Sunday, 27 February 2011

A Bit of Herring, a Pinch of Salt, and a Morsel of Bread

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The dubner maged once heard a scholar get up on the bime, the platform of the synagogue, and deliver a learned discourse, citing Biblical verses, Talmudic and rabbinic commentaries, and who knows what else. In the course of his talk, he managed to heap scorn upon the folk preached who had spoken before him.
When the learned man was done, the dubner maged said to him "Let me tell you a parable that may prove useful".
In a certain town there once lived a great merchant, very clever man. A very, very clever man. He observed that there were many rich and powerful people in his town, so he opened a jewelry store and had many customers. But some while later, he moved to a smaller town whose inhabitants, sad to say, were poor and threadbare.
Seeing that, the clever merchant opened a store - no, not a store, a little shop, in which he sold herring, salt, kerosene, and other ordinary things. And with the same hands that once handled diamonds, he now served up herrings and kerosene. And just as the merchand had been satisfied with the jewelry store, so now he was pleased with the poor little shop. No - he was actually more pleased with it; everything he did delighted him.
Thins went on like this until one day a friend from the larger town came to visit him and said "I don't understand. How is it fitting for a man who once sold diamonds and gems to be selling herring and salt and other such stuff?"
The good and the clever merchand replies, "I am sorry to say that you don't get the point. Let me tell you something: The people who live in the large city are rich. They own many jewels and they are great connoisseurs of jewelry. But in this little town, the poor are poor. They work with their hands and struggle to make ends meet. They don't need diamonds, nor do they understand them. Indeed, what they need...yes! - they need a bit of herring, a pinch of salt, and a morsel of bread".

from Yiddish Folktales, ed. by Beatrice Silverman Weinreich, Translated by Leonard Wolf, 1988, YIVO, pp.8-9

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