There was once a king who had an only son. While he yet lived the king decided to give his crown to the prince. He made a great festival to which all the noblemen of the kingdom came. In the midst of pomp and ceremony the king placed the crown upon the head of his young son, saying, “I am one who can read the future in the stars, and I see that there will come a time when you will lose your kingdom, but when that time comes you must not be sorrowful. If you can be joyous even when your kingdom is lost, I too will be filled with joy. For you cannot be a true king unless you are a happy man.”
The son became king, appointed governors, and ruled. He was a lover of learning. In order to fill his court with wise men he let it be known that he would give every man whatever he desired, whether gold or glory, in return for his wisdom. Therefore all the people in that kingdom began seeking knowledge in order to get gold or glory from the king. Thus it was that the simplest fool in the land was wiser than the greatest sage of any other country. In their quest for learning the people forgot the study of war and so the country was left open to the enemy.
Among the philosophers in the young king’s court were many clever men and infidels. They soon filled the king's mind with doubt. He would ask himself, “Who am I, why am I in the world?” Then he would heave a deep sigh and fall into melancholy. Only when he would forget this doubt would he again become a happy king. More and more often he began to sigh and think, “Why am I in this world?”
One day the Invader came and attacked the unprotected kingdom and all the people fled. Men and women left their fields and homes. The highways were filled with carts and wagons, with people on foot carrying infants in their arms.
Some fleeing people went through a forest and there it befell that two five-year-old children were lost: a boy and a girl. After all the people had passed, the children heard each other crying and went to each other, and joined hands. Together they wandered through the forest. Soon they were hungry, but they did not know where they could get food.
Just then they saw a beggar going through the woods, carrying his begging sack. They ran and clung to him. “Where do you come from?” he asked. “We do not know,” the lost children answered. He gave them bread to eat and turned to go on his way, but they begged him not to leave them alone. The beggar replied, “I cannot take you with me.” Then the children saw that he was blind, and they wondered how he found his way through the forest without sight. As he was leaving, he blessed them, saying, “May you be as I am, and be as old as I am.” Then he left them.
Night came and the children slept. In the morning they cried again for food. Just then they saw another beggar and began to beseech him, but he placed his fingers against his ears, showing them that he was deaf. He gave them bread to eat, enough for the day. As he left, he blessed them, saying, “May you be as I am.”
On the third day when they cried for bread another beggar came. He stammered so badly that they could not understand him. He also fed the children, but would not take them with him. As he went away he blessed them with the wish that they should become like himself.
And so each day as the children wandered through the forest they were fed and blessed.
They met a beggar with a crippled throat, then a hunchback, then a beggar who had no hands, and at last there came a beggar who had no feet. Each beggar left them with the wish that they might become as he was.
On the eighth day they came out of the forest and entered a town. There they went to a house and asked for food. When the people saw that they were only little children, they were given food and drink. So the children said to each other, “We will go on like this from one place to another, and we will always remain together.” They made large beggar's sacks for themselves, for carrying whatever was given them, and they traveled all over the countryside, into the towns, to the fairs, and into the cities.
Wherever they went they sat among the beggars, until they became known to all the poor folk on the roads as the “two children who were lost in the woods.”
Years passed and the two children grew. One day when all the beggars of the kingdom were assembled at a fair in a great city, a leader among them thought, “Let us marry the children, one to another.” He told his companions of this thought. They told the other beggars and when the children were told, they said, “Good.”
So it was decided to marry them as soon as possible. All that was needed was a place for the wedding and food for the banquet. The mendicants remembered that the king was soon to hold a festival where food and drink would be provided to all who came. “That will provide our wedding feast,” they agreed.
The beggars all went to the king’s garden and received meat and bread and wine. They dug a great cave in the ground, large enough to hold a hundred people, and they covered the cave with branches and with earth. There they sat up a wedding canopy within the cave.
