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Joseph Friedlander, comp. The Standard Book of Jewish Verse. 1917.

By Alice Lucas

Hillel and His Guest

A Talmudic Legend

  • Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.—Proverbs xxvii. 1.

  • HILLEL, the gentle, the beloved sage,

    Expounded day by day the sacred page

    To his disciple in the house of learning;

    And day by day, when home at eve returning,

    They lingered, clust’ring round him loth to part

    From him whose gentle rule won every heart.

    But evermore, when they were wont to plead

    For longer converse, forth he went with speed,

    Saying each day; “I go—the hour is late—

    To tend the guest who doth my coming wait.”

    Until at last they said: “The Rabbi jests

    When telling us thus daily of his guests

    That wait for him.” The Rabbi paused awhile,

    And then made answer; “Think you I beguile

    You with an idle tale? Not so, forsooth!

    I have a guest, whom I must tend in truth.

    Is not the soul of man indeed a guest,

    Who in this body deigns a while to rest,

    And dwells with me all peacefully to-day;

    To-morrow—may it not have fled away?”