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19 The Two Orphans of Istanbul T O L D B Y M E I R R A B B I T O M O S H E R A B B I Once there were two orphan boys who attended the Talmud Torah* in Istanbul, Turkey. They ate their meals there and in the evening went to sleep with relatives in the city. The two boys were friends from birth, almost brothers. They went everywhere together; [they] sat next to each other in class; and when they came back from the Talmud Torah in the evening, they walked together until they reached their relatives’ houses. They were never apart, except at night. They played together, roamed together . People thought they really were brothers. One day [at school], they were rowdy during the lesson, and the teacher, unable to tolerate it any longer, threw them out. Angry that he had thrown them out, they roamed the streets of the city. “The time has come for us to start working and make a living,” they decided, because they were orphans. They dug through the rubbish heaps and found some scraps of copper and iron, which they collected and sold. They did this for several days. When they realized that the business was profitable, they kept at it and stopped going to the Talmud Torah. With the money they earned, they bought all sorts of notions and took to peddling from door to door. Everyone took pity on them and bought whatever they had to offer. Their profits mounted quickly, and they trusted each other implicitly. One day, they stood on a street corner and sold drinks. They started buying cases of drinks from the factory. Because they were honest, the factory owner agreed to sell to them on credit. Eventually, because he liked them, he gave them a stall next to his factory. The two orphans thanked him for his kindness and invaluable assistance. They worked diligently until they had saved up a thousand Turkish pounds. One day the owner of the beverage factory died unexpectedly. The executors of his estate wanted to sell the plant. The two boys decided to buy * Jewish religious school. 138 it, but [they] didn’t have the price demanded. They went to the owner’s widow and begged her to influence the executors to sell them the factory in installments. They would write promissory notes for a number of months and hoped that by the end of the year they could pay off the entire debt. Finally, the executors agreed to sell the factory to the two young friends. The promissory notes were executed. The young partners signed them with all the legal formalities and became the owners of the factory. They worked hard from early morning until late at night, always honest, for a long period. They married and built houses. But nothing lasts forever.* One day, Satan came and danced between them. He seduced one of them to take twenty thousand Turkish pounds without his friend’s knowledge. Then the embezzler told his partner, “Listen, friend, I want to visit the graves of the holy men in Jerusalem. Please take care of my family and make sure they want for nothing while I am gone.” “Go in peace, my friend,” replied the other. “With God’s help, I will do as you have requested.” The first friend took provisions and money to cover the expenses of the journey, plus the twenty thousand pounds he had embezzled, and set sail for the Land of Israel. The ship had not gone far to sea, when a small craft came speeding after it. There was the stay-at-home partner. “What happened?” “I can’t assume responsibility for your family, too. Either you come back home immediately or we dissolve the partnership.” “But you promised me,” replied his friend calmly, “that you would watch over my family. Now that I’ve already set out I can’t return. I took a vow to visit Jerusalem. I have to fulfill my vow. Please don’t hold me back.” But the other closed his ears to the entreaties. “Either you come back with me or we break up the partnership.” When the traveler saw that his partner did not want him to continue his journey, he gave in. “All right. We’ll disembark at the next port, go to the local rabbi, and ask him to arrange the division of property between us.” So they sailed on to...


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