a
marginal note to the version of Tobit given by Joseph Zabara. This Isaac
Akrish was a travelling bookseller, who printed interesting little books,
and hawked them about. Dr. Steinschneider points out that the date of Isaac
Akrish’s edition can be approximately fixed by the type. The type is that
of the Jaabez Press, established in Constantinople and Salonica in 1560.
This Constantinople edition is not only longer than the Paris edition, it
is, on the whole, more accurate. The verbal variations between the two
editions are extremely numerous, but the greater accuracy of the
Constantinople edition shows itself in many ways. The rhymes are much
better preserved, though the Paris edition is occasionally superior in this
respect. But many passages that are quite unintelligible in the Paris
edition are clear enough in the Constantinople edition.

The gigantic visitor of Joseph, the narrator, the latter undoubtedly the
author himself, is a strange being. Like the guide of Gil Bias on his
adventures, he is called a demon, and he glares and emits smoke and fire.
But he proves amenable to argument, and quotes the story of the
washerwoman, to show how it was that he became a reformed character. This
devil quotes the Rabbis, and is easily convinced that it is unwise for him
to wed an ignorant bride. It would seem as though Zabara were, on the one
hand, hurling a covert attack against some one who had advised him to leave
Barcelona to his own hurt, while, on the other hand, he is satirizing the
current beliefs of Jews and Christians in evil spirits. More than one
passage is decidedly anti-Christian, and it would not be surprising to find
that the framework of the romance had been adopted with polemic intention.

The character of the framework becomes more interesting when it is realized
that Zabara derived it from some version of the legends of which King
Solomon is the hero. The king had various adventures with a being more or
less demoniac in character, who bears several names: Asmodeus, Saturn,
Marcolf, or Morolf. That the model for Zabara’s visitor was Solomon’s
interlocutor, is not open to doubt. The Solomon legend occurs in many
forms, but in all Marcolf (or whatever other name he bears) is a keen
contester with the king in a battle of wits. No doubt, at first Marcolf
filled a serious, respectable rôle; in course of time, his character
degenerated into that of a clown or buffoon. It is difficult to summarize
the legend, it varies so considerably in the versions. Marcolf in the
best-known forms, which are certainly older than Zabara, is “right rude and
great of body, of visage greatly misshapen and foul.” Sometimes he is a
dwarf, sometimes a giant; he is never normal. He appears with his
counterpart, a sluttish wife, before Solomon, who, recognizing him as
famous for his wit and wisdom, challenges him to a trial of wisdom,
promising great rewards as the prize of victory. The two exchange a series
of questions and answers, which may be compared in spirit, though not in
actual content, with the questions and answers to be found in Zabara.
Marcolf succeeds in thoroughly tiring out the king, and though the
courtiers are for driving Marcolf off with scant courtesy, the king
interposes, fulfils his promise, and dismisses his adversary with gifts.
Marcolf leaves the court, according to one version, with the noble remark,
Ubi non est lex, ibi non est rex.

This does not exhaust the story, however. In another part of the legend, to
which, again, Zabara offers parallels, Solomon, being out hunting, comes
suddenly on Marcolf’s hut, and, calling upon him, receives a number of
riddling answers, which completely foil him, and tor the solution of which
he is compelled to have recourse to the proposer. He departs, however, in
good humor, desiring Marcolf to come to court the next day and bring a pail
of fresh milk and curds from the cow. Marcolf fails, and the king condemns
him to sit up all night in his company, threatening him with death in the
morning, should he fall asleep. This, of course, Marcolf does immediately,
and he snores aloud. Solomon asks, “Sleepest thou?”—And Marcolf replies,
“No, I think.”—”What thinkest thou?”—”That there are as many vertebrae in
the hare’s tail as in his backbone.”—The king, assured that he has now
entrapped his adversary, replies: “If thou provest not this, thou diest in
the morning!” Over and over again Marcolf snores, and is awakened by
Solomon, but he is always thinking. He gives various answers during the
night: There are as many white feathers as black in the magpie.—There is
nothing whiter than daylight, daylight is whiter than milk.—Nothing can be
safely entrusted to a woman.—Nature is stronger than education.

Next day Marcolf proves all his statements. Thus, he places a pan of milk
in a dark closet, and suddenly calls the king. Solomon steps into the milk,
splashes himself, and nearly falls. “Son of perdition! what does this
mean?” roars the monarch. “May it please Your Majesty,” says Marcolf,
“merely to show you that milk is not whiter than daylight.” That nature is
stronger than education, Marcolf proves by throwing three mice, one after
the other, before a cat trained to hold a lighted candle in its paws during
the king’s supper; the cat drops the taper, and chases the mice. Marcolf
further enters into a bitter abuse of womankind, and ends by inducing
Solomon himself to join in the diatribe. When the king perceives the trick,
he turns Marcolf out of court, and eventually orders him to be hanged. One
favor is granted to him: he may select his own tree. Marcolf and his guards
traverse the valley of Jehoshaphat, pass to Jericho over Jordan, through
Arabia and the Red Sea, but “never more could Marcolf find a tree that he
would choose to hang on.” By this device, Marcolf escapes from Solomon’s
hands, returns home, and passes the rest of his days in peace.

