28. God Loves the Heart (IFA 10089)
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28 God Loves the Heart M O S H E AT T I A S One Sabbath, before the evening service, the hakham,* in accordance with his weekly custom, stood next to the Holy Ark and delivered a sermon to the congregation. He explained the verses of the weekly portion, seasoning them with legends and ethical insights. This week, he went on at great length in praise of the man whose heart cleaves to God with all his soul and all his might. His voice resounded in the dark corners of the synagogue : “Listen, my sons, and know that what counts is the heart! Rah.amana libba ba‘i — it is the heart that God loves!” Sitting in the congregation was a simple Jew, a porter, an am ha-aretz** with no education, who listened to the sermon in rapt attention, never taking his eyes from the hakham’s lips. He heard the hakham repeating that God loves the heart. “If it is the heart that God loves,” he said to himself, “then on Sunday I will go buy the best heart I can find, grill it, and serve it to Him.” After the evening service on Saturday night, the man went home and shared his idea with his wife. “Wife, do you know what the hakham said in his sermon? He said that God loves heart! I’ve decided that tomorrow I’ll go buy a nice heart, grill it, and serve it to God to eat.” “By your life, that’s a marvelous idea,” agreed his wife. The next morning, the porter got up and said his prayers. Then he went straight to the butcher’s market. “Give me a heart,” he told the butcher. “But make sure it’s a good one. I’ll pay whatever it costs.” The porter took the heart, grilled it, put it between two plates, and carried it to the synagogue. There he opened the Holy Ark, set the plates inside , closed the Holy Ark, kissed the Ark curtains, and went off to work. No sooner had the porter left than the shammash§ came in to clean the * Rabbi. ** Ignoramus.§ Synagogue caretaker. 198 synagogue. What did he smell? The aroma of grilled meat. He went up to the Holy Ark, from where the aroma seemed to emanate, opened its doors, and found the plates with the grilled meat. Overjoyed, the shammash took the plates and carried them home. “Wife,” he cried, “God has had mercy on us! How long has it been since we last had meat for ourselves and our children?” “May God be praised,” replied his wife. She called the children, and they all sat down and ate their fill. When they were done she washed the plates, and her husband took them and put them back where he had found them in the Holy Ark. In the late afternoon, the porter went and recovered the plates. “Here are the plates,” he said, returning them to his wife. “God enjoyed the meat so much that He even licked off the plates!” “By your life, that’s wonderful! Let’s serve him another heart tomorrow .” “I’ll do just that, because God gave me a great reward today.” The next day, the porter bought another heart, grilled it, and put it in the Holy Ark. Again the shammash came later and took the meat to his house. The porter kept doing this every day for the whole week. He had an abundance of work, and the members of the shammash’s household ate their fill of grilled meat. On Friday, the hakham came to the synagogue early in the morning to prepare the Torah scroll for the reading of the weekly portion. When he opened the Holy Ark, he found the two plates with grilled meat between them. Shaking with anger, the hakham waited for the shammash to arrive. When the shammash came in, the hakham asked him, “What heretic put grilled meat into the Holy Ark? The meat is liable to stain the scrolls!” “Not even the best lie is better than telling the truth,” replied the shammash . “Every day this week, I’ve found two plates in the Ark, with a grilled heart between them. Since I haven’t eaten meat in a long time, I take it home with me.” “But who’s putting it there?” “I don’t know, reverend H.akham.” “Then you must find out. Sunday morning, you must hide behind the bimah* and watch...


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