51. The Old Woman and the Wind (IFA 10101)
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473 51 The Old Woman and the Wind T O L D B Y A N O L D S E P H A R D I C W O M A N T O M O S H E AT T I A S Long ago, there lived in Jerusalem a pious and God-fearing old woman who pursued justice all her days. But she was desperately poor, and only through back-breaking toil could she support herself and her grandson. One year there was drought in the country and great shortages in Jerusalem. Many found themselves with no food to eat. Nothing remained in the old woman’s pantry to feed her grandson and herself. Nor could she find work. To avoid starvation, she went out begging in the streets. Many passed by, but they all ignored the woman and pretended not to see her. At the end of the day, though, one passerby stopped and said, “I have nothing to give you except some advice. Take that, at least; perhaps it will help. Every day there are porters carrying sacks of wheat here, the tithe for the Temple. Follow them and collect the kernels that fall out of the sacks. Grind them into flour, bake it into bread, and save yourself from starvation.” The old woman took his advice. The next day she followed the porters carrying the sacks of grain to the Temple, collected the spillage, kernel by kernel, throughout the day, and put them in the hem of her dress. When evening came she found she had gathered so little that it hardly made sense to take it to a mill to grind into flour, lest it get lost between the millstones . So she pounded the kernels in a mortar and formed the meal into three small loaves, which she placed on a small round copper tray. Then she went out to the fields to gather dry branches, lit the fire, placed the copper tray on it, and baked her bread. Before the loaves had finished cooling a poor man appeared on her doorstep. “I’m dying of hunger,” he cried. “Give me a loaf of bread or I’ll collapse before your eyes.” The woman thought, “I have three loaves and this poor man has nothing . How can I let him starve to death? Surely God doesn’t want that to happen and would not forgive me if it did.” So she gave the poor man one loaf of bread.  474  Folktales of the Jews: Volume 1 The poor man blessed her and went on his way. Just then her grandson came in. “I’m weak with hunger,” he said. Her heart brimming with joy, the old woman gave her grandson the second loaf of bread. Then she went to wash her hands before eating the remaining loaf. She had not had time to finish the blessing over the bread when a great wind blew up and became a raging tempest that overturned everything in its path. It caught up the copper tray and carried away the loaf of bread that was on it, far far away until it vanished from sight. Terrified, astonished, and shaking with anger, the woman said to herself : “The wind has done me a great injustice. I gave away some of my food as charity. Why has the wind stolen my portion and left me with an empty belly? I will go to King Solomon and ask him to summon the wind to appear before him. He will bring justice to light.” Without further ado the woman started out and came to the gates of King Solomon’s palace. She stood before him, recounted the entire tale to him, and presented her petition: “Summon the wind to account and punish it for the injustice it has done me.” While they were still speaking, his heralds announced to the king: “The captain of a gentile ship and his sailors are waiting outside. They say they have come to Jerusalem to see the king and to present him with a splendid gift, to fulfill the vow they made concerning the Temple of the God of Israel in Jerusalem.” The king asked the old woman to wait while he gave audience to the gentiles in her presence. The ship’s captain told his story: “Our vessel was laden with a precious cargo. In the open sea a tempest arose suddenly; none of us can remember its like. We thought the ship was...


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