The Sophisticate & the Simpleton
Once there were two burghers in one city and they were very wealthy and possessed great houses. These two burghers had two sons, i.e. each one had a son. These two children both studied in one school and one of them was very clever and the other was a simpleton (he was not a fool, only his mind was ordinary, without sophistication). These two children were very fond of each other, even though one was clever and the other was simple and his mind was ordinary. In spite of this they loved each other. Some time after, these two burghers started to descend in their wealth. And still they went lower and lower till they lost all and became poverty stricken, and they were left only with their houses. The children started growing up, so the burghers said to the children, “We have not the means to pay for you, we cannot keep you; do whatever you can.” So the simple one went to learn shoemaking. The clever one was a man of knowledge a clever and understanding person) and did not want to follow such a low calling, so he resolved to go out into the world and look around to see what there was to do. He went about in the market and saw a large wagon with four horses harnessed to it passing through. So he called to the merchants, “Where do you come from?” They answered him, “From Warsaw.”
“Where are you going?”
So he asked them, “Perhaps you need a little servant?”
The merchants noticed that he was a clever boy and active, so he pleased them, and they took him along. He traveled with them and served them on the way very nicely. As soon as he came to Warsaw and because he was so knowledgeable, he resolved, “Since I am in Warsaw, why should I stay with the merchants? Perhaps there is a better place than with them. Let me go seeking, and I will see.” So he went into the market, and he started thinking and asking about the people who had brought him, and if there was a better place than with them. He was told that the people (who had brought him here) are honest people, and it is good to stay with them, only it is difficult to be with them since their dealings are in distant places. Meanwhile he went and he saw shop servants going to the market, and they walked as is their custom with their fancy: with their hats, with their pointed shoes and the other fancies that they have in their walk, and in what they wear. He was a clever lad, so the thing pleased him very much as something beautiful and as similar to his former home. So he went to the peope who had brought him, and thanked them and told them that it was not good for him to remain with them, and for having brought him here, he had served them on the way and he went and placed himself by a proprietor.
The procedure of servants is such: at first one must be an under servant and must do hard work ad receive little pay. Later on one becomes a higher servant. The owner worked him very hard and used to send him to carry goods to squires, as is the way with servants who carry textiles under their arm. This work fell very heavily upon him. Sometimes he had to go with the goods up to a high story; so the work was hard for him. He resolved, being as he was a philosopher, a learned one, “What use is this work to me? The main thing is to have a goal, to marry and support myself. I need not yet think of this. For that there will be time later, meantime, I would do better to go round the world and look at the countries.”
He went into the market and saw merchants traveling on a large coach. He asked them, “Where are you journeying?” The replied, “To Lagorne.”
He asked them, “Will you take me there?”
They answered, “Yes.”
They took him. From there, he wandered on to Italy. From Italy he wandered on to Spain.
Meanwhile, many years passed and he became even more clever, since he visited so many countries. He resolved, “Now is the time to think of settling down,” and he began to think with his philosophy (with his wisdom) what to do. He inclined to learn gold work, because this is a grand trade and is a nice trade and requires great skill and is a rich trade and, as he was a knowing one and a philosopher, he did not need to learn this trade many years, but in a quarter of a year he took over the work and became a highly skilled worker, and he knew the work better than the one who taught him. After that he resolved, “Although I have such a trade in hand, nevertheless I will not be satisfied with this, because today this is of value, perhaps another time something else will be of value,” and he went and became engaged by a gem cutter, and because of his cleverness he took over this trade also in a short time, in a quarter of a year. After that he resolved in his philosophy, “Although I have in hand two trades, who knows, perhaps both may be valueless, therefore the best thing for me is to learn such a trade as will always be of value,” so he considered with his cleverness, with his philosophy, that he would learn to be a physician, because this is something that is always needed, and it is always of value. The usual thing is if one wants to learn medicine, one must first learn Latin, the spoken and written, and one must study philosophy. He, because of his cleverness (his understanding), he learned this also in a short time, in a quarter of a year, and he became a great doctor and philosopher and was wise in all branches of learning. After this the world to him became nought (the whole world to him was as nothing). For instance, he held that nobody has any sense, because of his cleverness, since he was such a skilled worker, and so clever, and such a great doctor; so everybody else in the world was in his opinion nought (just as nothing). He resolved now he will make a goal for himself and will take a wife. So he meditated on the thought, “If I get married here, who will know what I have become? Better let me return home, so that all may see what I have become. I left a small boy and no I have come to such greatness.” So he got up and journeyed home. He had great aggravation on the way, for, because of his cleverness, he had nobody to talk to, and he had no accommodation as he wanted, so he always had aggravation.
