Okay. We’ll tell you what it was, but first you must promise not to try it since it’s not allowed, and it’s dangerous.
I was going out of my mind. For no good reason, the kid we call Eli took the rap for whatever happened in the abandoned caravan. I mean, there were little boys and girls in there and we didn’t know anything until much later. Eli’s best friend was in there; he had evaded a weekend trip with his parents, so we said sure, Ido can stay with us.
We had just blown into the yishuv (settlement) a month ago. We hardly spoke Hebrew, and believed people were innocent until proven guilty, and we didn’t know Ido very well. We had just wanted to be nice when Ido’s parents asked us to put him up for the weekend.
Eli had made a bed for him and prepared Ido’s favorite osh plav, an Uzbek chicken dish with rice, onions and grated carrots. But that night, on Shabbat, Eli couldn’t get Ido to leave the abandoned caravan on the edge of the yishuv. He cried and begged, and Ido wouldn’t listen. I didn’t know enough Hebrew to reason with the kid.
After Shabbat, the nightmare started. Eli had done nothing wrong at all, but the settlers, social workers, and police blamed him anyway. And things got worse: The school principal came to the caravan where we lived and informed us with a very sad face that Eli and his brothers would have to find another place to learn Torah.
If Eli and his brothers stayed in the school, all the other parents would pull their kids out.
This declaration almost tore our family apart. Nathan wanted to stay in that settlement and fight it out. I said no; folks here just never learned the laws of evil speech. The laws are many, so I printed out some of them:
Like, when is it okay to say something bad about someone?
1. First, you have to make sure that something happened.
Like did you see it with your own eyes?
2. And if it’s hearsay, you still must make sure the guy did something wrong.
3. You have to speak to the bad guy first to get him to fix what he did.
4. You can’t blow up the story to make it worse than it was.
5. All you can want is to help the hurt person; you can’t want to hurt the accused person or do the same bad deed yourself.
6. If you can fix things without saying something bad, you must do that.
7. You can’t say something bad if the guy you blame suffers more than Jewish Law asks.
Folks, I would love to tell you that I walked around the settlement door to door, spreading the light of the holy Chofetz Chaim, and every person said wow, thanks, Alizah; hey, I never knew that!
That didn’t happen. People said hey, nobody does that in real life; and that made me feel kind of like an idiot.
So, why was this happening? Was it because of the bad things I had said years ago while getting a divorce, or what?
Maybe. Or maybe G-d was getting us ready for something fantastic.
The good part in this story came when we moved out of that settlement and, after discovering that every Torah school in the Negev had been warned about this dangerous kid called Eli, by a miracle we found one principal who had also been visited by these guys, and this one principal stood up and took a book from the shelf about guarding your tongue and declared he would not listen to one bad word about the boy.
People tell you to go out and seek the true tzadik, right? and they say keep trying, even if it takes a lifetime, because it’s not easy but it’s worth the trouble. I never understood what this meant, and how you can tell if the guy is a true tzadik or not? But it just happened that way; we had trudged from school to school and at last we found him. In fact, the whole gang was wonderful. The teachers loved the kids. I thought they were angels, made of light and sweetness, and yes, they were--but get this: after my last kid had graduated and moved somewhere else, the school disappeared, and the principal moved to Jerusalem.
Which meant to me that the entire outfit had materialized from the super-duper energy Eli had made when the people insulted him and kicked him off the school bus and out of the clubhouse, and all Eli did was keep quiet and never once freak out.
Based on stories by Rebbe Nachman
To tell the truth, Black Wolf did a lot of damage. He broke windows, robbed stores, ate a whole flock of geese that belonged to Beautiful Wind’s father and mother; he ate the emperor’s chickens and swallowed the emperor’s bride, who was thought irreplaceable because she had the tiniest feet in the country.
The Emperor’s tailor, Huizhong the Wise, understood that Black Wolf had wrapped himself too tight in the clothes of an animal. So Huizhong took measurements, made a suit of respectable clothing, and found Wolf a job as manager of a bank, where the penitent could lend money for victims to rebuild their lives. When the unfortunates could not pay back, Wolf couldn’t resist doing with them as he pleased.
The result of this evildoing was an air of anxiety throughout the Land of China.
Beautiful Wind, a farm girl age 7, added to her father’s agitation when all day she ran back and forth in the house, laughing, playing, and singing. Father yelled: Beautiful Wind! Be serious! We have no more geese, I need to pay the bank, and I need quiet to think!
