The Lame One

Once there was a sage. Before his death he called his children and his relations and enjoined them in his will that they should water trees. “You may deal in other callings also, but this you should always attend to: watering trees.

Later the sage died and left children, and he had a son who could not walk. He could stand, but he could not walk. So the brothers used to give him the means of livelihood. And they gave him so much that something was left over. So little by little he saved what was left over apart from maintenance, till he had amassed much money. He decided, “Why should I take sustenance from them, better that I should begin trading.” Although he could not walk, he bethought himself, he would hire a wagon and trusty servant and a wagoner, and he would travel with them to Leipzig to carry on his trading even though he could not walk.

When his relations heard this they were very agreeable and also said, “Why should we give him sustenance? Better let him make himself a livelihood,” and they even lent him money so that he could do some trading. He did so and hired himself a wagon, a trusty servant and a wagoner and set out. And he came to an inn.

The servant said that they should sleep there, but he refused. However much they begged him, he insistently argued, so they left the place and lost their way in a wood. Robbers then fell on them, who had become outlaws by force of circumstance.

Once, during a famine, a person came into town and proclaimed that whoever wanted food should come to him, and many people came to him, and he dealt with them cunningly. Those that he saw were of no use to him, he dismissed. To one he said, “You can follow a trade,” to another he said, “You can work in a mill.” He chose only the clever lads and went into the woods with them and persuaded them to become robbers, saying: “For here there are good roads to Leipzig, to Breslaw and to other places, merchants pass here and we will rob them, and so we will have money.” (Thus the robber, who had earlier made the proclamation in town, persuaded them.)

These robbers fell on them (on him who could not walk and his fellow, the trusty servant and the wagoner.) The driver and the trusty servant could run, and they escaped, and he was left on the wagon. The robbers came to him and took away his box of money and asked him, “Why are you sitting?” He replied he could not walk. They robber him of the box and the horses and he was left on the wagon.

The trusty servant and the wagoner bethought themselves; since they had taken loans from the pritzim [landowners-squires] (the lame man’s brothers), why should they turn back home? They could be put in chains. Better to remain there (the place where they had escaped to) and become a trusty servant and wagoner to another.

And he who could not walk, who had remained on the wagon so long, still had the provisions that he took along from home. He ate, and when this was finished he had nothing to eat. So he considered his position, and he threw himself off the wagon to eat grass. He passed the night alone in the field and was so frightened that he lost his strength so that he could not even stand, but only push himself along and he ate the grass that was around hi. So long as he could reach the grass and eat, he ate. Then when the grass was finished around him, and he could no longer reach out, he pushed further and again ate; and thus he ate grass for some time.

Once he came upon a vegetable of a kind that he had not eaten. The vegetable pleased him very much, for he had eaten herbs for a long time and had gained knowledge of them, and such a vegetable he had not yet seen. So he decided to pull it out with the root, and under the root there was a diamond. The diamond was a square one, and each side of this diamond possessed a different virtue. One one side of the diamond it was written that whoever took hold of this side would be carried to where day and night meet, that is, where the sun and moon meet. As soon as he tore out the vegetable with its root (where the diamond lay), he happened to take hold of that side (the side which had the virtue of carrying him to the place where day and night meet). So it carried him away there, where day and night meet.

He looked around and was already there, where day and night meet (That is, where the sun and moon come together in unity.) He heard the sun and moon in a discussion, and the sun was complaining to the moon that there exists a tree, which has many branches and fruits and leaves, and each branch, each fruit, and each leaf contain a separate virtue. This one helps to beget children, that one helps with livelihood, and this one helps heal this disease, and that one helps heal some other disease and this tree stands in need o watering, and if it were watered it would be a great help.

Said the sun to the moon, “And not only do I not water him, I even shine on him and dry him up.”

Then the moon answered the sun, “You are concerned with alien worries; I will tell you my worry. I have a thousand hills and surrounding these thousand hills there are another thousands hills. And there is the place of the demons—and the demons have hen’s feet. They have no strength in their feet, so they take strength from my feet. And because I too have no strength in my feet, I have a powder which brings healing to my feet—and a wind comes and carries it away.”

So the sun replied, “Is this your worry? I will tell you a remedy. There exists a highway form which branch off many roads. One road, is of the just. Even the righteous one that there is, gets the powder of this road sprinkled under his every step. And every step that he takes he walks on this powder. And there is a road o heretics, even the heretic that there is, gets the powder sprinkled under his every step etc., and there is a road of lunatics; even the lunatic that there is gets this powder sprinkled under him. And in this manner there are many roads.