Meanwhile, let us put aside the story of the wise one. We will start telling the story of the simple one. This simpleton learned how to make shoes, and because he was a simpleton, he was obliged to learn the trade a long time till he took over and did not know the work in its entirety. He took a wife and supported himself by the trade. Because he was a simpleton, and he did not know the trade properly, because of this his livelihood was very bare indeed and very scanty, and he had no time even to eat, for he was always at work, because he did not know the whole trade. But as he worked, when he pushed in the awl and pulled through the thread, then he bit into a lump of bread and ate. His habit was, he was always happy, and he was full of joy always, and he possessed all kinds of food and all drinks and all clothes. He used to say to the wife, “My wife, give me a meal.” So she gave him a lump of bread and he ate, then he said, “Give me the gruel,” so she cut him off another lump of bread, and he ate. He was very thankful and said, “What goodness and how delicious the soup is.” Thus he called for meat, and again she gave him bread, so he ate and was also very thankful and said, “What excellence is in this meat.” And so with the other good food he asked to be served, and for every item of food he called for, she gave him a lump of bread. He had very great pleasure out of it and highly praised the dish, what goodness it is, exactly as if he had actually eaten it, because he really truly felt in the bread that he ate, the taste of all the dishes that he desired. Because of his great humility and his joyfulness he felt the taste in bread as if he were eating exotic dishes, and so he would say, “My wife, give me a drink of beer.” She gave him water. He used to praise, “What goodness is in this beer.” After that he would call out, “Give me mead.” She gave him water and again he was thankful, “What grand mead this is, give me wine or other drinks,” and she continued to give him water, and he had pleasure and always praised the drink exactly as if he was drinking. And so also with clothing, it was the same. He and his wife both had a single sheepskin. When he needed a coat for instance to go to the market, he used to say, “My wife, give me the sheepskin.” So she gave it to him. If he needed a suit to come among people, he would say, “My wife, give me the suit,” and she gave him the sheepskin, and he used to have great pleasure and would praise, “What goodness this suit is.” When he needed a kaftan for the synagogue, he would call out and say, “My wife, give me the kaftan,” and she gave him the sheepskin. He used to utter thanks and say, “How fine and how beautiful this kaftan is.” And thus if he wanted to wear a blouse, she also gave him the sheepskin, he would also praise and enjoy how fine and how beautiful this blouse was. And so with every single thing, he was full of joy and happiness and always cheerful.
When he finally made the shoe, and, no doubt, the shoe possessed three ends (for he did not know the whole trade), he used to take the shoe in his hand, and praised it highly and he had great pleasure in it, and would say, “My wife, what beauty and what goodness this little shoe is, what sweetness this little shoe is, what honey sweet, what a sugar sweet little shoe this is.”
She would ask him, “If that is really so, why do other shoemakers take three guilders for a pair of shoes, and you take only half a Thaler?” (a guilder and a half).
He replied, “What has that to do with me? That is the others’ job, and this is my job; and again why have we to talk about other people? Let us only start reckoning how much I earn here from this little shoe from hand to hand. The leather costs me so much, glue and thread cost so much, flaps so much, and other things so much. Now I earn from hand to hand 10 groschen, so now what care I with such a profit from hand to hand?” And he was very cheerful and happy always, and the world he was a mockery.
