The Prayerbook and the Villager

by Shai Agnon

Shai Agnon (winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature) told:

One time, a number of us—myself, Chaim Nachman Bialik, Eliezer Meir Lifshitz, Rabbi Simchah Asaf, Binyamin and others—entered the presence of the great Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Hacohen Kook and discussed the problems of the generation and how to rectify it.

One of the group made a speech in praise of the Torah, which ended by criticizing the many additional laws enacted by the rabbis in every generation. Rabbi Nachman rose in pain, and appeared angry. But he immediately overcame his anger, as was his holy way, and answered quietly: Hearing this has brought to mind a story.

There was once a great rabbi who happened to pass through a village. Night fell, and he had to stay there overnight. He asked the villager at whose house he was staying for a volume of the Talmud, but the villager didn’t have one. He asked for a mishnah—the villager didn’t have. He asked for an Ein Yaakov—the villager didn’t have that either.

Finally, he asked the villager, “Do you have a prayerbook?” The villager brought him an old prayerbook, which contained a commentary that the rabbi read the entire night, and which he enjoyed greatly.

The next day, the rabbi offered to pay a good price for the prayerbook, but the villager refused. The rabbi persisted: “I’ll trade it for a new prayerbook with a fine binding.” But the villager still refused.

“Why?” asked the rabbi.

The villager replied, “Rabbi, every morning when I get up I like to drink something hot, and I warm up the kettle. To make the fire catch quickly, I light a piece of paper and put it under the tinder. Since I don’t have much paper in the house, I rip a page out of the prayerbook and light that. And also, every time I want to smoke my pipe, I rip a page out of the prayerbook to light it.

“I am already an old man, but because there is so much commentary, I still haven’t come to the prayers. All the pages I’ve ripped out really aren’t the prayerbook.”

Malachim Kivnei Adam, pp. 363-65

BACK · NEXT

Views: 72

Quotes Tags: The · Prayerbook · and · the · Villager · · by · Shai · Agnon · · · · · · · · · · Shai · Agnon · · winner · of · the · Nobel · Prize · for · Literature · · told · · · · · · · · · · · One · time · · a · number · of · us—myself · · Chaim · Nachman · Bialik · · Eliezer · Meir · Lifshitz · · Rabbi · Simchah · Asaf · · Binyamin · and · others—entered · the · presence · of · the · great · Rabbi · Avraham · Yitzchak · Hacohen · Kook · and · discussed · the · problems · of · the · generation · and · how · to · rectify · it · · · · · · · · · · · One · of · the · group · made · a · speech · in · praise · of · the · Torah · · which · ended · by · criticizing · the · many · additional · laws · enacted · by · the · rabbis · in · every · generation · · · Rabbi · Nachman · rose · in · pain · · and · appeared · angry · · · But · he · immediately · overcame · his · anger · · as · was · his · holy · way · · and · answered · quietly · · · · · · · · · Hearing · this · has · brought · to · mind · a · story · · · · · · · · · · · There · was · once · a · great · rabbi · who · happened · to · pass · through · a · village · · · Night · fell · · and · he · had · to · stay · there · overnight · · · · · · · · · He · asked · the · villager · at · whose · house · he · was · staying · for · a · volume · of · the · Talmud · · but · the · villager · didn’t · have · one · · · He · asked · for · a · mishnah—the · villager · didn’t · have · · · He · asked · for · an · Ein · Yaakov—the · villager · didn’t · have · that · either · · · · · · · · · · · Finally · · he · asked · the · villager · · “Do · you · have · a · prayerbook · · · The · villager · brought · him · an · old · prayerbook · · which · contained · a · commentary · that · the · rabbi · read · the · entire · night · · and · which · he · enjoyed · greatly · · · · · · · · · · · The · next · day · · the · rabbi · offered · to · pay · a · good · price · for · the · prayerbook · · but · the · villager · refused · · · The · rabbi · persisted · · “I’ll · trade · it · for · a · new · prayerbook · with · a · fine · binding · · · But · the · villager · still · refused · · · · · · · · · · · “Why · · asked · the · rabbi · · · · · · · · · · · The · villager · replied · · “Rabbi · · every · morning · when · I · get · up · I · like · to · drink · something · hot · · and · I · warm · up · the · kettle · · · To · make · the · fire · catch · quickly · · I · light · a · piece · of · paper · and · put · it · under · the · tinder · · · Since · I · don’t · have · much · paper · in · the · house · · I · rip · a · page · out · of · the · prayerbook · and · light · that · · · And · also · · every · time · I · want · to · smoke · my · pipe · · I · rip · a · page · out · of · the · prayerbook · to · light · it · · · · · · · · · · · “I · am · already · an · old · man · · but · because · there · is · so · much · commentary · · I · still · haven’t · come · to · the · prayers · · · All · the · pages · I’ve · ripped · out · really · aren’t · the · prayerbook · · · · · · · · · · · Malachim · Kivnei · Adam · · pp · · 363 · 65 · ·

