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

By John D. Nussbaum

The Tongue

SAID Rabbi Simon to his son;

“To market-place do quickly run

Naphtali, my lusty lad,

And buy the ‘best’ that can be had

Of things to eat. I say the ‘best,’

Put thou thy intellect to test!”

“A hind-let-loose,” was Naphtali,

And quick to strike the bargain best.

“Think ye, I bring a spicy tart,

Or sweet-meats for our worthy guest?”

The youth replied, “if so ye’re wrong,

I’ve bought a well-preserved tongue.”

“The tongue had neither fat nor bone,

Is tender, sweet and toothsome;

This the food that not alone

Humans eat, but also angels gladsome.”

“Well done,” the rabbi said. “Now go

My boy, and buy the ‘worst’ you know.”

Again the lad went out, and back

He came with his bargain gruesome.

A goodly tongue he showed, the same,

He first did say was wholesome.

“How’s that, my son,” the father said,

“Can one thing be both good and bad?”

“Yes, father,” said young Naphtali,

“In Holy Writ, in Book of Scriptures,

Much wisdom and delight I’ve found,

Thus saith the word of inspired song;

Both life and death are in the tongue!”