Here they got what they wanted, for here they had someone to make fun of just as they liked, for to them he looked like a lunatic. People used to come and purposely start a discussion with him, that they might have something to ridicule, and the simpleton used to answer to them without mockery, and as soon as they answered him without mockery, he listened to them and began discussing with them, because further he had no desire to think over tricks. Perhaps this in itself is mockery, for he was a simpleton, and when he could not help seeing that they meant ridicule, he used to say, “What will happen if you are cleverer than I, then you will really be a foo, because what do I amount? And if you are cleverer than me, you will simply be a fool.” (Such was always the way of the simpleton. Now we will again tell about the clever one.)
Meanwhile, there was a great commotion that the clever one was coming, and he was arriving with great wealth and with great knowledge. So the simpleton also ran to meet him with great joy, and said to his wife, “Give me quickly the blouse, let me go to meet my dear comrade; let me see him.” So she gave him the sheepskin, and he ran to meet him. The clever one rode in a chariot very haughtily. The simpleton came towards him and greeted him with joy and with warm friendship (and said to him), “My dear brother, how are you? Praised be the Lord that He has brought you, and I have merited to see you.” And the clever one stared at him. To him the whole world was also as naught (as above mentioned, that all people of the world were of no account to him, because he thought himself cleverer than the whole world), so there too such a person looks crazy, but nevertheless, still, because of the love of their youth when they were very much attracted to each other, he drew closer to him, and he rode with him into the town.
The two burghers (the fathers of these two children, i.e. of the clever on and of the simpleton) had died during the time that the clever one was abroad in various countries and left their houses. The simpleton was settled in the place, so he entered into his father’s house and inherited it. But the clever one was away in foreign lands, so there was nobody to take over the house. So the house of the clever one became deserted and spoiled, and nothing was left of it. So the clever one did not have a house to go into when he arrived, so he went into an inn and there he was miserable, because it was not such an inn as he had wanted. And the simpleton had now found himself a new activity and used to run every time to the clever one with affection and with joy, and he saw that the clever one had aggravation from the inn, so the simpleton said to the clever one, “Brother, come to me, right into my house, so you will stay with me, and I myself will take together into one handful whatever I have, and the whole house you will have.” This pleased the clever one, so the clever one came into his home and stayed with him, and the clever one was full of unhappiness always, because he had a name for being very clever indeed and very highly skilled and a very great doctor.
There came to him a squire and ordered him to make him a golden ring. He made him a very fine ring and engraved there pictures with beautiful forms and engraved there a tree that was a real wonder. Came the squire and he did not like the ring at all, so the clever one was terribly aggravated, because he knew that if the ring with the tree had been in Spain, it would have been very valuable, there it would be a wonderful thing, and here it does not even please. And thus there came a great squire and brought a valuable diamond that was brought to him from distant lands, and he brought him another diamond with a picture and ordered him to engrave on the first diamond the same picture as there as on the second. He engraved exactly like the picture, only he missed one thing that no single person could have understood besides himself. The squire came and collected the diamond and was well pleased with it, and the clever one was very miserable because of the fault that he had missed. He thought to himself, “So clever as I am, such a fault should happen to me,” and so in medicine he also had aggravations. When he came to a patient and gave him remedies as a result of which he was certain that the patient would live and would be obliged to be healed, because they were very good medicines, afterwards however, when the patient died, people said that he died through him, so he had great aggravation from this. And so when sometimes he gave medicines to a patient and the patient became healthy and people said it was just by accident (he became healthy not because of him), he had from this case great aggravation, and he was full of great unhappiness always. Thus when he needed something to wear he called the tailor and had trouble with him till he could teach him to make the apparel according to the fashion he wanted. Since he knew, the tailor succeeded and made the apparel just as he wanted; but with one lapel the tailor erred and did not succeed in it so well. So from this he had great aggravation, because he himself knew, “Even though here nobody can judge it, if I were in Spain with this lapel, people would laugh at me, and I would look ridiculous,” and thus he was full of aggravation always. And the simpleton always used to run and used to come to the clever one cheerfully and full of joy and continued to find him miserable and full of aggravation.