Bereshit · Shemot · Vayikra · Bamidbar · Devarim · Pirkei Avot · Mishlei · Kohelet · Song of Solomon · Adam · Noah · Moses · Yehoshua · Abraham · Isaac · Jacob · Rabbi · Sophocles · Seneca · Samuel · David · Solomon · Steve Jobs · Muhammad · Sergey Brin · Larry Page · William Shakespeare · Tim Berners-Lee · Linda Green · George R.R. Martin · Nikola Tesla · Paula Hawkins · Fearne Cotton · Oscar Wild · Agatha Christie · Barbara Cartland · Danielle Steel · Harold Robbins · Georges Simenon · Sidney Sheldon · Enid Blyton · Dr. Seuss · Gilbert Patten · J. K. Rowling · Jack London · Donald Trump · Melania Trump · Jared Kushner · Ivanka Trump · Woody Allen · Peta Murgatroyd · Kyrie Irving · Alicia Keys · Justin Timberlake · Rihanna · George Clooney · Jenny Slate · Roger Federer · Selena Gomez · Giancarlo Stanton · Lea Michele · Brad Pitt · Scarlett Johansson · Rael · Winston Churchill · Abraham Lincoln · Marilyn Monroe · Martin Luther King · Walt Disney · Ludwig Beethoven · Stephen King · Henry Ford · John Lennon · Ernest Hemingway · Bill Gates · Richard Branson · Jesus · Aristotle · Socrates · Plato · Mark Zuckerberg · Albert Einstein · Pele · Justin Bieber · Taylor Swift · Elohim · James Madison · Yeshua · Bill Clinton · Hillary Clinton · Eyal Ofer · Morris Kahn · Rudyard Kipling · Arnold Schwarzenegger · Freeman · Mark Twain · Robert Holden · Susan Wojcicki · Benjamin Franklin · Anthony Joshua · Marcus Lehmann · Charles Darwin · Elvis Presley · Christopher Columbus · Queen Victoria · Queen Elizabeth · Leonardo da Vinci · Pablo Picasso · Thomas Edison · Vincent Van Gogh · Michael Jordon · Sigmund Freud · David Beckham · Prince Charles · Billie Jean King · Anne Frank · Marie Antoinette · Cristiano Ronaldo · Lech Walesa · Shakira · Roman Abramovich · Tom Cruise · George Clooney · Paul Krugman · Kylie Minogue · Jimmy Wales · Brad Pitt · Confucius · Prince William · Kate Middleton · Michael Bloomberg · Vladimir Putin · Dmitry Medvedev · Lenin · Bashar Assad · Warren Buffett · Xi Jinping · Jojo Moyes · Bruce Lee · Honore de Balzac · Antoine de Saint-Exupery · Amy Grant · Elie Wiesel · Elana Yael Heideman · Li Ching Yuen · Sholom Aleichem · Yitzhak Yosef · London Grammar · Benjamin Netanyahu · Shimon Peres · Jeff Bezos ·