In their cave they made the wedding, and they feasted, with eating and dancing and much merriment. The happy child couple sat together in their great joy. Suddenly they remembered their days in the forest and the blind beggar who had been the first to bring them food. As they remembered his kindness they longed for the blind beggar to be at their wedding.
The Blind Beggar
Just then they heard him call out, “Here I am, I have come to your wedding! As a wedding gift I bestow upon you the blessing I wished you before: May you live to be as I am, and as old as I am. But you must not believe that I am blind; I am not blind at all, but in my sight the entire world is not worth the blink of an eye, and so, as I never look upon this world, I have the appearance of one who is blind. I am very old,” he said, “but I am actually quite young, I have not yet begun to live. Nevertheless I am aged, and it is not I alone who says this. I have the word of the great Eagle for this truth. I will tell you the story:
Once there was a ship sailing on a sea; a great storm came, and the ship was broken, but the people were saved. They climbed to a high tower, and in that tower they found clothing and food and wine, and everything that was good. In order to pass the time pleasantly, they said, “Let each of us tell the story of his oldest memory, and we shall see whose memory is longest.”
Both aged and young were there. The first to speak was the eldest of them all. His hair was white with years. “What shall I tell you?” he said, “I even remember when the apple was cut from the bough.”
Though many sages were among them, none understood the meaning of his tale, yet they all agreed that the story was indeed of olden times. Then the second eldest in years then said, as one who wonders and admires, “That is truly an ancient tale! I remember that happening, and I even remember the candle that burned.” Everyone agreed that this was even an older story than the first,and they wondered how a younger man could remember a story of older times. They then asked the third eldest to tell a story in his turn. “I remember those things, and when the fruit first began to grow,” he said. “For then the fruit was only beginning to take form.”
“That is yet a more ancient story,” they all agreed. But then the fourth in years spoke: “I remember when the seed was brought that was to be planted in the fruit.” Then the fifth said, “I remember the sage who thought of the seed.”
The sixth, who was younger still, declared, “I remember the taste of the fruit before the taste went into the fruit.”
The seventh said, “I remember the odor of the fruit before the fruit had an odor.”
The the eighth said, “I remember the appearance of the fruit before the fruit could be seen, and I was but a child at that time.”
Then the blind beggar, who was telling the story, said, “I was the youngest in years among them in the tower. When they had all spoken, I spoke and said; “I remember all those things, and I remember the thing that is Nothing.”
All who were there agreed that mine was a story of something far, far earlier times. Mine was farther back than all the other happenings, and they all wondered at the child whose memory was longer than that of the eldest man.
Suddenly there arose a beating of wings and a knocking upon the walls of the tower. We then saw Great Eagle come. He cried, “You have been poor men long enough! You may now return to your treasures.” He then added, “I will take you out of the tower, the eldest first and so on according to your ages.”
Then he took me out first, and the eldest in years he took out last. When we were all taken out of the tower, the Eagle said to us, “I can explain all the tales that have been told:
He who remembered when the apple was cut from the bough, remembered how at his birth he was cut from his mother; the candle that burned was the babe in the womb, for it is written in gemara that while the child is in the womb a candle burns over his head.
He who remembers when the fruit began to grow remembers how his limbs first began to form in his mother's womb; he that recalls the bringing of the seed remembers how he was conceived; and he that knows the wisdom that created the seed, remembers when conception was but in the mind. The taste that preceded the fruit is the memory of Being, the scent is Spirit and vision is the Soul, but the child that remembers nothing is greater than them all, for he remembers that which existed before Being, Spirit, or Soul. He remembers the life that hovered upon the threshold of eternity.”
Then the Eagle said, “Return to your vessels, for they are your bodies that were broken, and they are now built again.” He blessed them all, but to me he said, “You must come with me, for you are as I am. You are very old, but still young, and you have not yet begun to live.”
“And so you see,” the Blind Beggar continued, “that it was from the great Eagle himself that I learned the secret of my age and of my youth. Today I give you this as my gift so that you may be as I am, and as old as I am.”