He asked him, “Such a clever one and such a wealthy man like you, from what have you always aggravation? Why am I always joyful?”
The clever one regarded this as mocking; and he looked on him as crazy. The simpleton said to him, “Even ordinary people, if they make fun of me, they are also fools. Since, if they are cleverer than I, then they really are fools! So, especially such a clever one as you are, what’s the matter if you are clever than me?” The simpleton continued and told the clever one, “May the One Above give that you should come to my condition,” (that you should also become a simpleton).
The clever one answered, “Is this possible that I should come to your condition? If God should take away from me my sense, God forbid, or I should God forbid fall ill, it could be that I should also become crazy. For what are you then? Only crazy!
But that you should come to my condition, that is not possible by any means whatsoever—that you should be a clever one like me.”
Answered the simpleton, “By the blessed Name, everything is possible and it can happen in the blink of an eye, that I should come to your cleverness.”
So the clever one made great fun of him.
And these two children, the world called sage and simpleton. That one they called a sage, and the other they called simpleton. Although there exist many clever ones and simpletons in the world, here, however, it was very noticeable, for they both hailed from one town and studied in one school and one was extraordinarily clever and one was a very great simpleton (for this reason they were given the nicknames, the sage and the simpleton). In the Royal Registry, everybody is registered with all names of his family. So they registered, this one his nickname “Sage and the other “Simpleton.”
One day the King came over to the registry, and he found the two, how they were recorded; one with the nickname Sage, and the other with the nickname Simpleton. This was a surprise to the King that the two had such nicknames, Sage and Simpleton. So the King very much wanted to see them. So the King considered, “If I suddenly send for them, that they should come before me, they will get very frightened, and the clever one will not know what to answer; and the simpleton may perhaps become crazy through fear.” So the King decided to send a sage to the clever on and a simpleton to the simpleton. But how can one get hold of a simpleton in the royal capital? For in a royal capital (the town of the King’s residence) are mostly clever people. Only the one who is in authority over the treasury must be simple; because nobody wants to make a clever one as an authority over the treasury, because perhaps, due to his cleverness and his sense, he will expend the treasures; for this reason a simpleton is expressly made in charge of the treasury.
So the King called a clever one and that simpleton (who is in charge of the treasury) and he sent them for the two (to the clever one and the simpleton). He gave them letters to each separately, and he gave them more letters to the Governor of the District under whom the two (the clever one and the simpleton) were. The King ordered in the letters that the Governor should send them letters in his name to the clever one and to the simpleton, so that they should not be frightened; and he should write them that the matter is not urgent, and that the King does not expressly order them to come; but they have the choice to come if they wish, and the King would like to see them. So these messengers journeyed, the clever one and the simpleton and came to the Governor and delivered the letters to him. So the Governor made enquiries about the two children and was informed that the clever one was unnaturally clever and very wealthy; and the simpleton was a very great simpleton, and he gets all kinds of clothes from the sheepskin etc. The Governor bethought himself, “It surely is not nice to bring him before the King in a sheepskin.” So he had suitable clothes made for him and placed them in the chariot of the simpleton, and he gave them the letters, etc,; and the messengers journeyed and came to them and delivered the letters to them, the clever one delivered to the clever one, and the simpleton delivered to the simpleton. The simpleton, immediately as he was given the letter, called out to the messenger (who was also a simpleton etc.) who had brought him the letter, “I do not know what there is in the letter. Read it to me.” He answered, “I will tell you by heart what it says there: :The King desires you to come to him.’”
He immediately asked, “No joking?”
And he was answered, “It is positively true, without joking.”
So he at once became full of joy and ran and said to his wife, “My wife, the King has sent for me!”