For instance, there exists a road and there are the righteous who take upon themselves pain. And pritzim lead them in chains, and they have no strength in their feet—so powder from this road is sprinkled under them, and they get strength in their feet. Therefore, go there, for there is plenty of powder, and you will have healing for your feet.” (All this was told by the sun to the moon). And he heard it all—that is, the one who had no strength in his feet heard it all.

Meanwhile he took a look at the diamond on the other side, and he saw there written, that whoever takes hold of this side will be carried to the highway mentioned above, from where branch off many roads (the highway about which the sun informed the moon). So he took hold of that side and it carried him away to the highway. He put his feet on the road, whose dust is a remedy for the feet and was immediately healed. So he went and took some of the dust of all the roads and tied each dust separately into a bundle (that is, the dust from the road for the righteous he tied up separately, and thus also the dust from the other roads he tied up separately) and made himself bundles of these powders and took them with him. And he reflected and went to the wood where he had been robbed.

As soon as he came there, he selected a high tree near to the roadway from which the outlaws sally forth to rob. And he took the powder for the just and the powder for lunatics and mixed them together. He spread this over the roadway and climbed up the tree and seated himself there to see what would happen.

The robbers emerged to rob at the bidding of their leader. As soon as the robbers came on to the roadway, the moment they took a step on the powder, they became righteous and starting bewailing their years and days—that they had hitherto plundered and murdered many souls. But as it was also mixed with the dust of lunatics, they became righteous lunatics and began to quarrel with each other. This one said, “Because of you we murdered,” and the other said, “Because of you;” and so they fought till each killed the other.

The leader again sent out robbers and the same thing happened as before, and they also killed each other. And this happened several times till they were all killed; till he understood (he who before had no strength in his legs, who was up in the tree) that none of the robbers were left. Only he alone (the eldest robber who had persuaded them all, etc.) and one other.

So he came down the tree and swept up the dust of the roadway. Then he sprinkled the powder of the righteous only and again went and seated himself in the tree.

The eldest robber (who had kept sending out his men who did not return) was astonished that he kept sending his men and not one returned. He reflected on this, and then he himself went with the other one that had stayed with him. Immediately as he came on the roadway (that had been sprinkled with dust of the righteous) he became righteous and began to lament to the other over his years and days that he had murdered so many souls and robbed so many. He started digging graves for himself in the ground and did penance and was very remorseful.

As soon as he saw (that is, the one who sat in the tree) that he regretted and was so penitent, he climbed down the tree. Immediately when the robber saw the man, he started lamenting aloud, “Woe is me, this and that have I done. Give me a penance to undergo.”

So he replied, “Return to me the box that you have robbed me of.” (Because a record was kept of each robbery—when the robbery took place and from whom it was robbed.)

He answered, “I will return it to you at once, I will even grant you all the robbed accumulated treasure that I posses; only give me a penance.”

So he said to him, “Your penance is only that you should to into the town and shout aloud and confess: ‘I am he who at that time proclaimed etc., and made many robbers, and I have robbed and murdered many souls!’ This is your penance.”

The robber gave him all the treasures and went with him into the town and did all he was told. In the town judgment was passed, that since he had murdered so many souls there, he should be hanged to serve as an example, so that others may learn.

Then he reflected (that is he, who previously had no power in his legs) that he would go to the two thousand hills [*i.e. the two thousand hills spoken of earlier in the story, when the moon was explaining his worries to the sun), to see what was happening there. He halted at some distance from the two thousand hills. He saw that there were many many thousands upon thousand, uncountable families of demons, for they multiply and have children just like mortals. And they were very numerous. He saw their royalty seated on a throne, that no many born of woman (human being) had ever sat on such a throne. And he saw how they were scoffing. One relates how he mutilated someone’s hand, and another relates how he mutilated someone’s leg; and so also other scoffings.

Meanwhile, he noticed a father and mother walking and weeping. They were asked, “Why weep you?”

They replied that they had a son. His custom used to be to go out, and after a time he used to return, and now a long time had passed, and he had not yet returned. (These were all demons, the father and mother and the son.)

They were brought before the king (of the demons). The king ordered messengers to be sent all over the world to find hi. As the father and mother were walking back from the king, they met one who had gone with their son.

He asked them, “Why do you weep?” and they told him why. He answered them, “I will tell you. We had an island in the sea, which was our place. The king to who the island belonged wanted to build palaces there and had already laid a foundation. Your son suggested to me that we should destroy him. So we went and took away the strength of the king. He had dealings with doctors and they could not help him. So he began to have dealings with magicians, and there was one magician who knew his (your son’s) family. My family he did not know, so for this reason he could do nothing to me. But his family he knew, so he caught him, and he is torturing him.”