When the blind beggar had finished speaking there was great joy and merriment among the wedding guests. The bride and groom had never been more happy.
The Deaf Beggar
On the second day of the seven days of celebration, the bride and groom remembered the second beggar who had fed them in the forest. They missed the deaf beggar and wished he was there. Even as they thought of him, he called out, “Here I am!”
He came forward and kissed them, and said, “Today I bequeath upon you as a wedding gift that which I once gave you in blessing: be as I am, and live a life as good as mine. Surely you believe that I am deaf, however I am not deaf at all. The errors of this world are not worthy of my hearing, for the world is all error, and the cries of its people are but folly. Even their joy is filled with error! What need have I to hear such evil when I lead a life so good and flawless? See, I have made even the people of the Land of Luxury understand that there is nothing in the world so good to eat as bread, and no drink is better than water.” And he explained:
“Once all the people of the Land of Luxury came together and vied with each other in telling of the ease in which they lived. One man spoke of the humming bird's wings upon which he feasted. Another told of the rare wine he drank. Each one boasted of a luxury greater than his neighbor's. Then I said, “I live a life of rarer ease and luxury than yours!” They all looked at my beggar's mantle and laughed, but I said to them, “I know a land where a garden grows that is filled with trees overladen with marvelous fruit. Once the fruit had every tempting odor and flavor and beauty in the world, and every good thing that grows was in that garden.
“A gardener watched over the trees, and pruned them, and cared for their growth; but the gardener disappeared and could not be found. There was no one to take care of the trees, and the people live only from the wild growth of the dropped seed. Even of this, they might have lived well, but a tyrant king invaded their land. He did not harm the people, and he did not himself spoil their garden, but he left behind him three companies of soldiers: one company turned the taste of the garden into bitterness, the other made the odor into stench, and the third made its beauty into clouded darkness.
“Then I said to the people of the Land of Luxury, “Help the people of this other kingdom, for the taste, the beauty, and the odor is gone from their fruit, and if you do not help them, the same evil may reach to your land!” So they set out for the spoiled kingdom, but lived in luxury on their journey, until they came close to the garden, and then the beauty, and the taste, and the delectable odor began to go from their own food, and they did not know what to do. So I gave them some of my bread to eat, and my water to drink, and they tasted all the riches of their fine foods, and they breathed all the delectable odors, and they saw al1 the beauties of the fruit in the bread and water that I gave them.
“Meanwhile the people of the spoiled kingdom remembered that their gardener was of one root with the people of the Land of Luxury, so they decided to send envoys to that kingdom of plenty. The envoys met on the road with the people from the Land of Luxury, and they took council together, and sent me first into the spoiled land.
“Then I went into the city and saw the people assembled in the street. I listened to them and heard one whisper to the other, while the other laughed and whispered to a third, and I knew it was filth that they uttered. I went further, and saw people quarrel and go to a court and quarrel again and go to another court, until the whole city was filled with judges and bribery. The city was also filled with lust.
“Then I knew that the invading king had left his three battalions in the city to spread the three diseases: of filth that had spoiled the taste in their mouth, and bribery that had made their eyes blind, and lust that was a stench in their nostrils. So I said to them, “Let us drive out these strangers! Then perhaps the gardener will be found again.”
“Then the men from the Land of Luxury, who ate of my bread and water, and who were well of sight and scent and hearing, helped me and wherever they caught one of the soldiers, they drove him from the land.
“There was at that time a madman who wandered the streets and cried continually that he was the gardener. Everyone laughed at him and some even threw stones at him. Then I said to them, “Perhaps he is really the gardener; bring him to me.” They brought him, and I saw that he was indeed the gardener. He was restored to the garden. So the people again knew the taste of their fruit, and the scent, and the beauty of it. In reward I was given the good life, and today I bestow it upon you.”
Again the wedding guests rejoiced, and the bride and groom were happy.