So she asked him, “What is this, why did he send for you?”
And he had no time to answer her anything and immediately got ready with joy and went and sat himself in the chariot to travel with the messenger. Meanwhile, he saw there the clothes (which the Governor had made for his use and placed in the chariot etc.), so he was even more joyful; he also had clothes already. He was exceedingly happy.
Meantime information was given by the King against the Governor that he practiced falsehood, so the King put him aside (dismissed him). The King bethought himself, it would be a good thing to have for governor an ordinary person (a simpleton), because a simpleton will rule the country with truth and with justice, since he knows no subtleties and no tricks. So the King was pleased with the idea of making the simpleton (the simpleton who is the comrade of the clever one for whom the King had sent) a Governor. So the King sent a Royal Proclamation that the simpleton he had sent for should become Governor. And as the simpleton must ride through the city of the District, therefore guards should be posted on the gates of the city so that, as soon as the simpleton arrives, he be halted and be given the honor of being Governor. This was done accordingly and people stood on the gates, and as soon as he rode through he was stopped, and he was told that he had become Governor. He asked, “Without joking altogether?” And was answered, “Definitely without joking,” and the simpleton immediately became Governor with authority and strength.
Now that his fortunes were rising and fortune enlightens (makes clever) he already had some wisdom (understanding). But nevertheless, he did not use his cleverness but proceeded with his humility of heretofore. And he led the country with humility, with truth and with justice, and he did no falsehood and no injustice to anybody. In the ruling of a country no great wisdom or trickery is needed, only justice and humility. If there came two litigants before him, he said, “You are in the right and you are in the wrong.” Just as his humility was without any deception or falsity, thus he led everything with truth. He was beloved in the country, and he had devoted advisors who truly loved him. Out of devotion one of them advised him, “You will surely have to come before the King, since he has already sent for you, and, again, the procedure is that a Governor must come before the King. Therefore, although you are very honest, and the King will not find any deceit in you and in you rule of the country, nevertheless it is the usual practice for a King that when he discusses, while talking he digresses and begins to talk of wisdom and languages (therefore, it is nice and is only respectful that you should be able to respond); for this reason it would be right that I should teach you arts and languages.”
This pleased the simpleton, and he bethought himself, “What do I care if I learn arts and languages?” So he studied and imbibed knowledge and languages, and immediately it came to him mind that the clever one, his comrade, had told him that it was by no means possible that he should come to his cleverness. And here, he had already come to his cleverness (and regardless of the fact that he was very knowing, he made no use whatever of the knowledge and proceeded with his humility as before). Then the King sent for the simpleton, the Governor, to come before him. He journeyed to him.
First the King discussed with the simpleton the procedure of running the country, and the King was highly pleased with him, for the King recognized that he followed a course of justice and great truth without any wrong and totally without falsity. After this the King began to discuss various branches of knowledge and languages. The simpleton responded suitably; and the King was even better pleased. The King said, “I see he is such a wise one and even so acts with such humility.” So the King was very very pleased with him and made him a Minister over all of the Ministers.
And the King ordered that he be given a separate town in which he should have his residence, and he ordered that beautiful buildings be erected as suitable for him, and he gave him a written authority appointing him Minister. And so it happened. There were erected for him beautiful and stately buildings at the place that the King had ordered, and he entered into the greatness resolutely.
The clever one, when he received the letter from the King, answered the clever on that had brought him the letter, “Wait pass the night here that we may discuss and consider.” That night he made a great feast in his honor (in the honor of the one who came from the King). During the meal the clever one (the comrade of the simpleton) began to meditate with his cleverness and with his philosophy and spoke up and said, “What can this mean, that such a King should send for such a humble person as I? What am I that the King should send for me; who has such a wide and great realm, and I, so small as I am compared to such a great ruler. How can it come to mind that such a King should send for me? Shall I say because of my wisdom he has sent for me? Of what account am I to the King? Has he then no wise ones? And the King himself is surely very wise, and for what reason should the King send for me?” And at this he was very astonished.
