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Monday, May 08, 2006

Souls Afire, by Elie Wiesel

Have you heard of Cracow, a famous city in Poland? Once upon a time there lived in Cracow a certain Isaac, the son of Yekel. Isaac was devoted to God and followed all the religious customs of the Jewish people there, but he was very poor and had many debts; the rent was overdue, his grocery bill unpaid; his daughters were of an age to be married, and poor Isaac would have to pay for their weddings! So he moaned and groaned. He worried day and night. In the synagogue and out of the synagogue he told God all about it and offered prayers to the Lord begging him to relieve his poverty.

It was no use. God did not seem to listen. Isaac went on with his requests just the same; neither did he become less poor nor did he become less devoted to the Lord.

Then one night he had a strange dream. He was carried away to another country and to a bridge in a great city. A voice told him, "This is Prague [Capital of what is now the Czech Republic]. Now look well, for under the bridge, at the spot where you are standing, there is a treasure, buried; it is waiting for you, it is yours."

When he awoke in the morning, Isaac laughed and shrugged off his dream. Mere wish-fulfilment. But the same dream came that night! Prague, the bridge, the treasure! This time the voice asked him, "Well, do you want to be rich, or would you rather keep all your worries?" Still Isaac thought, What nonsense! Prague was so far away and he had no money for the trip. Moreover, he didn't know anyone there. "It is better to pray than to dream, " he said, and began more prayers to God.

Of course you know by now that these things always happen three times: that magic number three. Sure enough, the third night he saw the same spot under the bridge, and the voice said: "What! You haven't left yet?"

Isaac was annoyed and just a bit curious. At last he set out on foot for Prague and walked all the way. He found the river, recognized the bridge, saw the familiar-looking spot. But how could he dare to dig? Soldiers were above, guarding the bridge. What if they should notice? He would surely be arrested. Isaac walked around trying to decide what to do.

Alas! The captain of the guard came and took him in, accusing him of spying. Simple and truthful as he was, Isaac could only stammer out his story. He was sure he would be called a liar and put in prison. But what do you know -- the captain began to laugh, and he laughed hard.

"Did you really come all the way from Cracow believing in a dream? You're crazy, man! Who believes in dreams? Why, do you know that if I were as silly as you are, I'd be in Cracow myself right now? I dreamed, night after night, that a voice was telling me, 'There's a treasure waiting for you at the house of a Cracow Jew named Isaac, son of Yekel. Yes, under the stove.' Now, half the Jews in Cracow are named Isaac and the other half Yekel. And they all have stoves! Can you see me going from house to house tearing down the stoves and digging for treasure?"

Isaac hurried home and found the treasure buried under the stove in his house. He paid his debts, got his daughters married, and had enough left to build a synagogue in honor of the Lord he had never deserted and who had not deserted him.

Very often we discover that what we seek most is right under our nose.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

me i. son of y. it happened to me last week.....


5/09/2006 10:13:00 AM  

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