On the third day the children cried, “What has become of the stammerer! Is he too here?” Then the heavy-tongued beggar came forward and embraced them. He said, “Yes, here I am!”
In a clear voice he then spoke to them. “On that day when we met in the woods I blessed you with the wish that you might be as I am. Today I bestow it upon you as a gift. For listen, you believe that I am dumb, yet in truth I am not heavy-tongued at all. I simply have no use for men's words, except those that are uttered in praise of G-d. All other earthly words are not worthy of utterance.
“Indeed I am gifted with fine speech and can sing so beautifully that there is no tone, no creature in the world, bird or beast, that will not stop to hear my song.
“And I have proof of this from that great man who is called the Truly Godly Man. For once all the sages of the world came together to prove who was cleverest. The first said, “I have brought iron out of the earth.” The second said, “I have found a way to make brass.” A third knew how to make tin, and another could make silver, and still another had discovered gold. Then one came who had made guns and cannons for war. Another had discovered how to make gun-powder.
“But one of them said, “I am wiser than all of you, for I am as wise as the day.” They did not understand this, and so he said, “If all of your wisdom were taken together it would not make a single hour, for one of you takes things out of the earth and mixes them together to make powder, and another takes iron out of the earth, and another brass, but all of your silver, and iron, and brass, and even your gold is taken out of the earth that G-d made in a single day. All of the things that you take out, if put together, would not make even a single hour of that single day, while I, I am as wise as the entire day!”
“Then I asked him, “Which day?” He turned to me and said, “No matter which day it may be. you are wiser than I, for you have asked. “Which day?”
“I explained my wisdom to them, saying. “You must know that time does not exist of itself and that days are made only of good deeds. It is through men who perform good deeds that days are born, and so time is born. I am he who goes all about the world to find those men who secretly do good deeds. I bring their deeds to the great man who is known as the Truly Godly Man. He turns them into time. Then time is born, and there are days and years.
“And this is the life of the world: At the far end of the world there is a mountain. On the mountain top is a rock, and a fountain of water gushes from that rock. This you know: that everything in the world possesses a heart, and the world itself has a great heart. The heart of the world is complete, for it has a face, and hands, and breasts, and toes, and the littlest toe of the world's heart is more worthy than any human heart.
“So at one end of the earth there is the fountain that flows from the rock on the mountain top, and at the other end is the earth's heart. And the heart desires the mountain spring; it remains in its place far at the other end of the earth, but it is filled with an unutterable longing. It burns with an endless desire for the distant fountain of water.
“In the day the sun is like a blazing whip upon the heart, because of its longing for the spring; but when the heart is utterly weak from the punishment of the sun, a great bird comes and spreads its wings and gives the heart rest. But even while it rests, it longs for the mountain spring, and it looks toward the peak of the mountain, for if it were to lose sight of that spring for but one instant, the heart would cease to live.
“Because of its great longing, it sometimes tries to go to the fountain, but if it goes nearer to the foot of the mountain it can no longer see the spring on the top of the mountain, and so it must remain far away, for only from a distance may a mountain peak be seen. And if it were for an instant to lose sight of the spring, then the heart would die, and all the world would die, because the life of the world and everything in it is in the life of its heart!
“So the heart remains longing at the other end of the earth, longing for the spring that can not come toward it, for the spring has no share in Time. It lives on a mountain peak far above the “time” that is of the earth.
“Farther still, the mountain spring could not be of the earth at all, since it has no share in the earth's time. The earth's heart, gives the spring its day and from that comes “time.”
“And as the day draws to its close, and “time” comes to an end. The heart becomes dark with grief because when the day is done, the mountain spring will surely be gone from the earth. Then the earth's heart will die of longing for the Light. When the heart is dead all the earth and all the creatures upon the earth will die.
“And so, as the day draws to a close the heart begins to sing farewell to the fountain; it sings its grief in wildly beautiful melody, and the mountain spring sings farewell to the heart, and their songs are filled with love and eternal longing.