The legend, no doubt Oriental in origin, enjoyed popularity in the Middle
Ages largely because it became the frame into which could be placed
collections of proverbial lore. Hence, as happened also with the legend of
the Queen of Sheba and her riddles, the versions vary considerably as to
the actual content of the questions and answers bandied between Solomon and
Marcolf. In the German and English versions, the proverbs and wisdom are
largely Teutonic; in Zabara they are Oriental, and, in particular, Arabic.
Again, Marcolf in the French version of Mauclerc is much more completely
the reviler of woman. Mauclerc wrote almost contemporaneously with Zabara
(about 1216-1220, according to Kemble). But, on the other hand, Mauclerc
has no story, and his Marcolf is a punning clown rather than a cunning
sage. Marcolf, who is Solomon’s brother in a German version, has no trust
in a woman even when dead. So, in another version, Marcolf is at once
supernaturally cunning, and extremely skeptical as to the morality and
constancy of woman. But it is unnecessary to enter into the problem more
closely. Suffice it to have established that in Zabara’s “Book of Delight”
we have a hitherto unsuspected adaptation of the Solomon-Marcolf legend.
Zabara handles the legend with rare originality, and even ventures to cast
himself for the title rôle in place of the wisest of kings.

In the summary of the book which follows, the rhymed prose of the original
Hebrew is reproduced only in one case. This form of poetry is unsuited to
the English language. What may have a strikingly pleasing effect in
Oriental speech, becomes, in English, indistinguishable from doggerel. I
have not translated at full length, but I have endeavored to render Zabara
accurately, without introducing thoughts foreign to him.

I have not thought it necessary to give elaborate parallels to Zabara’s
stories, nor to compare minutely the various details of the Marcolf legend
with Zabara’s poem. On the whole, it may be said that the parallel is
general rather than specific. I am greatly mistaken, however, if the
collection of stories that follows does not prove of considerable interest
to those engaged in the tracking of fables to their native lairs. Here, in
Zabara, we have an earlier instance than was previously known in Europe, of
an intertwined series of fables and witticisms, partly Indian, partly
Greek, partly Semitic, in origin, welded together by the Hebrew poet by
means of a framework. The use of the framework by a writer in Europe in the
year 1200 is itself noteworthy. And when it is remembered what the
framework is, it becomes obvious that the “Book of Delight” occupies a
unique position in medieval literature.

THE GIANT GUEST

Once on a night, I, Joseph, lay upon my bed; sleep was sweet upon me, my
one return for all my toil. Things there are which weary the soul and
rest the body, others that weary the body and rest the soul, but sleep
brings calm to the body and the soul at once…. While I slept, I dreamt;
and a gigantic but manlike figure appeared before me, rousing me from my
slumber. “Arise, thou sleeper, rouse thyself and see the wine while it is
red; come, sit thee down and eat of what I provide.” It was dawn when I
hastily rose, and I saw before me wine, bread, and viands; and in the
man’s hand was a lighted lamp, which cast a glare into every corner. I
said, “What are these, my master?” “My wine, my bread, my viands; come,
eat and drink with me, for I love thee as one of my mother’s sons.” And I
thanked him, but protested: “I cannot eat or drink till I have prayed to
the Orderer of all my ways; for Moses, the choice of the prophets, and
the head of those called, hath ordained, ‘Eat not with the blood’;
therefore no son of Israel will eat until he prays for his soul, for the
blood is the soul….”

Then said he, “Pray, if such be thy wish”; and I bathed my hands and
face, and prayed. Then I ate of all that was before me, for my soul loved
him…. Wine I would not drink, though he pressed me sore. “Wine,” I
said, “blindeth the eyes, robbeth the old of wisdom and the body of
strength, it revealeth the secrets of friends, and raiseth dissension
between brothers.” The man’s anger was roused. “Why blasphemest thou
against wine, and bearest false witness against it? Wine bringeth joy;
sorrow and sighing fly before it. It strengtheneth the body, maketh the
heart generous, prolongeth pleasure, and deferreth age; faces it maketh
shine, and the senses it maketh bright.”

“Agreed, but let thy servant take the water first, as the ancient
physicians advise; later I will take the wine, a little, without water.”

