Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – CLII. Stories My Grandmother Told Me (4 of 10)

The habit makes the Rabbi

Many of us had heard the following saying: “The habit does not make the Monk.” Of course, just because you’re donning a Monk’s attire does not make you an expert in religious matter. However, this is only one side of the coin. Humans often judge by outside appearances. And so another – less known – proverb has been coined: “The habit makes the Monk.” The two contradictory views make a wonderful subject for an essay; and, indeed, one of my French teachers gave us such a dissertation.

My grandmother was out to show us, through this story, how shallow humans are; and how blinded we can be by what shines but, is otherwise valueless.

Without a doubt, this story was our favorite. Bida, a superb storyteller, was at her best when narrating the Rabbi’s story. As well, many words rhyme in the story; unfortunately, when translated into English it will loses some of its allure. Nevertheless, even the translation retain a lot of the original coloring. Here, therefore, without further ado, is this edifying tale.

Rabbi Nahum was a very learned man. He was also greatly respected in his community. One day, Nahum realized that a profound knowledge of the Torah and the commandments was not enough. It was his duty to pass on his knowledge to the next generation.

Yahalom (which means diamond in Hebrew) was a very gifted adolescent. He had made it clear that when he grew up, he wanted to be a Rabbi.

So Rabbi Nahum approached this young lad, and Yahalom was over the moon at the mere suggestion that he could be taught by this exceptional man.

Next it was the parents’ turn. They not only agreed, but thanked and blessed Nahum.

However, there was an important requirement, and Nahum spelled it out: “Book learning is of limited value without practical experience. I will need to travel from community to community to expose your son to different people, different experiences.”

And again the parents consented. The first lesson taught is really our story; so let us go there.

The community of Hatikva (which means hope in Hebrew) was a small town inhabited by people of modest means. There was, however, a wealthy family, Avilla, and it employed most of the town in its prosperous business.

When Nahum arrived in Hatikva, it was Friday, late afternoon; Shabbat was only a few hours away. After settling in the only inn of the town, they decided to look for a hospitable family that was willing to share their Shabbat meal with them. The obvious choice was the Avilla family.

Yahalom started to dress, but the Rabbi stopped him and said, “we will put clean but shabby cloth on, and we will, of course, take our bath. The nice suit you took out is to be saved for next week.”

Yahalom was surprised at these instructions but, didn’t say anything. He was, however, totally astounded when he realized that the Rebbe was also attired in ratty but clean clothing.

When Nahum knocked on the door of the Avilla, a young lady opened the door and looked at them with disdain.

“Yes?” she asked in an aggressive tone, “what can I do for you?”

“We are passing through your town, and would like to share the Shabbat meal with you,” Nahum informed her.

“The Shabbat meal? with us?” she questioned in an incredulous voice. “Go away, we won’t offer you our hospitality.”

But Nahum insisted on talking with her parents. Big mistake. Dad, mom, and the big brother, not only chased him away, but threatened to call the police if he ever showed up at their doorstep again.

By now you guessed that the following week, when they again solicited the hospitality of the Avilla, Nahum and Yahalom were attired in splendid clothing. Yahalom, looked princely in his suit; a diamond pin held his tie in place. Nahum was dressed in a silk caftan (robe) with long sleeves.

And the Avilla received them like royalty. “Yes, of course, you can share our meal, indeed, we would be greatly honored.”

During the meal, the family was largely silent; they listened intently to all the stories the Rebbe regaled them with. Even the help lingered trying to catch the complete story.

While serving himself fish, the sleeve of the rabbi’s caftan almost went into the sauce.

“Rebbe, Rebbe,” the family exclaimed, “your sleeve! You’re going to ruin your beautiful caftan.” (The response of the Rabbi follows in Arabic and is then translated).

“Lawla komi ma kan akal fomi.” “If it wasn’t for my sleeve, I would not be eating with you.”

The Avilla were stunned when they were informed that this wise man was the very same person they had chased away like a mendicant last Friday.

And the lesson that “THE HABIT MAKES THE RABBI” was never forgotten by the present assembly.

This brings to an end my grandmother’s stories (the ones I remember). But not to worry, I have more stories for you. A child seeks wisdom from many people; for how else can his budding mind grows?

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