“But the Truly Godly Man keeps watch over them all! In that last moment before the day is done, and the spring is gone, and the heart is dead, and the world is ended, the Good Man comes and gives a new day to the heart. Then the heart gives the day to the spring and so they live again l'dor v'dor.
“As the day dawns it is brought in with melody and with strangely beautiful words that contain all wisdom. There are differences between the days. There are Sabbaths and Mondays. There are holidays and days of Rosh Chodesh (the first of the month). Each day comes with its own song.
“All these days that the Godly Man gives to the heart of the world He has done through me, because it is I who goes about the world finding those who do good deeds, and it is from their deeds that time is born because each of their deeds become a melody in my mouth, and from that melody the Godly Man makes a day, and the day is given to the heart, and she sings it to the fountain l'dor v'dor.
“Therefore I am wiser than the sages who say they have the wisdom of an entire day because from the Truly Godly Man I have a gift enabling me to sing the songs and to know the wisdom of all the days on earth. And today I bestow upon you, as a wedding gift, the power to be as I am.”
At once there was great joy among them all and the beggars all sang together as one.
So they ended that day with great joy and enhanced emunah.
The Beggar with the Speech Disorder
On the fourth day the children longed for the beggar with the Speech Disorder, and he came forward. He said, “I am here! Once before I blessed you that you might be as I am, and today I bestow upon you this wedding gift: Be as I am!
“You believe that I have a Speech Disorder, but listen, my speech is really beautiful and straight, but there are many foolish and evil things in this world and I would not have any of them come into me through my mouth, therefore my words seems twisted. My words are actually clear and beautiful. I have a voice that is wonderful in song, for through my mouth I can imitate the call and the song of every creature that lives! I have this power from the Land of Melody, for there is a land where everyone, from the king to the smallest child, is wondrously skilled in music. Some play the harp, others the violin, and some p1ay many other instruments.
“Once, all of their greatest musicians came together boasting of his or her skill. One musician could play the harp, another the violin, and still another could play both the harp and a violin. There was one who said he could play upon every musical instrument! Then came forward a man who declared that he could imitate the sound of a harp with his voice, and another who could imitate the sound of violins. One could imitate a drum, and still another could make a noise like a cannon. All with their lips.”
I too was there, and I said, “My voice is more wonderful than all your voices. For if you are such great musicians, can you bring help to the suffering nations?” And I told them, “There are two people whose countries lie a thousand miles apart. When night comes over those lands the people cannot sleep.
“For with night, there comes a strange moaning and wailing, so dreary, so heart-weary, that the very stones groan and weep. When the people hear this sound, they too must begin to moan and weep. Every night all the men and women, and even the children of these countries, lie awake moaning and weeping with the sorrow that comes over them. You who are so skilled in music, can you help those people?”
Then they asked me, “Will you lead us there?” And I said, “Yes!” So they all arose and I led them. We came to one of the countries, and at night we heard the strange moaning. Even the sages from the Land of Melody wept and moaned, but they could do nothing.
“Can you tell me,” I said to them, “where does this sound comes from?” “Do you know?” they asked. “Yes, I know. For there were two beautiful birds that had mated together, and they were the only two of their kind left. But once they became lost, one from the other, and they flew everywhere, each seeking its mate, until they became weary, and their emunah faded because they knew they were far from each other.”
Each settled all alone where it was. One built his nest in his land, and the other built her nest where she was, a thousand miles away from her mate. Now when night comes the two birds begin their lament for the other. It is their moaning lament that the people hear. When they do, they too must mourn in empathy with the birds and so there is no rest for any of them at night.”
The sages did not believe my tale. They said, “Can you take us to the bird's place?” I said, “I can take you there, but you will not be able to bear the weight of this anguish by night or by day, for at night the lament is so great that you may not come near it, and during the day flocks of birds come to her and to him. to cheer them in their loneliness. All the birds sing merrily until the joy is so great as to be unbearable. This joy cannot be heard from afar, but if you come near it, you will fall prey to its power.