When I had eaten and drunk with him, I asked for his name and his
purpose. “I come,” said he, “from a distant land, from pleasant and
fruitful hills, my wisdom is as thine, my laws as thine, my name Enan
Hanatash, the son of Arnan ha-Desh.” I was amazed at the name, unlike any
I had ever heard. “Come with me from this land, and I will tell thee all
my secret lore; leave this spot, for they know not here thy worth and thy
wisdom. I will take thee to another place, pleasant as a garden, peopled
by loving men, wise above all others.” But I answered: “My lord, I cannot
go. Here are many wise and friendly; while I live, they bear me on the
wing of their love; when I die, they will make my death sweet…. I fear
thee for thy long limbs, and in thy face I see, clear-cut, the marks of
unworthiness; I fear thee, and I will not be thy companion, lest there
befall me what befell the leopard with the fox.” And I told him the
story.

In this manner, illustrative tales are introduced throughout the poem.
Zabara displays rare ingenuity in fitting the illustrations into his
framework. He proceeds:

THE FOX AND THE LEOPARD

A leopard once lived in content and plenty; ever he found easy sustenance
for his wife and children. Hard by there dwelt his neighbor and friend,
the fox. The fox felt in his heart that his life was safe only so long as
the leopard could catch other prey, and he planned out a method for
ridding himself of this dangerous friendship. Before the evil cometh, say
the wise, counsel is good. “Let me move him hence,” thought the fox; “I
will lead him to the paths of death; for the sages say, ‘If one come to
slay thee, be beforehand with him, and slay him instead.'” Next day the
fox went to the leopard, and told him of a spot he had seen, a spot of
gardens and lilies, where fawns and does disported themselves, and
everything was fair. The leopard went with him to behold this paradise,
and rejoiced with exceeding joy. “Ah,” thought the fox, “many a smile
ends in a tear.” But the leopard was charmed, and wished to move to this
delightful abode; “but, first,” said he, “I will go to consult my wife,
my lifelong comrade, the bride of my youth.” The fox was sadly
disconcerted. Full well he knew the wisdom and the craft of the leopard’s
wife. “Nay,” said he, “trust not thy wife. A woman’s counsel is evil and
foolish, her heart hard like marble; she is a plague in a house. Yes, ask
her advice, and do the opposite.”…. The leopard told his wife that he
was resolved to go. “Beware of the fox,” she exclaimed; “two small
animals there are, the craftiest they, by far—the serpent and the fox.
Hast thou not heard how the fox bound the lion and slew him with
cunning?” “How did the fox dare,” asked the leopard, “to come near enough
to the lion to do it?”

The wife than takes up the parable, and cites the incident of

THE FOX AND THE LION

Then said the leopard’s wife: The lion loved the fox, but the fox had no
faith in him, and plotted his death. One day the fox went to the lion
whining that a pain had seized him in the head. “I have heard,” said the
fox, “that physicians prescribe for a headache, that the patient shall be
tied up hand and foot.” The lion assented, and bound up the fox with a
cord. “Ah,” blithely said the fox, “my pain is gone.” Then the lion
loosed him. Time passed, and the lion’s turn came to suffer in his head.
In sore distress he went to the fox, fast as a bird to the snare, and
exclaimed, “Bind me up, brother, that I, too, may be healed, as happened
with thee.” The fox took fresh withes, and bound the lion up. Then he
went to fetch great stones, which he cast on the lion’s head, and thus
crushed him. “Therefore, my dear leopard,” concluded his wife, “trust not
the fox, for I fear him and his wiles. If the place he tells of be so
fair, why does not the fox take it for himself?” “Nay,” said the leopard,
“thou art a silly prattler. I have often proved my friend, and there is
no dross in the silver of his love.”

The leopard would not hearken to his wife’s advice, yet he was somewhat
moved by her warning, and he told the fox of his misgiving, adding, that
his wife refused to accompany him. “Ah,” replied the fox, “I fear your fate
will be like the silversmith’s; let me tell you his story, and you will
know how silly it is to listen to a wife’s counsel.”

THE SILVERSMITH WHO FOLLOWED HIS WIFE’S COUNSEL

A silversmith of Babylon, skilful in his craft, was one day at work.
“Listen to me,” said his wife, “and I will make thee rich and honored.
Our lord, the king, has an only daughter, and he loves her as his life.
Fashion for her a silver image of herself, and I will bear it to her as a
gift.” The statue was soon made, and the princess rejoiced at seeing it.
She gave a cloak and earrings to the artist’s wife, and she showed them
to her husband in triumph. “But where is the wealth and the honor?” he
asked. “The statue was worth much more than thou hast brought.” Next day
the king saw the statue in his daughter’s hand, and his anger was
kindled. “Is it not ordered,” he cried, “that none should make an image?
Cut off his right hand.” The king’s command was carried out, and daily
the smith wept, and exclaimed, “Take warning from me, ye husbands, and
obey not the voice of your wives.”

