Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "More Desirable Than Great Riches"

This poem came out of the November 5, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] technoshaman. It also fills the "Reputation" square in my 10-31-19 card for the People-watching Bingo fest, and the "Silence" square in my 11-1-19 card for the [community profile] transbingo fest. This poem belongs to the Clay of Life series.


"More Desirable Than Great Riches"


Menachem and Yossele
lived on the road, staying
a few days here, traveling
on there, to follow the work.

In most places, their reputation
protected them from trouble, for
blacksmiths were useful everywhere.

They took great care to be honest
and reliable in all that they did, even
when they couldn't always afford it.

"A good name is more desirable
than great riches, a good reputation
than silver and gold," Menachem said
as he poured more water in the soup
to make up for a lack of matzo.

Yossele nodded silently.

It was easy for him to go into
the house of a widow and fetch
her big cauldron for mending,
since he was neither one thing
nor the other and nobody would
think anything untoward of it.

Meanwhile Menachem was
the one who did most of
the bargaining, because
few other people knew
the gestures that Yossele
used to communicate.

Then one day they were
taken up by bandits.

"Nu, don't you know
that it's bad luck to bother
blacksmiths?" said Menachem.
"Your pot will surely spring a leak,
or your horse will throw a shoe!"

But the bandits did not listen.

It was looking very bad
for the two of them as they
were dragged into camp.

Then Yossele met the daughter
of the bandit-lord, who could
neither hear nor speak.

He sat on the ground and
whittled a dreidel from a stick,
then showed her how to play
using the toy and a few signs.

The bandits, who had been
debating whether to rob and
kill them, or rob and sell them,
suddenly stopped when she
gave an odd croaking laugh.

Then everyone swarmed
around Yossele, demanding
to know what he had done.

Yossele waved his hands,
and Menachem translated,
while the little girl watched
them in fascination.

So it was decided that
they would neither be
robbed, killed, nor sold
but would instead stay for
a month to teach Aviva
how to use the signs.

By the time they left,
she could carry on
simple conversations,
and her father loaded
their wagon with all
the food it would hold.


He had offered them
gold, too, but Menachem
had firmly drawn the line at
accepting stolen goods.

Despite that they were
scolded at the next town.

"What were you thinking,
to stay in the woods with
bandits?" an old woman said.

Yossele moved his hands
in reply, and Menachem said,
"We were thinking that Aviva
needed someone to teach her."

It was all very well and good
to worry about your reputation, but
in the end it was not as important
as taking care of G-d's children.

* * *

Notes:

"A good name is more desirable than great riches, a good reputation than silver and gold. "
-- Proverbs (Mishle) 22:1

Jewish soups include matzo ball soup, usually made with chicken, although it can be vegetarian.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, spirituality, weblit, writing
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