As he was wondering so, he addressed himself (to the clever one, the messenger who brought the letter), “You know what I will tell you. My idea is that it follows that there is no King at all in the world and the whole world is mistaken in this: they think there is a King. Try to understand how comes it that the whole world should place themselves in the hands of one person that he should be the King. There is positively no King in the world.”
Answered the clever one, the messenger, “I have brought you a letter from the King.”
Asked him the clever one (the comrade of the simpleton) “Did you yourself take the letter form the King’s hand?”
He answered him, “No, another person gave me the letter from the King.”
He said, “Now see with your own eyes that I am right, that there is no King at all.” He asked him again (the clever one, the comrade of the simpleton) asked the other clever one, the messenger, “Just tell me, you come from the capital city, and you grew up there. Tell me, have you ever seen the King?”
He answered him, “No.”
So he said, “You see that I am right, that there positively is no King at all, because even you have never seen the King.” Again the clever one, the messenger, asked, “If that is so, who rules the country?”
So he answered (the clever one, the comrade of the simpleton), “This I will explain to you clearly; for in this I am experienced. And you should ask me, because I have been abroad in various countries. I have been in Italy where the custom is: there are seventy Executive Advisors, and they come up and lead the country for a time; and the Ministerial rank is shared by the whole country, one after the other (first these, the Advisors, them they step down and others go up and rule the country, and so each time others).”
So his talk started to penetrate into the ears of the other clever one (the messenger), till they were both satisfied that there certainly was no King in the world.
Again the clever one spoke (the friend of the simpleton), “Wait until morning and I will show you clearly that positively there is no King at all.”
The clever one rose in the morning and woke the other clever one, the messenger, and said to him, “Come with me into the street, and I will show you how the whole world is in error, and there is no King at all.”
So they went to the market. There they saw a soldier and got hold of him and asked him, “Whom do you serve?”
He answered, “The King.”
“Have you seen the King in your life?”
He answered, “No.”
So he spoke (the first clever one, the comrade of the simpleton, him we will call the first clever) and said, “Look, is there such folly?” (The soldier serves and does not know him, for the clever one kept on trying with his foolish cleverness to prove that there is no king at all etc.).
After that they went to an officer of the army, and they entered into conversation with him, till they asked him, “Who do you serve?”
He answered, “The King.”
“Have you seen the King?”
So he said, “Now see with your eyes that they are all in error, and there is no King.” (Because the officer had also never seen the King), so they agreed that there was no King.
The first clever one spoke, “Come, let us journey over the world, and I will show you further how the whole world is very mistaken in great folly.”
So they went and journeyed over the world, and wherever they came, they found the world in error (the clever ones had through their cleverness wandered into such foolishness that they thought that the whole world was mistaken). And the matter of the King (in which they had concluded that there was no King) was already to them as an example; and as they found the world in error, they took the King as an example. Just as it is true that there is a King, so is this also. So they traveled around the world and traveled thus, till they had expended all they had. They started by selling a horse, and then the others, till they had sold all and had to travel by foot, and always they still thought of the world and everywhere found that the world was in error, and they became impoverished wanderers-on-foot and were now no longer important.
People took no notice at all of them, of such beggars. Thus they went around the world till, on the way, they came to the town where dwelt the Minister etc. (the simpleton, the comrade of the clever one etc.), and there in the city, there was a true sage. This sage was highly respected, because he performed miracles. Even among the Lords he was famed, and they held him in high esteem.
The clever ones came into the city, and they went around and arrived in front of the house of the sage. They saw standing there many carriages with sick people, forty or fifty. So the clever one thought that a doctor lived there, so he wanted to go in to him. Since he also was a great doctor, he wanted to go in and become acquainted. He asked, “Who lives here?” He was answered, a famous sage. He gave a great laugh and said to the other (to the clever one, the messenger), “This is another lie and a foolishness, this is even greater folly than the mistake about the king. Brother, I will tell you the falsity, how the world is in error in such a lie.”