So he was brought before the king (the demon who told all this). He told this also in front of the king.

The king (of the demons) said, “Let the strength be returned to the king.” So he replied, “There was one with us who had no strength, so we gave away the strength (the king’s) to him.”

The king said, “Take back the strength from him and return it to the king.” He was answered, “He became a cloud.” (That is, the demon to whom they gave the strength of the king—this demon became a cloud.)

The king said, “Let the cloud be called and brought here.” So a messenger was sent after him. And he thought himself (he who previously had no power in his legs and who saw all this), “Let me follow and I will see how these people become a cloud.” So he followed the messenger and came to the city where the cloud was. He asked the townspeople, “Why is there a cloud over the city?’

They replied, “On the contrary, there never used to be a cloud in this town, only for some time now such a cloud has covered this city.”

The messenger (i.e. of the king of the demons) came and called the cloud, and he left the place. So he reflected (he who previously had no strength in his legs), he would follow them to hear what they were discussing, and he heard the messenger ask him, “How comes it that you became a cloud?”

He answered him [i.e. the cloud answered the messenger], “I will tell you a story.”

“There was once a sage. And the emperor of the country was a great heretic, and he made the whole country into heretics. So the sage went and called together all his relations and told them, ‘You see that the emperor is a great heretic and has made the whole country into heretics, and some part of our family he has also made into heretics. Therefore let us go away into the wilderness, so that we remin with our faith in G-d blessed be He.’

They agreed to this, and the sage pronounced a Name (one of the divine names of G-d) and this brought them to a wilderness. This wilderness did not please him, so he again pronounced a Name which carried them away to a different wilderness, and this wilderness also did not please him. So he again pronounced another Name, and it brought them again to another wilderness, and this wilderness did please him. This wilderness was near to the two thousand hills [see note #3], etc. So the sage went and made a ring (that is a circle] around them, so that nobody should be able to approach them.

“And there exists a tree which, if it were to be watered by us (of the demons), nothing would remain. For this reason in that place always stand some of us who dig day and night and do not let the water reach this tree.

“So the other [i.e. the messenger] asked him, ‘Why is it necessary to stand day and night and dig, because where you once dig so that the water should not reach, it is enough.’

“He answered him, ‘Among us there are chatterers (talkers) and these chatterers go and stir up strife between this king and that king. And through this there was wars and because of the wars there are earthquakes, and the earth caves in around the diggings, and water can come to the tree. Because of this we must always stand and dig.

“’And when we appoint a king among us, we make all sorts of jest before him and are jolly. This one scoffs how he destroyed a baby and how its mother mourns it, and the other shows some other jest, and likewise many different jests. And when the king becomes jolly, he goes for a walk with the royal councilors and tries to uproot this tree, because if this tree ceased to exist, it would be very good for us. And the king strengthens his heart very much in order to tear out this tree altogether. As soon as he nears the tree, the tree gives a great shout. Such a great fear falls upon him that he must turn back.

“’Once we had a new king (of the demons—since all of this was told by the cloud to the messenger etc.) and great jesting was made in front of him, etc., and he entered into great jollity and made his heart very strong and wanted to uproot the tree altogether. He went out for a walk with his ministers and strengthened his heart very greatly. He ran to uproot the tree altogether. As he came to the tree, it gave a great shout at him. Fear fell upon him, so he turned back in a great rage and made his way back. Meanwhile, he looked and saw people sitting (this was the sage etc. and his people). So the king sent some of his followers that they should do something (that is to destroy them as is their custom) and as soon as the relatives of the sage saw them, a great fear fell upon them. So the old man (the sage) called to them when the demons came there, ‘Fear not: they cannot approach because of the circle that is around them.’ So he sent other messengers, and they too could not approach. The king became furious and went himself, and he also could not approach them. So he begged the old man to let him come to them.

“’The sage told him, ‘Since you beg me, I will let you enter and, as it is not fitting for a king to go alone, therefore I will let you come in with another.’ He made an opening for them; they entered, and again he closed the circle.

“’The king said to the old man, ‘How come you settle in our place?’

“’He said to him, ‘Why is it your place? It is my place!’

“’Said the king to the old man, ‘You do not fear me?’

“’He answered, ‘No.’

“’Said he again, ‘You have no fear?’ Then he (i.e. the demon king – in the story being told by the cloud) stretched himself out and became very tall up to the sky and wanted to swallow him up.

