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Syndic Literary Journal

The Holes In The Door

Written/Narrated By Long Island Poet/Publisher Stanley Barkan


 As Retold By Stanley H. Barkan                 

My father told me a story that I will tell to you.  His father told it to him, whose father before had told the same story.  Where it came from before then, I cannot say.  Perhaps it was written in a diary, or scratched on dried sheep’s skin, or even carved in stone.

A century or two ago (or even a thousand years), a boy named Yakov lived in the Russian Pale where Jews were separated.  He was given to perverseness.  He would often pull the beards of old men, knock the staff from those of faltering step, break the Sabbath in all manner of ways, and even disturb the prayers of the most pious.

Yakov’s father was a good and righteous man, a tsaddikHe was very patient with his only son, for besides him, he had only his studies and his God.

One day, disturbed even beyond his patience, Yakov’s father came to his son and said, “Yakov,  my son, you have not followed the precepts of our fathers and their fathers before them.  You have not obeyed the commandments of HaShem, blessed be His Name.  In short, my boy, you are sinning.  From this day forth, for each cheyt you make, I shall hammer a nail in the door of your room so that you may see and be reminded of the ill that you have done.”

Yakov listened and forgot, and did as he had always done . . . badly.  And the father became very busy hammering nails in his son’s door.  And, within a few days, Yakov’s father came with a heavy step and a heavier heart to seek a place for his last nail.  Behold!  There was not the tiniest space on the door to permit a nail.  Nay, not even a mote of dust!  The father sighed wearily.

Then, on a sudden, the sound of crying came from within his son’s room.   The father looked inside and saw his son, head buried in his pillow.

“Yakov, my son,” he said, “why are you crying?”

Yakov raised himself up and pointed to the door, saying, “The nails in the door!  Have I done so much wrong?”

The father answered, “I’m afraid it is so, my son.  But be cheered.  From this day forth, for each good deed you do, each mitzvah, I will remove a nail from the door.”

When Yakov heard, he smiled and went to do well.  And the next day or so, the father was busy, far busier than before.  And, within just a short time, he came to his son’s room with a light step and a happy heart to remove the last nail.  And all were out.

Then, barely audible, he heard the sound of crying, bitter crying!  He opened the door and looked in his son’s room and saw Yakov—tears streaming down his face.

Then Yakov’s father knit his brows and said, “Yakov, my son, why are you crying?  It is a joyous occasion, a simcha.  Come, we’ll make a kiddush with the raisin wine.  Don’t you see?  All the nails are gone!”

And his son answered, shaken, “Yes, Father, I see the nails are gone.  But the holes are still there!” ÷


Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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