Father had heard speculation in the An-zun tea house that a wolf will soon arrive at the Emperor’s palace, and the End of the World will soon follow. The bamboo wall rattled. “Open up!” It was the voice of a wolf. Father ducked under the tablecloth.
Beautiful Wind hid behind a screen just as the bank manager broke into the hut. “Pay up, turtle egg,” he shouted, smashing dishes, slamming his stick into a chair.
Huizhong says “wait! Do you see those feet?”
Bank Manager sees the feet beneath the screen. Huizhong picks a three-inch, gold-embroidered slipper from his pocket and waits.
“Beautiful Wind, give him your feet,” urges Father. Where are your feet? The girl does nothing. Father slaps her. Beautiful Wind takes a small step out.
The slipper fits. Beautiful Wind possesses, after all, the feet of a prince’s wife. Madame Butterfly, the Emperor's matchmaker, loses no time in binding the feet tight to keep them that way. Beautiful Wind cries, “It hurts!”
Huizhong relents. “Wait,” he says to Father. “The prince is crazy; blind; he eats crumbs, like a chicken, from the floor, and wears no clothing.”
Father says, “Sir, I had geese and now I have nothing. This chicken you speak of will save us from starvation.”
“Very well,” Huizhong agrees. He turns to the bank manager. “Will you accept the feet as collateral, Sir?”
The bank manager says, “This farm girl doesn’t know the palace ways. She must learn to lie.”
Father whispers to Beautiful Wind. “Do you hear that?”
“But I can’t lie!” cries the girl. “I want to be with Mama in the City of Luz.”
Father laughs. Why do girls believe everything? He pats her head. “Wolf will come to the palace and bring the end of the world. If you marry the prince you will survive in the bunker that our great and powerful emperor has built. Your lotus feet will get me into the bunker too. And of what use is truth if we die?”
Father signs the contract and then pours a drink of wine. He advises Beautiful Wind to honor the EMPEROR’S wishes and remember that she is not Beautiful Wind. She is now the Bride with Lotus Feet.
The bank manager adds, “Whatever your husband will be, you must be. Whatever your husband wants, you must want.”
The Bride with Lotus Feet lowers her head, weighed down by confusion.
Huizhong the Wise tells the Bride a SECRET: “if you don’t know what to do, then pray. With prayer you can find the true path.”
The binding hurts Beautiful Wind’s feet but she wants to marry the EMPEROR’S SON and make her father proud. On Madame Butterfly's instructions, Beautiful Wind uses her made-up royal name, Bride with Lotus Feet, and forget her true name.
At the palace, the Emperor makes a small wedding feast for the prince, who wears underwear, dark glasses, and eats under the table like a chicken, and the Bride with Lotus Feet.
The prince considers his bride. “What are you?”
The bride considers what she should say. “First tell me what you are and then I can tell you.”
“It’s obvious!” He straightens. “I’m a cockerel.”
“So! I am a hen.”
The prince crows for joy to have found his match. The couple eats seeds and dash around the room, the bride on her knees for weakness of feet.
The emperor is not happy. He tries to explain to the prince and his bride that the son’s duty is to honor, worship and make money for parents in their old age.
The cockerel-prince pays no attention.
The bride is confused. How will take Father’s advice to honor the emperor if the cockerel-prince does not want to honor the emperor? She must also do what the bank manager advised and do what her husband does.
The emperor reveals the secret of the end of the world: he has no money to fill the bunker with all his needs. His son must help! The emperor lets the cockerel-prince touch a pile of money. The prince swallows the money.
What should the bride do? Huizhong had said: if you don’t know what to do, then pray. So she prays:
“What should I do? What should I do?”
The prayer reaches the emperor’s ears and he too starts to pray: “What should I do? What should I do?” Everyone in the palace who hears the bride’s prayer falls under its power and starts to pray.
THE emperor screams, “Now the situation is worse!” “Doctor!” he calls to the man being hastily dressed by the tailor, Huizhong the Wise. “Cure the prince--now!”
The doctor bows as the emperor leaves him alone with the cockerel-prince. Huizhong stands ready with a shirt, which the doctor tries to force over the prince’s head. The cockerel-prince tears the doctor’s jacket. DOCTOR RUNS AWAY. [After DOCTOR fails, EMPEROR sends MESSENGER to find a better doctor. Different doctors come to the palace. Everyone fails.