The leopard shuddered when he heard this tale; but the fox went on:

THE WOODCUTTER AND THE WOMAN

A hewer of wood in Damascus was cutting logs, and his wife sat spinning
by his side. “My departed father,” she said, “was a better workman than
thou. He could chop with both hands: when the right hand was tired, he
used the left.” “Nay,” said he, “no woodcutter does that, he uses his
right hand, unless he be a left-handed man.” “Ah, my dear,” she
entreated, “try and do it as my father did.” The witless wight raised his
left hand to hew the wood, but struck his right-hand thumb instead.
Without a word he took the axe and smote her on the head, and she died.
His deed was noised about; the woodcutter was seized and stoned for his
crime. Therefore, continued the fox, I say unto thee, all women are
deceivers and trappers of souls. And let me tell you more of these wily
stratagems.

The fox reinforces his argument by relating an episode in which a contrast
is drawn between

MAN’S LOVE AND WOMAN’S

A king of the Arabs, wise and well-advised, was one day seated with his
counsellors, who were loud in the praise of women, lauding their virtues
and their wisdom. “Cut short these words,” said the king. “Never since
the world began has there been a good woman. They love for their own
ends.” “But,” pleaded his sages, “O King, thou art hasty. Women there
are, wise and faithful and spotless, who love their husbands and tend
their children.” “Then,” said the king, “here is my city before you:
search it through, and find one of the good women of whom you speak.”
They sought, and they found a woman, chaste and wise, fair as the moon
and bright as the sun, the wife of a wealthy trader; and the counsellors
reported about her to the king. He sent for her husband, and received him
with favor. “I have something for thy ear,” said the king. “I have a good
and desirable daughter: she is my only child; I will not give her to a
king or a prince: let me find a simple, faithful man, who will love her
and hold her in esteem. Thou art such a one; thou shalt have her. But
thou art married: slay thy wife to-night, and to-morrow thou shalt wed my
daughter.” “I am unworthy,” pleaded the man, “to be the shepherd of thy
flock, much less the husband of thy daughter.” But the king would take no
denial. “But how shall I kill my wife? For fifteen years she has eaten of
my bread and drunk of my cup. She is the joy of my heart; her love and
esteem grow day by day.” “Slay her,” said the king, “and be king
hereafter.” He went forth from the presence, downcast and sad, thinking
over, and a little shaken by, the king’s temptation. At home he saw his
wife and his two babes. “Better,” he cried, “is my wife than a kingdom.
Cursed be all kings who tempt men to sip sorrow, calling it joy.” The
king waited his coming in vain; and then he sent messengers to the man’s
shop. When he found that the man’s love had conquered his lust, he said,
with a sneer, “Thou art no man: thy heart is a woman’s.”

In the evening the king summoned the woman secretly. She came, and the
king praised her beauty and her wisdom. His heart, he said, was burning
with love for her, but he could not wed another man’s wife. “Slay thy
husband to-night, and tomorrow be my queen.” With a smile, the woman
consented; and the king gave her a sword made of tin, for he knew the
weak mind of woman. “Strike once,” he said to her; “the sword is sharp;
you need not essay a second blow.” She gave her husband a choice repast,
and wine to make him drunken. As he lay asleep, she grasped the sword and
struck him on the head; and the tin bent, and he awoke. With some ado she
quieted him, and he fell asleep again. Next morning the king summoned
her, and asked whether she had obeyed his orders. “Yes,” said she, “but
thou didst frustrate thine own counsel.” Then the king assembled his
sages, and bade her tell all that she had attempted; and the husband,
too, was fetched, to tell his story. “Did I not tell you to cease your
praises of women?” asked the king, triumphantly.

IN DISPRAISE OF WOMAN

The fox follows up these effective narratives with a lengthy string of
well-worn quotations against women, of which the following are a few:
Socrates, the wise and saintly, hated and despised them. His wife was thin
and short. They asked him, “How could a man like you choose such a woman
for your wrife?” “I chose,” said Socrates, “of the evil the least possible
amount.” “Why, then, do you look on beautiful women?” “Neither,” said
Socrates, “from love nor from desire, but to admire the handiwork of God in
their outward form. It is within that they are foul.” Once he was walking
by the way, and he saw a woman hanging from a fig-tree. “Would,” said
Socrates, “that all the fruit were like this.”—A nobleman built a new
house, and wrote over the door, “Let nothing evil pass this way.” “Then how
does his wife go in?” asked Diogenes.—”Your enemy is dead,” said one to
another. “I would rather hear that he had got married,” was the reply.

“So much,” said the fox to the leopard, “I have told thee that thou mayest
know how little women are to be trusted. They deceive men in life, and
betray them in death.” “But,” queried the leopard, “what could my wife do
to harm me after I am dead?” “Listen,” rejoined the fox, “and I will tell
thee of a deed viler than any I have narrated hitherto.”