Meanwhile they were hungry and found between them 3 or 4 groschen, so they went in to the public kitchen, where food can be had even for 3 or 4 groschen and asked to be given food. They were given. While they were eating they talked and mocked at the lie and at the error of the sage (how the world is mistaken) and the host heard their talk. He resented this very much, because the sage was highly respected there. So he said to them, “Finish eating what you have and get yourselves out of here.”
Then there arrived a son of the sage, and they still ridiculed the sage in the presence of his son. So the host shouted at them for mocking the sage in the presence of his son, till the host beat them very soundly and pushed them out of his premises. This they greatly resented, and they wanted to bring a case against him for eating them So they decided to go to their landlord where they had left their bundles and ask his advice how to hand in a complaint against the host who had assaulted them. So they went and told their landlord that that host had beaten them. He asked why, so they told him, because they had spoken against the sage. The landlord answered them, “it is certainly not just that people should be beaten, but you, however, have not done right. Why did you speak against the sage? For the sage here is very important.”
So they saw that he too was mistaken, and they went away from him and went to the Town Clerk. The Town Clerk was a gentile. They told him the tale that they had been beaten, so he asked why. They said because they had spoken against the sage, and the Town Clerk also gave them a thorough flogging and pushed them out. They went away from him and went to a higher one in authority and still could not bring a case. They went thus from one to another each time to a higher one (and still could not prevail, but they were not beaten every time), till they came before the Minister (this was the simpleton etc.).
There before the Minister there stood guards. It was announced to the Minister that a person wants to see him, so he ordered him to come in. So the clever one came before the Minister. Immediately he entered, the Minister recognized him, that this is the clever one, his comrade. The clever one did not recognize him, for now he was so exalted. At once the Minister began to talk to him, and he said to him, “Look how my simplicity has brought me to such a high position, and what your cleverness has brought you to.”
So the clever one spoke and said, “That you are he, my comrade the simpleton, of this we will talk later. Meanwhile give me justice for having been beaten.”
He asked him, “Why have you been beaten?”
He answered, “Just because I spoke against the sage who is a liar and this is altogether a swindle.
Spoke up the simpleton, the Minister, to him, “You still persist in your cleverness. Look, you once said that to my condition you could come very easily, and I will never be able to reach your condition. Now see, I have reached yours long ago” (because the simpleton by now was also very wise, etc.), and you have not yet reached mine, and I notice that it is harder that you should reach my simplicity.” But still, nevertheless, because the simpleton, the Minister, had known him so long and that he had once been great, he ordered that he be given clothes, that he be dressed, and invited him to share a meal.
During the meal they began to discuss matters. The clever one began to press his (foolish) idea that there is no King at all: the simpleton, the Minister, shouted at him, “What are you saying? I myself have seen the King!”
Answered the clever one with a laugh, “You yourself know that this was the King! Do you know him? Did you know his father, his grandfather, that they were Kings? From where do you know that this was the King? People told you that this is the King. They deceived you.”
The simpleton resented very much that he denied the existence of the King. Meanwhile someone arrived and said, “The devil has sent for you.”
The simpleton began to tremble and ran and told his wife with great fear that the devil had sent for him. So she gave him advice to send for the sage. So he sent for him. The sage came and gave him amulets and protections and told him that now he would no longer be afraid. In this he had great faith.
Afterwards they again say together, the simpleton and the clever one. Asked him the clever one, “Why were you so terrified?” He answered him, “Because of the devil who sent for us.” The clever one laughed at him, and said to him, “You believe that there exists a devil?”
Asked him the simpleton, the Minister, “Who else was it that sent for us?”
Answered him the clever on, “That was of course from y brother. He wanted me to see him; so he made it up and sent for me with the pretense.”
Asked him the simpleton, “If that is really so, how did he pass through all the guards?”
Answered he, he surely must have bribed them, and they purposely told a lie that they did not see him at all.