Then the sages asked, “Can you correct this problem?” And I told them that I could make my voice like the voice of any living being, and that I also could send my voice to all places on earth, so that it might not be heard where I stood, but would be heard far away. I said to the wise men, “Will you go with me to a place that is neither in one land or the other, but lies between them? From that place in between I will send my voice with the sound of her voice to him, and I will send my voice with the sound of his voice to her, so that each will hear the other's voice. That way each will listen, and tremble, and rise up. They will both spread their wings and fly toward the place of the voice and so will meet together where I stand.”
Then I led them to a place that existed between the two countries. The place was in a forest, and the ground was covered with snow. I stood and sang, but the men with me heard no sound coming from me. They only heard the sound of a door opening and closing. They heard the sound of a gun, and they heard a barking hound as it ran over the snow for the kill. However hearing, they saw nothing. I had sent forth my voices and soon there were two pair of wings flapping above us.
“Then the men from the Land of Melody understood how I had brought the two birds together. They agreed that mine was the most wonderful voice of all, for I could send it wherever I chose.”
He said to the couple, “So today I bestow upon you this gift: that you may be as I am.”
He finished speaking, and all the beggars made merry, and sang.
On the fifth day the children, in the midst of their merriment, sighed and said, “If only the hunchback beggar were here.” Just then he stood and approached, saying, “I too have come to celebrate your wedding dear children. Do you remember how I blessed you that you might be as I am? Today I bestow my wish upon you as a wedding gift: Be as I am.”
It seems to you that I am a hunchback, but in reality my shoulders are wide, straight and strong. I have proof of this from the land where people once came together to see who can bear the heaviest burden with only the slightest support. One of the people said, “The top of my head is a small enough place and yet I carry myriads of creatures with all of their needs upon it.” They made fun of him. Another man said, “You are like a creature I once saw. I thought he sat by a mountain, but when I came near I knew that it was a mountain of garbage that he had thrown out of himself.”
Then a third man said, “I know of a small place that bears a burden greater than itself. I have an orchard where fruit trees grow. The fruit on those trees could many times cover the earth out of which the trees grow.” Many people said, “That is indeed a great thing to come out of a little thing.” Another man declared, “I have a tiny garden so beautiful that princes and kings come to walk in it. My garden is only a small place but it has carried the weight of a whole kingdom.
Still another spoke, saying: “My speech is a slender support that bears great burdens, for I am a minister to a king. I hear the complaints and the praises, the petitions and supplications of all the king's subjects, al1 their utterances are taken within me and my word bears them all to the king.”
But a fifth man answered him, saying “My silence is less and yet greater than your words. There are torrents of accusation against me, and curses too, and foul names, and yet my only reply is silence. My silence bears up against all the cries of my enemies. My silence is a little thing. and yet it withstands a great storm.”
Then another contender spoke and said that he was hidden. because he was small. He said, “I am a little man, and yet I bear up a great burden. I know a needy one who is far taller than myself and though he is a Greater Light he cannot find his way! I lead him. Were it not for me he might lose his path and fall.”
I too was there, and I said, “It is true that some among you have the power of bearing up great burdens. I have understood all that you have said, even to the last of you, who spoke of leading a Greater Light for the little man is greater than the greatest of you, since it is the wheel of the moon that he speaks of. The moon is called a Greater Light and a Blind Light since her light is not her own, and although he is a 'little man' he leads the great wheel of the moon through the heavens. thus his deed is a help to all the world because the world has need of the moon.
