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

By G. M. H.

The Forgotten Rabbi

(“His memory for a blessing!”)

RABBI BEN SHALOM’S wisdom none but his scholars know,

(High let his spirit journey, e’en as his flesh lies low!)

He, ere he spake the “Shema,” prayed that his fame might cease:—

“How shall I give you blessing if you begrudge me peace?”

Rabbi Ben Shalom’s teaching clings to his scholars still,

Oft to his school came, fasting, those who had dreamed of ill:

God in such dreams had spoken—how could they answer best?

“Laugh at the fear,” said Rabbi. “God has a right to jest!”

Rabbi Ben Shalom’s kindred long in his ear deplored

Alms they had spent to nourish one with a secret hoard;

Who of their daily table—robber of God!—had taste:

“Have I not heard,” said Rabbi, “God has enough to waste?”

Rabbi Ben Shalom, silent, sat with a dead man’s son.

“I, at his grave, O Rabbi, knew what my sins had done!

Great but for me, how humbled…. Can I appease the dead?”

“Cherish his seed,” said Rabbi, “Strive to be great instead!”

Rabbi Ben Shalom’s coming mirth unto mirth could bring—

Fill him the cup, he’d drain it; strike on the harp, he’d sing!

Blind seemed his joy to many, when on his brows death sat—

Only the few knew better; knew he rejoiced—in that!

Thus have Ben Shalom’s scholars dug him a lowly bed—

(How can the soul and body ever a like path tread?)

Thus when in Shool they slight him, say that “his fame should cease,”

Whoso gainsays their folly grudges his master peace!