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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "The Mullah Goes to Chelm"
This poem came out of the September 8, 2009 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from janetmiles (about Chelm) and Doug Edwards (about the Mullah), plus my own fascination with the Tzadikim. This poem was sponsored by janetmiles.


The Mullah Goes to Chelm


One day, after a few too many adventures,
the Mullah decided to leave his homeland and travel.

Some weeks later, the Mullah came to the town of Chelm.
“Assalamu ‘alaikum,” he said to the man at the gate.
But the man at the gate did not reply.

“Why do you not say ‘Wa'alaikum assalam’ to me?” asked the Mullah?
“Because we are all Jews here,” said the man. “Shalom!”

“How interesting!” said the Mullah.
Straightaway he went to the synagogue
and began discussing religion with the maggid.

The maggid chose to tell the story of the Tzadikim Nistarim,
the 36 righteous men for whose sake the world is not destroyed.

“If I meet one of them,” the Mullah said fervently,
“I shall treat him very well indeed!”

“That’s the challenge, you see,” said the maggid,
For to do that we must treat everyone so well.
They are all in disguise; no one but God knows who they are.
They could be anyone at all.”

“Even that one?” said the Mullah,
pointing to a drunkard passed out beside the synagogue.

“Well,” said the maggid,
“it’s a very good disguise.”

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Comments
dichroic From: dichroic Date: September 10th, 2009 05:26 am (UTC) (Link)
This is my favorite of anything I've seen from you.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 10th, 2009 05:41 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

How wonderful!

If you enjoy Jewish motifs, by the way, you might also enjoy "These Jews, Like Sand" from a previous fishbowl:
http://ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com/172109.html
dichroic From: dichroic Date: September 10th, 2009 06:19 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!

One complaint, though: it's not really a Chelm story. The Maggid is too bright!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 10th, 2009 06:27 am (UTC) (Link)

Well...

There's a point where "bright" meets "crazy." There lives the Mullah, and there lives the maggid. Trying to treat everyone, including the no-good drunkards of the world, as a saint is laudable in theory but kooky in practice. Try it sometime.

So it's not quite a traditional Chelm story, but nuttiness it does have.
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: September 10th, 2009 06:20 am (UTC) (Link)
This is so perfectly Chelm! :D
upstart_crow From: upstart_crow Date: September 10th, 2009 07:34 am (UTC) (Link)
How thoroughly wonderful! :D
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: September 10th, 2009 10:27 am (UTC) (Link)
This makes me happy, and I shall repost it on my own LJ.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 10th, 2009 03:06 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad this poem appealed to you. I hope your readers enjoy it also.
unmutual From: unmutual Date: September 10th, 2009 12:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! This one really made me smile.

Edited to add: I sent it to my mom and grandma, 'cause I know it will make them smile too!

Edited at 2009-09-10 12:19 pm (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 10th, 2009 04:10 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

I hope they enjoy it. Sharing poetry is a lovely thing.
kestrels_nest From: kestrels_nest Date: September 10th, 2009 03:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, that's a hoot! I grew up on the Chelm stories, and have been telling them to my son and nephew now that they're old enough to appreciate the mishegas.
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 10th, 2009 05:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

God is an iron.
tuftears From: tuftears Date: September 10th, 2009 08:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Reminds me of the Mullah Nasrudin stories. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 10th, 2009 09:48 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

That's part of the inspiration.
sythyry From: sythyry Date: September 11th, 2009 01:23 am (UTC) (Link)
hee hee hee!
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: September 18th, 2009 04:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Huh. Something that just occurred to me. We -- or anyway I -- tend to assume the saints in disguise are probably ordinary people, but ordinary people whom we might normally dismiss -- the homeless woman outside the shelter, or maybe the courtesy clerk at the grocery story, the one who looks like he might have Down Syndrome and who mumbles while he works.

But now I wonder if some of the saints in disguise are those we -- or anyway I -- shun because they are disagreeable in other ways -- the wealthy CEO whose decisions are based solely on the quarterly dividend, or the religious extremist who bombs hotels to protest immodest dress among tourists.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 18th, 2009 07:58 pm (UTC) (Link)

Hmm...

>>We -- or anyway I -- tend to assume the saints in disguise are probably ordinary people, but ordinary people whom we might normally dismiss -- the homeless woman outside the shelter, or maybe the courtesy clerk at the grocery story, the one who looks like he might have Down Syndrome and who mumbles while he works.<<

That's one way I think of them. But another is the person who does a lot of quiet little kindnesses, especially for strangers and especially disappearing immediately afterward. Heroes are flashy, but tzadikim are subtle.

>>But now I wonder if some of the saints in disguise are those we -- or anyway I -- shun because they are disagreeable in other ways -- the wealthy CEO whose decisions are based solely on the quarterly dividend, or the religious extremist who bombs hotels to protest immodest dress among tourists.<<

Well ... that would be a VERY good disguise. One resource I read while looking up the tzadikim mentioned that they weren't "perfect" but rather the amount of good they did dramatically outweighed the bad. So it would theoretically be possible for someone like that to be one, but he would have to be doing some amazing amounts of good to balance that much bad.
ms_interpret From: ms_interpret Date: September 23rd, 2009 07:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

here via Janetmiles.

I would like to send this to a minister friend of mine. Would that be okay with you? And how shall I attribute it?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 24th, 2009 03:43 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes, please!

>>I would like to send this to a minister friend of mine. Would that be okay with you?<<

Yes, people are welcome to share poems of mine that have been sponsored and published on my blog. Part of the point to sponsorship is making them available for everyone to enjoy. Thank you for the networking assist!

>> And how shall I attribute it?<<

"The Mullah Goes to Chelm" by Elizabeth Barrette, sponsored by Janet Miles.

... and now I must ask, is that icon of yours a split between German and Russian?
ms_interpret From: ms_interpret Date: September 24th, 2009 05:10 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes, please!

Super! She's going to love it.

The icon is a mash up of German, Russian and French. Ne ... pas = negation. Spreche = I speak, and the stuff in Cyrillic that I can't type with this keyboard is "Russian". So, "I don't speak Russian". It's terribly and wonderfully wrong. :)
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