THE WIDOW AND HER HUSBAND’S CORPSE

The kings of Rome, when they hanged a man, denied him burial until the
tenth day. That the friends and relatives of the victim might not steal
the body, an officer of high rank was set to watch the tree by night. If
the body was stolen, the officer was hung up in its place. A knight of
high degree once rebelled against the king, and he was hanged on a tree.
The officer on guard was startled at midnight to hear a piercing shriek
of anguish from a little distance; he mounted his horse, and rode towards
the voice, to discover the meaning. He came to an open grave, where the
common people were buried, and saw a weeping woman loud in laments for
her departed spouse. He sent her home with words of comfort, accompanying
her to the city gate. He then returned to his post. Next night the same
scene was repeated, and as the officer spoke his gentle soothings to her,
a love for him was born in her heart, and her dead husband was forgotten.
And as they spoke words of love, they neared the tree, and lo! the body
that the officer was set to watch was gone. “Begone,” he said, “and I
will fly, or my life must pay the penalty of my dalliance.” “Fear not, my
lord,” she said, “we can raise my husband from his grave and hang him
instead of the stolen corpse.” “But I fear the Prince of Death. I cannot
drag a man from his grave.” “I alone will do it then,” said the woman; “I
will dig him out; it is lawful to cast a dead man from the grave, to keep
a live man from being thrown in.” “Alas!” cried the officer, when she had
done the fearsome deed, “the corpse I watched was bald, your husband has
thick hair; the change will be detected.” “Nay,” said the woman, “I will
make him bald,” and she tore his hair out, with execrations, and they
hung him on the tree. But a few days passed and the pair were married.

And now the leopard interlude nears it close. Zabara narrates the
dénouement in these terms:

THE LEOPARD’S FATE

The leopard’s bones rattled while he listened to this tale. Angrily he
addressed his wife, “Come, get up and follow me, or I will slay thee.”
Together they went with their young ones, and the fox was their guide,
and they reached the promised place, and encamped by the waters. The fox
bade them farewell, his head laughing at his tail. Seven days were gone,
when the rains descended, and in the deep of the night the river rose and
engulfed the leopard family in their beds. “Woe is me,” sighed the
leopard, “that I did not listen to my wife.” And he died before his time.

THE JOURNEY BEGUN BY JOSEPH AND ENAN

The author has now finished his protest against his visitor’s design, to
make him join him on a roving expedition. Enan glares, and asks, “Am I a
fox, and thou a leopard, that I should fear thee?” Then his note changes,
and his tone becomes coaxing and bland. Joseph cannot resist his
fascination. Together they start, riding on their asses. Then says Enan
unto Joseph, “Carry thou me, or I will carry thee.” “But,” continues the
narrator, Joseph, “we were both riding on our asses. ‘What dost thou mean?
Our asses carry us both. Explain thy words.’—’It is the story of the
peasant with the king’s officer.'”

THE CLEVER GIRL AND THE KING’S DREAM

A king with many wives dreamt that he saw a monkey among them; his face
fell, and his spirit was troubled. “This is none other,” said he, “than a
foreign king, who will invade my realm, and take my harem for his spoil.”
One of his officers told the king of a clever interpreter of dreams, and
the king despatched him to find out the meaning of his ominous vision. He
set forth on his mule, and met a countryman riding. “Carry me,” said the
officer, “or I will carry thee.” The peasant was amazed. “But our asses
carry us both,” he said. “Thou tiller of the earth,” said the officer,
“thou art earth, and eatest earth. There is snow on the hill,” continued
the officer, and as the month was Tammuz, the peasant laughed. They
passed a road with wheat growing on each side. “A horse blind in one eye
has passed here,” said the officer, “loaded with oil on one side, and
with vinegar on the other.” They saw a field richly covered with
abounding corn, and the peasant praised it. “Yes,” said the officer, “if
the corn is not already eaten.” They went on a little further and saw a
lofty tower. “Well fortified,” remarked the peasant. “Fortified without,
if not ruined within,” replied the officer. A funeral passed them. “As to
this old man whom they are burying,” said the officer, “I cannot tell
whether he is alive or dead.” And the peasant thought his companion mad
to make such unintelligible remarks. They neared a village where the
peasant lived, and he invited the officer to stay with him overnight.

The peasant, in the dead of the night, told his wife and daughters of the
foolish things the officer had said, though he looked quite wise. “Nay,”
said the peasant’s youngest daughter, a maiden of fifteen years, “the man
is no fool; thou didst not comprehend the depth of his meaning. The
tiller of the earth eats food grown from the earth. By the ‘snow on the
hill’ is meant thy white beard (on thy head); thou shouldst have
answered, ‘Time caused it.’ The horse blind in one eye he knew had
passed, because he saw that the wheat was eaten on one side of the way,
and not on the other; and as for its burden, he saw that the vinegar had
parched the dust, while the oil had not. His saying, ‘Carry me, or I will
carry thee,’ signifies that he who beguiles the way with stories and
proverbs and riddles, carries his companion, relieving him from the
tedium of the journey. The corn of the field you passed,” continued the
girl, “was already eaten if the owner was poor, and had sold it before it
was reaped. The lofty and stately tower was in ruins within, if it was
without necessary stores. About the funeral, too, his remark was true. If
the old man left a son, he was still alive; if he was childless, he was,
indeed, dead.”

