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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

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



 Good Luck!