BRIDE asks CHICKEN SON to look in the mirror. Is he a chicken or a man? But CHICKEN SON wears dark glasses and can’t see the mirror. BRIDE prays with CHICKEN SON, what should we do? What should we do?
In the unfinished bunker, THE CONCUBINES are WAITING and waiting. They are bored. They hear the prayers and sing along. At the same time, they EAT UP THE STASHES OF FOOD. THE GUARDS WHO GUARD THE BUNKER STEAL THE STASHES OF WHISKEY AND GET DRUNK. SO MUCH
FOOD AND DRINK IS LYING AROUND THE BUNKER THAT THE GUARDS TELL THEIR FRIENDS ABOUT THE SECRET BUNKER AND SHARE THE FOOD AND DRINK.
THEY SAY THE EMPEROR HAS STORED IT ALL UP FOR
HIMSELF AND DOESN’T CARE ABOUT THEM—THEY SING A SONG ABOUT THIS. “ALL I WANT TO SAY IS THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT US!” SOON ALL THE SUPPLIES FOR THE END OF THE WORLD ARE GONE. When the GUARDS are drunk and asleep, the CONCUBINES run away.
IN CHICKEN SON’S ROOM:
CHICKEN SON touches BRIDE and says: I feel you have clothing. Maybe you are not a real chicken?
BRIDE: Can’t a chicken wear clothing?
CHICKEN SON: I don’t know.
BRIDE: Let’s ask HaShem. [She prays] Can a chicken wear clothing? Can a chicken wear clothing?
CHICKEN SON: that is not how a chicken prays. A chicken prays like this. [They pray loudly like chickens]
CHICKEN SON: How do you know that you are a chicken?
BRIDE: Are you a chicken?
CHICKEN SON: Of course.
BRIDE: Would a human being marry a chicken?
CHICKEN SON: Only a chicken marries a chicken!
BRIDE: That means I am a chicken. And I am wearing clothes. So a chicken can wear clothes. I will sew a robe for you, a robe for a chicken prince.
CHICKEN SON feels happy. He decides to surprise the
EMPEROR with his new clothes and also make money. He asks BRIDE to help him. She says: I can’t walk on my tiny feet. The money machine is in the BUNKER.
So CHICKEN SON, who wears dark glasses and cannot see, carries BRIDE on his back. BRIDE tells CHICKEN SON what she sees. She tells him the way to THE BUNKER so he won’t bump into things. She tells him about the money machine inside the BUNKER where they will supposedly be safe from the END OF THE WORLD. They plan to make money and honor the EMPEROR. But in the bunker is a bad smell. They call out hello, hello! But nobody is there. CHICKEN SON and BRIDE leave THE BUNKER and feel confused, so they pray again.
EMPEROR becomes old and sick. He tries to forget about his son who prays all day. Soon will be the END OF THE WORLD. He writes a list of important people to live in the BUNKER for the END OF THE WORLD. One of them is BANK MANAGER.
EMPEROR wants only people who are rich, beautiful, strong and entertaining. A MESSENGER runs out with the invitations.
BANK MANAGER ARRIVES AT THE bunker WITH
SUITCASES AND SERVANTS. He had hoped to survive the End of the World in a Bunker full of good food and drink, and he found instead only smelly money. He and his servants ran away.
“Black Wolf—remember him? —returned as a Tzadik-Storyteller. ‘The world ended,’ he said, ‘but only the World of Lies. The World of Truth is in Luz, but we can’t go there just like that. We have to pray for it, sometimes long and hard. We have to be ready and pure.’ Wolf howled with longing for the World of Truth.
That night the Emperor, in bed, heard the howling of Wolf getting stronger and closer. The Emperor was too weak to get up from bed. He couldn’t trust the servants who stole everything from the Bunker, and few people were left in the Palace.
The Cockerel Prince and the Bride with Lotus Feet also heard Wolf. They also howled like Wolf and wanted to join him. The Bride was confused. Was the End of the World truly coming close? Life in the Palace was miserable. They prayed, this time, like human beings.
“Wolf tried to enter Luz but couldn’t get in. He had done so much damage that the only way he could repent was to teach others to pray and repent. Wolf knocked urgently at the Emperor’s door.