In the morning, the girl asked her father to give the officer the food
she would prepare. She gave him thirty eggs, a dish full of milk, and a
whole loaf. “Tell me,” said she, “how many days old the month is; is the
moon new, and the sun at its zenith?” Her father ate two eggs, a little
of the loaf, and sipped some of the milk, and gave the rest to the
officer. “Tell thy daughter,” he said, “the sun is not full, neither is
the moon, for the month is two days old.” “Ah,” laughed the peasant, as
he told his daughter the answers of the officer, “ah, my girl, I told you
he was a fool, for we are now in the middle of the month.” “Did you eat
anything of what I gave you?” asked the girl of her father. And he told
her of the two eggs, the morsel of bread, and the sip of milk that he had
taken. “Now I know,” said the girl, “of a surety that the man is very
wise.” And the officer, too, felt that she was wise, and so he told her
the king’s dream. She went back with him to the king, for she told the
officer that she could interpret the vision, but would do so only to the
king in person, not through a deputy. “Search thy harem,” said the girl,
“and thou wilt find among thy women a man disguised in female garb.” He
searched, and found that her words were true. The man was slain, and the
women, too, and the peasant’s daughter became the king’s sole queen, for
he never took another wife besides her.

THE NIGHT’S REST

Thus Joseph and the giant Enan journey on, and they stay overnight in a
village inn. Then commences a series of semi-medical wrangles, which fill
up a large portion of the book. Joseph demands food and wine, and Enan
gives him a little of the former and none of the latter. “Be still,” says
Enan, “too much food is injurious to a traveller weary from the way. But
you cannot be so very hungry, or you would fall to on the dry bread. But
wine with its exciting qualities is bad for one heated by a long day’s
ride.” Even their asses are starved, and Joseph remarks sarcastically,
“Tomorrow it will be, indeed, a case of carry-thou-me-or-I-thee, for our
asses will not be able to bear us.” They sleep on the ground, without couch
or cover. At dawn Enan rouses him, and when he sees that his ass is still
alive, he exclaims, “Man and beast thou savest, O Lord!” The ass, by the
way, is a lineal descendant of Balaam’s animal.

They proceed, and the asses nod and bow as though they knew how to pray.
Enan weeps as they near a town. “Here,” says he, “my dear friend died, a
man of wisdom and judgment. I will tell thee a little of his cleverness.”

THE DISHONEST SINGER AND THE WEDDING ROBES

A man once came to him crying in distress. His only daughter was
betrothed to a youth, and the bridegroom and his father came to the
bride’s house on the eve of the wedding, to view her ornaments and
beautiful clothes. When the bride’s parents rose next day, everything had
vanished, jewels and trousseau together. They were in despair, for they
had lavished all their possessions on their daughter. My friend
[continued Enan] went back with the man to examine the scene of the
robbery. The walls of the house were too high to scale. He found but one
place where entry was possible, a crevice in a wall in which an orange
tree grew, and its edge was covered with thorns and prickles. Next door
lived a musician, Paltiel ben Agan [or Adan] by name, and my late friend,
the judge, interviewed him, and made him strip. His body was covered with
cuts and scratches; his guilt was discovered, and the dowry returned to
the last shoe-latchet. “My son,” said he, “beware of singers, for they
are mostly thieves; trust no word of theirs, for they are liars; they
dally with women, and long after other people’s money. They fancy they
are clever, but they know not their left hand from their right; they
raise their hands all day and call, but know not to whom. A singer stands
at his post, raised above all other men, and he thinks he is as lofty as
his place. He constantly emits sounds, which mount to his brain, and dry
it up; hence he is so witless.”

Then Enan tells Joseph another story of his friend the judge’s sagacity:

THE NOBLEMAN AND THE NECKLACE

A man lived in Cordova, Jacob by name, the broker; he was a man of tried
honesty. Once a jewelled necklet was entrusted to him for sale by the
judge, the owner demanding five hundred pieces of gold as its price.
Jacob had the chain in his hand when he met a nobleman, one of the king’s
intimate friends. The nobleman offered four hundred pieces for the
necklet, which Jacob refused. “Come with me to my house, and I will
consider the price,” said the would-be purchaser. The Jew accompanied him
home, and the nobleman went within. Jacob waited outside the gate till
the evening, but no one came out. He passed a sleepless night with his
wife and children, and next morning returned to the nobleman. “Buy the
necklace,” said he, “or return it.” The nobleman denied all knowledge of
the jewels, so Jacob went to the judge. He sent for the nobles, to
address them as was his wont, and as soon as they had arrived, he said to
the thief’s servant, “Take your master’s shoe and go to his wife. Show
the shoe and say, Your lord bids me ask you for the necklace he bought
yesterday, as he wishes to exhibit its beauty to his friends.” The wife
gave the servant the ornament, the theft was made manifest, and it was
restored to its rightful owner.