“’Said the old man, ‘I still have not the slightest fear of you; but if I want, then you will be afraid of me.’ And he went and said some prayers.

“’So there came great clouds, and there were great thunderings and thunder usually destroys them. So all his royal councilors that were with him were annihilated, and there remained only the king and the other that was with him in the circle. So he begged him (the king begged the old man) that the thunder should cease. It stopped.

“’The king spoke and said to the old man, ‘Since you are that sort of man, I will give you a book containing all the families of the demons, for there exist ‘Name Holders’ who know only the name of one family, and even of this family they do not know all. I will give you a book wherein are recorded all the families, because with the king they are all registered, and even those that are born are also registered with the king.’

“’So the king sent the one who was with him for the book. (It appears then that he did right to let him enter with another, otherwise whom could he have sent for it?) He brought him the book. He opened the book and saw recorded therein countless thousands upon thousands of their families. The king promised the old man that they would never destroy any of the family of the old man. And he ordered portraits of the whole family (i.e. of the old man) be brought and even if a child be born to them, his portrait should immediately be brought, so that they should not harm anybody of the family of the old man.’

“’After that when the time came that the old man should leave this world, he called his children and made his will and spoke to them thus: ‘I leave you the book—and you see that I have power to use the book with sanctity; despite this I never make use of it, for I have trust in the Lord. So you also should not make use of it, even if there be found one among you who will be able to make use of it with sanctity, he should still not make use of it, but he should have trust in the Lord.’

“’Later the sage died, and the book was passed down by inheritance, and it became the property of his grandson, and he had the power to make use of it with sanctity, but he had faith in the Lord and made no use of it, just as the old man had willed.’

“’And the chatterers (those who plot, that exist among the demons) persuaded the grandson of the old man, ‘Since you have grown daughters, and you do not possess enough to support them and to marry them off, therefore make use of the book.’

“’And he did not know that they were persuading him, and he thought his heart was counseling him. So he travelled to his grandfather’s grave and asked him, ‘You willed that no use be made of the book, only we should have faith in the Lord, now my heart urges me to make use of it.’

“’His grandfather (he who was dead) answered, ‘Though you can make use of it with sanctity, it is better that you should have faith in the Lord and not make use of it, and the Lord will help you.’ He obeyed.

“’Came the day. The king of the country, where dwelt the grandson of the old man, felt ill. So he engaged doctors, and they could not cure him. Because of the great heat in that country, the medicines could not keep; so the king of the country passed a law that Jews should pray for him.’

“’So our king said (the king of the demons—as all of this is being told by the cloud to the messenger) that ‘the aforementioned grandson has power to make use of the book with sanctity, but he makes no use of it, therefore, we must do something for his benefit. And he ordered me (the demon-cloud who is telling all this story) to become a cloud there, so the king (of the country of mortals) may have healing through the medicines that he has already taken, and through the medicines that he wills still take. And the grandson knew nothing of this.’

“’And for this reason I was a cloud there.’ (All this was told by the cloud to the messenger.)

So he was brought before the king (he who had become a cloud he was brought before the king). And the king ordered that the strength be taken away from his and returned to the king (from whim the strength was taken, because he built on their place, etc.)

“’The strength was given back to him and then the son of the demons returned (whose father and mother wept for him, etc.) He returned very worn out, without strength because he had been tortured there. He was very irate because of the magician who had caused him so much pain. So he warned his children and his family that they should always keep an eye on the magician.

“’Now there are among them chatterboxes, and they went and told the magician that they were looking for him, and that he should protect himself. So the magician took action and he called more magicians who knew more families in order to protect himself against them. This cause great resentment by the son ad his family against the chatterboxes—why they had divulged the secret to the magician.

“Once it happened that some of the family of the son and the chatterboxes went together to guard over the king; and the family of the son made a libel against the chatterboxes. So the king killed off all the chatterboxes. The remaining chatterboxes greatly resented this, so they went and created a revolution (a great war) between all kings. This brought famine and disease, desolation and epidemics among the demons. And there was fighting between the kings and through this there was an earthquake, so the whole earth caved in and the tree became watered through and through.

“And of them (the demons) nothing was left, and they were wiped out. AMEN!


Happy is the man that walketh no, etc. nor standeth… nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful… He shall be as a tree planted by the rivers of water, etc. (Psalms, Chapter 1) This whole story has a bearing on this Psalm.

He who hath eyes should see, and he who hath a heart should understand what is happening in the world.