“He wanted to warn everyone to leave the Palace because soon it would fall down. Huizhong the Wise tried to pull Wolf away. Huizhong said that the guards would lock up Wolf because he was a criminal. Therefore, Wolf must dress as the Bank Manager.
“But get this: Wolf refused to tell a lie. If he lied, he could not enter Luz. He knew that all the guards got drunk already and ran away. See? When you believe, you have no fear.
“The Emperor heard the knocking and panicked. He owed money and felt afraid that the Bank Manager would take away his possessions and his Concubines. He didn’t know that all of them were gone. He didn’t know that the Bank Manager had transformed from a wolf to a man. The Emperor had not seen that his magnificent Bunker was ruined. Wolf knocked louder.
“The Emperor hid under his blanket.
“The Emperor told the Cockerel Prince and the Bride with Lotus Feet to pretend they were not home.
“The Bride asked: ‘why do you wear dark glasses? Are you blind?’
The Prince replied: ‘it hurts me to see how things are in the Palace. You can see for me.’
“He carried the Bride on his back. He asked the Bride to look in the mirror and tell him what she saw. She said that she saw a man and a woman.
“The Prince said, ‘You don’t see chickens?’
“‘No,’ said the Bride. ‘That is a lie. We are human beings.’
“The Prince said: ‘And is it true we are not home?’
“‘That is a lie,” said the Bride.
“‘Then open the door. Who do you see outside?’
“‘I see a tzaddik,’ said the Bride.
“‘Is it not the Bank Manager?
“The Emperor, still hiding under his blanket, said: ‘Tell the Bank Manager I’m not here!’
“Black Wolf walked in and said there was no Bank Manager, only Black Wolf who caused damage. Now he wanted to repent and fix everything he destroyed.
“The Prince removed his glasses and looked at Wolf, the tzaddik: ‘I am not a chicken. I am Shefa. Please teach me to repent.’ He cried.
“The Bride with Lotus Feet said she was Beautiful Wind, a simple country girl not worthy of Prince Shefa.
“They followed Wolf outside.
“The Emperor shouted, ‘Come back!’
“Huizhong the Wise shouted: Black Wolf has come! It’s the END OF THE WORLD!
“‘Go to the Bunker!’ cried the Emperor. ‘Follow me!’ He led the way to his Magnificent Bunker and found it ruined and empty. ‘Where are my equipment, my food and wine, my weapons, entertainments, and concubines?’
“Beautiful Wind couldn’t walk. Her feet were too small. Prince Shefa couldn’t find the road to Luz. Beautiful Wind rode on Shefa’s back and told him the way to go. But even she couldn’t see in the dark.
They were lost.
Beautiful Wind sang and prayed.
They bumped into Madame Butterfly and her servants and suitcases, on her way to the Bunker.
“‘Bride with tiny feet!’ called Madame Butterfly. ‘Where are you going? Come to the Bunker.’
“‘The bunker is lost,’ said Beautiful Wind.
“Butterfly sat down on the ground.
“‘What do you say now?’ said the Emperor.
“‘I have no place to go and it’s the End of the World.’
“The Emperor sat down in his torn clothing. ‘I am the Emperor. I lost my palace and my bunker. I have no
place to go. I only know how to tell lies. Like you, Mrs. Butterfly.’
“‘Hear the song in the wind!’ said Butterfly.
“Beautiful Wind sang, and the wind blew. She sang: ‘the wonderful City of Luz! The wonderful City of Luz!’
“Madame Butterfly clicked her tongue: ‘this country girl still believes in the City of Luz.’
“‘When she stops singing,’ said the Emperor, ‘I smell something bad.’
“Prince Shefa and Beautiful Wind jumped through a hole in a tree, entered a cave, and from there disappeared.
“The Emperor watched with Madame Butterfly: ‘So the City of Luz does exist. Do you think we can go there?’
“Madame Butterfly shook her head. ‘I’m sorry I lied to you, Emperor.’
“‘You had good intentions, Madame Butterfly.’ They walked to the Tree. Wolf was waiting for them.
“Wolf said: ‘Do you have money in that bag?’
“Madame Butterfly handed him the money, and Wolf buried it.
‘Pray,’ said Wolf.
The Emperor protested: ‘I can’t walk around and pray. I am the Emperor!’
‘Really?’ said Wolf. ‘I’m an Emperor too. And look, I can pray.’