Meanwhile somebody again came in and again said thus, “The devil has sent for you.”
And the simpleton now had no fear at all and was not at all afraid on account of the protection he received from the sage. So he said (the simpleton) to the clever one, “Now what say you?”
He answered, “I will tell you: I have a brother who is angry with me, so he played this trick in order to frighten me.” And the clever one got up and asked the one who came for them, “What kind of a face has the one who has sent for us, what color is his hair etc.?” and other things he questioned him. The clever one spoke, and said, “See, this is the description of my brother.”
Said the simpleton to him, “Will you go with them?”
He answered, “Yes, I will go with them. Only you should give me several soldiers as a guard, so that I may not be tortured.” So he gave him a guard. The two clever ones etc. went with the one who had come after them (with the devil, because they refused to believe that this was the devil etc.) So the soldiers of the guard turned back.
The simpleton, the minister, asked them, “Where are the clever ones?”
They answered that they knew nothing of where they got to. The one (the messenger from the devil) seized the clever ones and carried them into a middy place with lime, and there sat the devil on a chair in the mud. The mud was thick and heavy, just like glue. The clever ones could not move themselves in the mud, and the clever ones shouted, “Wicked ones, why are you torturing us? Does there exist a devil in the world? You are wicked, you are torturing us for nothing.” (Since the clever ones absolutely refused to believe in the existence of the devil, they kept on saying that wicked men were torturing them for no reason). The two clever ones lay in the thick mud and thought, “What is this? This cannot be other than the reckless ones with whom we once had a quarrel, who are now subjecting us to such torture.” So the clever ones lay there many years, and they were subjected to wild pain and wild torture.
One day the simpleton, the Minister, passed by the house of the sage, and into his mind came the thought of his comrade the clever one. He went to the sage and bowed to him as the custom is, and asked him if it was possible that he should show him the clever one, and if he could take him out. And the simpleton, the Minister, said to the sage, “Do you remember the clever one that the devil sent for and carried off, and since then I have not seen him?”
The sage answered, “Yes, I remember.”
The simpleton, the Minister, begged him to show him the place where the clever one was and take him out of there. The sage said to him, “I can certainly show you his place and can take him out, but none should go, only you and I.”
So they both went. The sage did what he knew, so they arrived there, and he saw how they lay there in the thick mud and lime. As soon as the clever one saw the simpleton, the Minister, he shouted to him, “Brother, look, they are beating me and these reckless ones are torturing me so cruelly for nothing!” So the Minister shouted at him, “Still you persist in your cleverness and will not believe in any single thing. And you say that these are human. Now see, this is the sage, whom you denied. We will show you that he, and he only, can take you out (and he will show you the truth).”
So the simpleton, the Minister, begged the sage to take them out and show them that these are devils and not human beings. The sage did what he had to do, and they remained standing on dry land (on dryness) and there was no mud at all there, and the fiends became lost to the world (they became just earth). Only then did he—the clever one—recognize the truth; and he was compelled to confess to everyone that there really was a King, and there really was a genuine sage etc.
About this story, it was said, in the teaching of the Rebbe which discusses simplicity, that the principal thing in Judaism is not cleverness but humility and simplicity etc. After he finished the tale, he spoke up and said, “If the prayers are not properly delivered, it is a shoe with three ends.” Understand well what is being told, how one can live through the world with bread and with water and with a sheepskin and have a better life and a happier life than the greatest clever one. And the wealthiest, just as we see that they are always full of trouble, and, in the end, it is positively best for the simpleton, who was satisfied with what he had and was always cheerful. And he who would be clever and thinks too much is troubled from the beginning till the finish and is always full of misery, and he never has any life and in the end he becomes lost; till the simpleton must have pity on him and help him. Besides this, the tale also contains very deep secrets, because all these tales are throughout great secrets of the Torah.
Translated by Esther Kenig, a”h, mother of Reb Gedaliah Aharon Kenig, zt”l.