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

By Sabine Baring-Gould

The Loan

(Midrash Yalkut, iii, p. 165.)


A black cap on his white hair,

And him before

Unfurled the great book of the Law,

Sat in the school and taught.

Many a winged thought

Flew from his lips, and brought

Fire and enlightenment

Unto the scholars bent

Diligently at their writing.

And all the while he was inditing,

His soul was near to God

Above the dull earth that he trod.

And as the lark doth sing

High up and quivering

In the blue, on heavenward wing,

But ever its breast

Keepeth above its nest,

And singing it doth not roam

Beyond hearing of its home,

So the Rabbi, however high he soared

In his teaching, or praying, sung

Close to the ear of his Lord,

Yet ever above his home, his wife and young.

Slowly there stole the gloom

Of evening into the room,

Then he rose and shut the book

And casting about a look,

Said, with a wave

Of the hand: “God gave

The light, and hath taken away,

With the Lord begun,

With the Lord run,

With the Lord done,

Is the day.”

Then his way

Homeward cheerfully he took.

In the little house, sedate,

For her husband did await

Beruriah. And for her lord

She had laid the supper on the board.

And a lamp was lighted up,

By which he might sup.

He kissed her upon the brow,

And spake to her gently: “How

Are the lads today?

Tell me, Beruriah, pray.”

There glittered on her cheek

Two jewels, ere she could speak

And answer, “They are well,

Sit you and eat your supper, whilst I tell

What to me befell;

And assure me in what way

You think it had been best

That I had acted.” Thus addressed,

He sat him at his meal,

And began to eat: “Reveal

Thy case,” he said. “Yet tell me, I pray,

First—where are my boys today?”

Then suddenly she said,

With an averted head:

“Many years are flown

Since one a precious loan

Entrusted to my care, until he came

That treasure to reclaim.”

The Rabbi spoke: “Of old

Tobit confided his gold

To Raguel

At Ecbatane. Well,

What further?—But say,

Where are my lads, I pray?”

“For many years that store

I jealously watched o’er,

Do you think, my lord, that loan

In fourteen years would become my own?”

Then, with a glance of blame,

He answered, as he shook his head:

“For shame.

Wife of my bosom! It were not thine

Should forty years upon thee shine,

And the owner not return

To demand it. Beruriah, learn

Not to covet.”

Then he paused, and said,

Moving the lamp: “Thine eyes are red,

Beruriah: wherefore?”

But she broke

In on his question, and thus spoke:

“To-day there came

To the door the same

One who had lent the treasure,

And he said, ‘It is my pleasure

To have the loan restored.’

What do you think, my lord?

Should I have withheld it, Meir?”

At his wife with astonished stare

Looked the Rabbi. “O my wife!

Light of my eyes, and glory of my life!

Why ask this question?”

Then he said,

As his eyes wandered towards the bed:

“Why is the sheet,

Usually smooth and neat,

Lifted into many a fold and pleat?”

But she asked: “Should I repine

At surrendering what was not mine

To him who claimed it?”

“It was a trust,

Wife of my bosom! What do you ask?—Repine

What! do you lust

To keep what is not thine?”

And once again:

“Where are my boys?”

She took him by the hand,

Whilst o’er her features ran a thrill of pain,

And brought him to the bed, and bid him stand

There, as she touched the sheet, and said:

“The Lord who gave hath taken. They are dead.”

Softly she raised

The sheet; and with awe

The Rabbi his children saw

In the soft twilight

Lying silent, and still and white;

And he said, “Praised

Be the Name of the Lord.

My wife and I are content

That the goodly loan to us lent

Should be restored.”