And Enan goes on:

THE SON AND THE SLAVE

A merchant of measureless wealth had an only son, who, when he grew up,
said, “Father, send me on a voyage, that I may trade and see foreign
lands, and talk with men of wisdom, to learn from their words.” The
father purchased a ship, and sent him on a voyage, with much wealth and
many friends. The father was left at home with his slave, in whom he put
his trust, and who filled his son’s place in position and affection.
Suddenly a pain seized him in the heart, and he died without directing
how his property was to be divided. The slave took possession of
everything; no one in the town knew whether he was the man’s slave or his
son. Ten years passed, and the real son returned, with his ship laden
with wealth. As they approached the harbor, the ship was wrecked. They
had cast everything overboard, in a vain effort to save it; finally, the
crew and the passengers were all thrown into the sea. The son reached the
shore destitute, and returned to his father’s house; but the slave drove
him away, denying his identity. They went before the judge. “Find the
loathly merchant’s grave,” he said to the slave, “and bring me the dead
man’s bones. I shall burn them for his neglect to leave a will, thus
rousing strife as to his property.” The slave started to obey, but the
son stayed him. “Keep all,” said he, “but disturb not my father’s bones.”
“Thou art the son,” said the judge; “take this other as thy lifelong
slave.”

Joseph and Enan pass to the city of Tobiah. At the gate they are accosted
by an old and venerable man, to whom they explain that they have been on
the way for seven days. He invites them to his home, treats them
hospitably, and after supper tells them sweet and pleasant tales, “among
his words an incident wonderful to the highest degree.” This wonderful
story is none other than a distorted version of the Book of Tobit. I have
translated this in full, and in rhymed prose, as a specimen of the
original.

THE STORY OF TOBIT

Here, in the days of the saints of old, in the concourse of elders of age
untold, there lived a man upright and true, in all his doings good
fortune he knew. Rich was he and great, his eyes looked ever straight:
Tobiah, the son of Ahiah, a man of Dan, helped the poor, to each gave of
his store; whene’er one friendless died, the shroud he supplied, bore the
corpse to the grave, nor thought his money to save. The men of the place,
a sin-ruled race, slandering, cried, “O King, these Jewish knaves open
our graves! Our bones they burn, into charms to turn, health to earn.”
The king angrily spoke: “I will weighten their yoke, and their villainy
repay; all the Jews who, from to-day, die in this town, to the pit take
down, to the pit hurry all, without burial. Who buries a Jew, the hour
shall rue; bitter his pang, on the gallows shall he hang.” Soon a
sojourner did die, and no friends were by; but good Tobiah the corpse did
lave, and dress it for the grave. Some sinners saw the deed, to the judge
the word they gave, who Tobiah’s death decreed. Forth the saint they
draw, to hang him as by law. But now they near the tree, lo! no man can
see, a blindness falls on all, and Tobiah flies their thrall. Many
friends his loss do weep, but homewards he doth creep, God’s mercies to
narrate, and his own surprising fate, “Praise ye the Lord, dear friends,
for His mercy never ends, and to His servants good intends.” Fear the
king distressed, his heart beat at his breast, new decrees his fear
expressed. “Whoe’er a Jew shall harm,” the king cried in alarm, “touching
his person or personalty, touches the apple of my eye; let no man do this
wrong, or I’ll hang him ‘mid the throng, high though his rank, and his
lineage long.” And well he kept his word, he punished those who erred;
but on the Jews his mercies shone, the while he rilled the throne.

Once lay the saint at rest, and glanced upon the nest of a bird within
his room. Ah! cruel was his doom! Into his eye there went the sparrow’s
excrement. Tobiah’s sight was gone! He had an only son, whom thus he now
addressed: “When business ventures pressed, I passed from clime to clime.
Well I recall the time, when long I dwelt in Ind, of wealth full stores
to find. But perilous was the road, and entrusted I my load with one of
honest fame, Peër Hazeman his name. And now list, beloved son, go out and
hire thee one, thy steps forthwith to guide unto my old friend’s side. I
know his love’s full stream, his trust he will redeem; when heareth he my
plight, when seeth he thy sight, then will he do the right.” The youth
found whom he sought, a man by travel taught, the ways of Ind he knew; he
knew them through and through, he knew them up and down, as a townsman
knows his town. He brought him to his sire, who straightway did inquire,
“Knowest thou an Indian spot, a city named Tobot?”—”Full well I know the
place, I spent a two years’ space in various enterprise; its people all
are wise, and honest men and true.”—”What must I give to you,” asked
Tobiah of his guest,” to take my son in quest?”—”Of pieces pure of
gold, full fifty must be told.”—”I’ll pay you that with joy; start forth
now with my boy.” A script the son did write, which Tobiah did indite,
and on his son bestow a sign his friend would know. The father kissed his
son, “In peace,” said he, “get gone; may God my life maintain till thou
art come again.” The youth and guide to Tobot hied, and reached anon Peër
Hazeman. “Why askest thou my name?” Straight the answer came, “Tobiah is
my sire, and he doth inquire of thy health and thy household’s.” Then the
letter he unfolds. The contents Peër espies, every doubt flies, he
regards the token with no word spoken. “‘Tis the son of my friend, who
greeting thus doth send. Is it well with him? Say.”—”Well, well with him
alway.”—”Then dwell thou here a while, and hours sweet beguile with the
tales which thou wilt tell of him I loved so well.”—”Nay, I must
forthwith part to soothe my father’s heart. I am his only trust, return
at once I must.” Peër Hazeman agrees the lad to release; gives him all
his father’s loan, and gifts adds of his own, raiment and two slaves. To
music’s pleasant staves, the son doth homeward wend. By the shore of the
sea went the lad full of glee, and the wind blew a blast, and a fish was
upward cast. Then hastened the guide to ope the fish’s side, took the
liver and the gall, for cure of evil’s thrall: liver to give demons
flight, gall to restore men’s sight. The youth begged his friend these
specifics to lend, then went he on his way to where his sick sire lay.
Then spake the youth to his father all the truth. “Send not away the
guide without pay.” The son sought the man, through the city he ran, but
the man had disappeared. Said Tobiah, “Be not afeared, ’twas Elijah the
seer, whom God sent here to stand by our side, our needs to provide.” He
bathed both his eyes with the gall of the prize, and his sight was
restored by the grace of the Lord.

