Those that Wow With Tears Shall Reap With Joy
a fable for Tisha B’Av
One year after the destruction of the Temple.
The sun rose, and one day followed another, and one year passed and Israel stood on its ruins.
The communities of Israel who remained in the land were destroyed and dispersed, the towns were deserted, the villages hungry for bread.
Also in the village of Tibe, in the Judean Mountains, there were few households, the remains of the destruction rotting in poverty.
The bread was gone, the heavy skies stopped their rains throughout the winter, the houses were destroyed, the granaries ruined – a year passed and there was no sign of redemption. And one man lived on the edge of the village, in a meagre and empty hut with dry soil with thistles – and his wife and sons are asking for bread.
The man was sick and tired of the destruction. He rose one day, took the eldest of his sons who was still a young boy, took his plough which had survived in his home under his bed and went out to his field. He harnessed himself to the plough, gave the handle to the boy and started pacing very slowly – becoming tired, straining his knees, pushing his hands before him – pacing and ploughing his earth.
His neighbours passed him by: “Fool” they said to him. “You poor thing” they walked back and forth “Look at the idiot” they laughed at him. And he continued ploughing and did not respond. His wife came to him, spread out a kerchief, and cried.
“What will you sow” she asked “we don’t have one single grain of wheat to save our souls”.
And the man silently ploughs.
Days and weeks passed. The people from the village decided to roam and ask for bread. Some of them raised their fists with a curse against the cruel skies, some of them cried in secret.
The same man remained alone in the abandoned village, in Tibe, and still he went out every day to his field and ploughed it. The work was hard and exhausting, and slowly, step after step, the furrows of the plough grew. The autumn passed, the rain arrived. The clouds of rage rose from the south and from the west. They covered the eye of the heavens and brought down their rain.
The man rose to go to his fields, again took his plough and his boy. “Why, why?” again the mother of the sons cried: “What will you sow in the ploughed field? Your sons are dying before your eyes, rotting and starving!” And he answered:
“I will plough my land, because that is my life. Only the plough will take bread from the field. This is my life.”
He went out to the field. The earth was soft and moist, and a good aroma rose from it. His plough sliced through the early and deep furrows and opened, one furrow next to another, and the lips of the man prayed continuously:
“Aha my Lord” he toiled and pulled his plough “King of the Universe”.. he turned and opened a new furrow “Give me the strength to plough the earth which you have given to me.” And his feet walked and walked and his shoulders were hunched “Give me a seed to sow, so that it will grow into bread” And he ploughed and pulled his plough.
Suddenly his plough stopped. He pulled and pulled on it – it did not move. He looked back. Scrabbled with shaking fingers around the blade – and then he found a large pottery jar in the earth, that had been left after the terrible destruction. “Treasure!” the son joked, “Gold”.
His father silenced him. What good would gold be if there was no bread to eat in all of Israel? And the jar was large and heavy. They extricated it from the earth, cleaned the dust off it, opened it and it was full of grain, full of good wheat seeds. “Bread!” again shouted the son full of joy, “Bread!” however the father looked at him with silent eyes and said nothing.
Immediately the mother and the small sons were called. The unhappy wife already wanted to take the grain, grind it, knead it, to make bread for her children…..however the man removed her hands from the jar, took the sack from his shoulders and filled it with large handfuls of the golden wheat and walked towards the furrow.
“No” cried the wife bitterly with great despair: “No, you will not bury this bread in the earth. It will be for us! For us!”
Her sons also grabbed hold of her, one grasping her clothing, one weeping, one falling to his feet “Father” Father!” they cried.
“Bring the wheat! To make bread, to eat! Father! Father!....” They begged and the man heard, saw the humility of his sons scrabbling in the dirt at his feet, saw the eyes of his wife crying out for mercy – and for one moment he was discouraged and the seed was suddenly heavy, and for a moment he stopped walking.
At that same time the sun rose over the open furrows, and in the north clouds of blessing gathered, and the man looked and saw the field at his feet, kissed his sons one after the other, hugged his wife’s trembling shoulder, hardened his heart and went towards the furrow.
He entered between the furrows, a handful in his hand of the good seeds, the wheat, the bread which he had taken from the mouths of his sons and his wife, and spilt it into the earth, and buried it, sowed it and buried it.
Large tears, like good wheat, poured down his face and mixed with the seeds and again his lips made a prayer:
“I believe in you my land….” He said and he raised his arm “I am giving to you my life and the life of my children after me, my land…” and he threw the seed and dispersed it in a large circle “I have nothing apart from you…” and his tears mixed with the seeds, in the clods of earth, saturating the open furrows, and they have no end.
And about the same man, it was said: ”Those sowing with tears…” and by the strength of his tears, and by the strength of the suffering of his wife and sons, and by the strength of the suffering of all of Israel – the end of that verse shall be established, saying “shall reap with joy”.