The Jewish Fairy Book (Gerald Friedlander)/The Magic Leaf



ONCE upon a time there lived on the banks of the Euphrates in Babylon a holy man who spent his days and nights in the performance of religious rites and in meditation. He determined to go to the Holy Land in order to end his days in Jerusalem, where the Temple of God stood. On and on he went and at sundown he felt very tired, and sat down to rest his weary feet. He would have been glad to fall asleep but was unable to do so owing to the loud twittering of the birds overhead. He sat up watching. He saw two of the birds quarreling, while the others went on chirping for all they were worth. At last one of the two birds that were quarreling killed the other, whereupon all the rest took to flight. The holy man sat still, for he was curious to learn what would happen.

He did not have to wait very long before he saw a large bird flying towards him. The bird passed him and came near to its dead brother. In its little beak it held a small green leaf which it placed on the head of the dead bird. Immediately the leaf touched it, a wonderful miracle happened. It was re-animated and stood upon its fleet. It shook its pretty feathers, flapped its wings and flew off.

The man was astounded at what he had seen. He sprang up, saying to himself,—

"I must get that magic leaf, it will enable me to quicken all the dead in the Holy Land when I arrive there. This is truly a most extraordinary slice of luck to find such a priceless treasure. I suppose this leaf comes from the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. Had I not witnessed the miracle I should never have believed it possible. This leaf is worth untold gold and will bring me good fortune and happiness."

He picked up the leaf and put it away carefully in the fold of his turban. He resolved to spend the night beneath a tree near by, as no houses were visible. Next day he awoke very early. The sun rose, scattering with his powerful beams the morning mists.

He pursued his journey after he had said his morning prayers. He had not walked many hours when he came to a farm. He was about to enter in order to ask for food, when he saw just outside the doorway a dead fox. He went up to it and said to himself,—

"Now I will get out the magic leaf and see if it will re-animate this dead fox. I like to experiment with this most wonderful leaf."

He took off his turban and took out the precious leaf, which he put on the head of the fox. No sooner had the leaf touched the fox, than the latter jumped up and ran away as quickly as his legs could carry him.

"This is marvelous," he exclaimed, while picking up the leaf, which he replaced in the fold of his turban.

He then knocked at the door of the farm-house and was admitted. He asked for a little food which was readily given him by the owner, an old farmer.

"Did you know there was a dead fox outside your door?" he asked the farmer.

The latter replied, "Of course I did, for I killed him yesterday."

The Visitor: "The fox is not there now."

Farmer: "Where is he?"

Visitor: "He ran away just before I knocked at your door."

Farmer: "That is impossible."

Visitor: "Go and look. You will not see the fox."

Farmer: "Come with me and let us look together." They went to the door, and sure enough the fox was not to be seen.

Visitor: "I brought the dead fox back to life. I am a holy man and I can revive the dead."

Farmer: "You are a foolish chatterbox. If what you say be true, take my advice and do not meddle with the mysteries of life and death. God alone will quicken the dead. Now, farewell."

The farmer went into his house and shut the door. Whereupon the holy man went on his way, thinking that God had given him such a wonderful treasure because he had lived such a holy life.

"The old farmer does not understand the good fortune which has befallen me," he muttered.

He had not proceeded very far when he saw a dead lion in the road. He thought of testing once more the efficacy of the wonderful leaf.

"This shall be my last experiment," he said, as he took off his turban.

He then took out the magic leaf and placed it on the head of the lion. This was no sooner done than the lion arose and growled with delight at seeing a fine meal in front of him in the shape of the holy man. The next instant as the holy man began to regret his extreme folly in restoring the dead lion to life, the latter sprang upon him and devoured him. The lion also ate the magic leaf. With this disaster the possibility of reviving the dead passed away and mortals must now wait patiently for the quickening of the dead till the great day of the resurrection comes.

Eccles. Rabbah, Eccles. v. 9.