Then said he to his son, “Now God His grace has shown, dost thou not
yearn to do a deed in turn? My niece forthwith wed.”—”But her husbands
three are dead, each gave up his life as each made her his wife; to her
shame and to her sorrow, they survived not to the morrow.”—”Nay, a demon
is the doer of this harm to every wooer. My son, obey my wish, take the
liver of the fish, and burn it in full fume, at the door of her
room,’twill give the demon his doom.” At his father’s command, with his
life in his hand, the youth sought the maid, and wedded her unafraid. For
long timid hours his prayer Tobiah pours; but the incense was alight, the
demon took to flight, and safe was all the night. Long and happily wed,
their lives sweetly sped.

Their entertainer tells Joseph and Enan another story of piety connected
with the burial of the dead:

THE PARALYTICS TOUCHSTONE OF VIRTUE

Once upon a time there lived a saintly man, whose abode was on the way to
the graveyard. Every funeral passed his door, and he would ever rise and
join in the procession, and assist those engaged in the burial. In his
old age his feet were paralyzed, and he could not leave his bed; the dead
passed his doors, and he sighed that he could not rise to display his
wonted respect. Then prayed he to the Lord: “O Lord, who givest eyes to
the blind and feet to the lame, hear me from the corner of my sorrowful
bed. Grant that when a pious man is borne to his grave, I may be able to
rise to my feet.” An angel’s voice in a vision answered him, “Lo, thy
prayer is heard.” And so, whenever a pious man was buried, he rose and
prayed for his soul. On a day, there died one who had grown old in the
world’s repute, a man of excellent piety, yet the lame man could not rise
as his funeral passed. Next day died a quarrelsome fellow of ill fame for
his notorious sins, and when his body was carried past the lame man’s
door, the paralytic was able to stand. Every one was amazed, for hitherto
the lame man’s rising or resting had been a gauge of the departed’s
virtue. Two sage men resolved to get to the bottom of the mystery. They
interviewed the wife of the fellow who had died second. The wife
confirmed the worst account of him, but added: “He had an old father,
aged one hundred years, and he honored and served him. Every day he
kissed his hand, gave him drink, stripped and dressed him when, from old
age, he could not turn himself on his couch; daily he brought ox and lamb
bones, from which he drew the marrow, and made dainty foods of it.” And
the people knew that honoring his father had atoned for his
transgressions. Then the two inquisitors went to the house of the pious
man, before whom the paralytic had been unable to rise. His widow gave
him an excellent character; he was gentle and pious; prayed three times a
day, and at midnight rose and went to a special chamber to say his
prayers. No one had ever seen the room but himself, as he ever kept the
key in his bosom. The two inquisitors opened the door of this chamber,
and found a small box hidden in the window-sill; they opened the box, and
found in it a golden figure bearing a crucifix. Thus the man had been one
of those who do the deeds of Zimri, and expect the reward of Phineas.

TABLE TALK

Joseph and Enan then retire to rest, and their sleep is sweet and long. By
strange and devious ways they continue their journey on the morrow,
starting at dawn. Again they pass the night at the house of one of Enan’s
friends, Rabbi Judah, a ripe old sage and hospitable, who welcomes them
cordially, feeds them bountifully, gives them spiced dishes, wine of the
grape and the pomegranate, and then tells stories and proverbs “from the
books of the Arabs.”

A man said to a sage, “Thou braggest of thy wisdom, but it came from me.”
“Yes,” replied the sage, “and it forgot its way back.”—Who is the worst
of