Who Is Alive? A Hasidic Tale

Once upon a time there was a sad wealthy man and next to him lived a happy poor man.

As wealthy as the rich man was, as great was his envy at the poor man’s happy life.

Sukkot came, and the poor man had nothing to build a Sukkah from. Through all these years good neighbors had helped him to build one. But this year nobody came to help him.

So the happy poor man went to look for some wood to build a Sukkah for the holiday. He walked and walked till he reached the cemetery. There he saw some pieces of wood that were designated to build memorials, so with permission he borrowed a few of them.

The wealthy man was waiting impatiently for the defeat of his neighbor, but the poor man managed to organize himself in spite of the boycott around him.

The wealthy man could not help himself any longer and asked the poor man:”Where on earth did you find these pieces of wood? For I know nobody wanted to help you”. 

The poor man answered and said:”I went to look for some pieces of wood for the Sukkah, and I found the angel of death. I asked him what he was doing there and he said that he came to pick up you – my dear neighbor.

So I told him: ‘There is no need – he is already dead!’

The angel of death looked again in the lists – and claimed decisively that today indeed is your turn – and you appear in the lists.

I explained to him that you are always sad – and since sad you are, you are already considered dead.

The angel of death was really convinced that he’d rather leave you here, something worse than this could not possibly happen.

And he gave me as a present some pieces of wood that were designated to be your memorial”.

Shortly after that, the wealthy man almost brought his soul back to the creator, and decided to always be happy from now on. [though he was rich]

And to those of us who are sometimes sad, happiness is not luxury, it is life itself, so smile, and also inside

חַג שָׂמֵחַ Happy Holiday.

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About Eti Shani

Eti Shani was born in Israel and has been teaching Hebrew for more than 10 years with a special interest and experience in ancient Hebrew scriptures and culture. She's also the author of a series of books for novice and intermediate Hebrew learners.

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