“Nevertheless, in me there is a support that is still smaller and bears weightier burdens than any of these. As you know, every beast in the world has his favorite tree whose shadow is pleasant to him. There he takes his rest. Every bird has his favorite bough, and there he sits. Once it was asked, “Is there not a tree in the world in whose shade all beasts might linger. and upon whose boughs all birds might rest?' It was answered, “Yes, there is such a tree! And it is indeed a Pleasant Tree. All the beasts of the earth assemble in its shade. Under its shade they rest happily together. There is no preying of one upon the other there. All the birds sing in the boughs of that Tree. Then my people cried, “How can we find that tree?” To find it one wanted to go to the east, and another to the south, so that they became all confused in their quest. Just then a wise man asked, “Why do you quarrel over the way? First, know whether you can come to the Tree at all, for this Tree has three roots: the first is Emunah (i.e. active faith and belief), the second is Awe of God, and the third is Poverty. The trunk of the Tree is Truth. Only those who possess these things can approach the Tree.
“The people pondered these things among themselves, but not many of them possessed the three required qualities of: Emunah, Awe, and Poverty. Those few could go, but they refused to leave their fellows behind. “We are One People,” they said, “All of us must go, or none of us will go.” So they waited and labored among themselves so that all the People might merit the three needed qualities of Emunah, Awe and Poverty.”
When all the people had merited Belief, Awe and Poverty they found that they were in agreement as to the one way they should go to the tree. Together they all went for a long time. Finally ahead of them they saw the Tree. They also saw, along with the hunchback, that the Tree of Life did not stand on any place at all! Since it did not stand anywhere, they pondered how they might approach it.
But I, said the hunchback, was there among them, and I said, “I can take you to that place. For the Tree is not of this earth, but of a place much higher than this earth. Look here, upon my back I have a little place where great burdens may be borne. It is a tiny thing that is on the very edge of this world, where a higher world begins, and so, upon my little hump, one may go from this world to the world that is higher than here. That place is known as Yesod.
Then I carried them all upon my hump, from the earth to the Tree that stood above the earth. So you see that I carried a great burden upon a small support. For when I brought them to the tree they said, “You are indeed the master of us all, for upon the smallest place you have borne the greatest burden.” And thus I have their word for my deeds, for upon my back I carry all the ills and the woes and the sins of the people of the world. Now I bestow my gift upon you, that you may be as I am.”
The Beggar with the Withered Hands
Then they were merry, but on the sixth day they remembered the beggar whose hands were withered, and they longed for him. Then he came forward and said, “Here I am,” and he embraced the children, and gave them his gift.
“In the forest I blessed you, that you might be as I am, and today I bestow that upon you as a wedding gift. Be as I am. You believe that I cannot use my hands,” he said, “but indeed my hands are strong, only there is nothing in the world worth their use. I therefore save their strength for other deeds. I have proof of their strength from the Palace of Water.
“There was a princess who was ill, and many people came together, each boasting that he had the power to heal her in his hands. One said, “I have such a power in my hands that when I shoot an arrow I can seize it and bring it back.” Then I said to him, “What sort of arrows can you bring back? For there are ten kinds of arrows and since there are ten sorts of poison that may be put upon arrows, and each one is stronger than the other.” Again I asked him, “Can you draw back the arrow only while it is still in its flight, or can you draw it back even after it has stricken its victim?” He answered, “I can draw it back even after it has stricken its victim, but it is only the first kind of arrow that I can drawback.”
“If you can only draw back the first kind of arrow,” I said to him, “then you cannot heal the princess!"
Another man was there who said he had such a power in his hands that when ever he took something from someone, instead of taking, he gave. Then I knew he was a master of Good, and I said, “What sort of Good do you give?” “The tenth sort,” he told me. So I said, “You cannot heal the princess, for you could never come to her chamber; she is surrounded by ten walls, and you can only pass through the first of them.”
“A man was there who said he had such a power in his hands that he gave wisdom to whomever he touched. It was he who had given wisdom to all the sages of the world. I said to him however, “There are ten degrees of wisdom, and which sort of wisdom can you give?” He could give only one of the ten, then I said, “You cannot heal the princess, for you could never find out her pain: there are ten degrees of pain, and you know only one, therefore you can give only one sort of wisdom with your hands.”
Another was there, who said, “I have so great a power in my hands that I can catch a stormy wind as it flies, and hold it, and let it out as a gentle wind or strong, whichever I desire.” But I said to him, “There are ten winds. Which wind can you catch?” “The whirlwind,” he answered. Then I told him, “you cannot heal the princess, for you know the melody of only a single wind, and there are ten winds, and each wind has a melody,and the princess may be healed only through song.”
Then they cried to me, “What sort of power have you in your hands?” I told them, “All the nine parts of each of the things you cannot do, I can do. This is the story: There was a king who fell in love with a princess, and he called sorcerers and made magic spells over her until he caught her in his love and brought her to his palace. One night he dreamed that the princess arose from her bed and murdered him. The king was terribly frightened. He called all his sages and asked them the meaning of his dream.
They told him, “The dream is true. As you dreamed, so it will happen.” At this, he did not know what to do. He could not kill the princess, for he loved her, and he could not send her away, for he had suffered so much for her. If he sent her away someone else would have her and then she might return and do what she had done in his dream. Yet he was afraid to keep her by him.
The king did not know what to do, so he did nothing. As the days passed his love for the princess waned, because he thought of her always as the murderess in his dream. As his love waned the spell fell from the princess, and her love too waned, until it became hatred. In time she came to hate the king and ran from the palace. He sent out searchers to find her. The searchers returned and said, “We have seen her wandering near the Palace of Water.” For the king had a palace that was the most wonderful of all places on earth. It was built entirely of water! The walls of the palace were of clear water. They stood and glimmered in the sun. So the earth upon which the palace stood was deep water, its gardens were of water. They were filled with all manner of fruits and flowers, luscious and gold and green, all as liquid as the sea. The palace and its gardens were surrounded by ten watery walls. No man might come into that place, for surely he would be drowned.
When the guards told the king that they had seen the princess wandering near the walls of water, he cried; “We will catch her there!” The king went out with his men to pursue the princess. But as she saw them coming, she was seized with terror, she thought she would rather die than be taken by them again. She looked at the walls and thought, “perhaps I can even pass through the walls and reach the palace!” Then she ran into the water.
“As the king saw her run into the water, he cried. “My dream was true! She is a sorceress!” And he shouted to his men. “Kill her!” So they shot arrows after her, and each of the ten arrows struck the princess, and upon each arrow was another of the ten poisons. But she found the gates beneath the watery walls, and she passed through the ten walls and fell within the palace. And there she lies in a swoon to this very day.”
Only I can heal her, for only he who has the ten virtues in his hands can pass through the ten walls of water. And when the king and his men sought to run after her, they all were drowned in the sea.
But under the walls of water are the ten winds, and each wind blows beneath the sea and raises the waters up into a wall, and while the wind remains under the ocean the water remains on high. I can seize the ten winds, and I can pass through the ten walls of water, so I can go into the palace and draw the ten poisoned arrows from the princess. I can heal her ten wounds with my ten fingers, because through the ten melodies she may be healed entirely and I know them all.
“Then they understood that I might truly heal the princess so they agreed that the greatest power was in my hands. Now I bestow that power upon you, my children!”
Then there was joy greater than ever before.
The Seventh Beggar
All that day until the next day the newlyweds longed for the coming of the Legless Beggar. But now the story become difficult to tell. Every word in it is heavy with meaning. Whoever is filled with the knowledge of the Book of Mysteries may understand, for the meaning of the arrows that could be drawn back is written in its passages. Likewise, the meaning of the virtue that could stand against the walls of water is in the lines. Their righteousness is as the waves of the sea! The ten sorts of wounds, and the ten healing melodies are written in the Zohar.
But of the last beggar, who did not have the use of his feet, what may be told? For in his story is the end of the beginning, and of the tale of the young prince who asked, “Who am I, and why am I in the world?” And of who sighed when he was told to be joyous. For with the coming of the Seventh Beggar, will come the Answer, however that may not be revealed, and indeed can not be revealed, and will not be known until HaMashiach comes.
May he come soon, and in our day and may we all say, Omain.
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