Jewish Bedtime Story Co-op

Once upon a time there were two very good friends who lived in a far off land. Unfortunately a war broke out between two kingdoms and one of the friends was taken captive by one king, while the second friend was taken captive by the other king. Months passed and the war continued, and each friend spent his days in prisons that were separated by many miles. Then one day, one of the friends was freed from jail. He rushed to the center of town, bought a canteen of water, some rolls, and some fruit and ventured off to the capital of the other kingdom in order to visit his imprisoned friend.

When the king heard that the man arrived from the neighboring land, a land with which he was at war, the king had the man arrested immediately and thrown into jail as a spy.

In this kingdom, spies were sentenced to prison, where they were given only water to drink and they were to be beaten by sticks made of the branches of willow, teak, cedar, banyan, and mahogany trees. This was very painful, indeed.

As the man was led away to prison and was prepared for the beatings he would receive, he threw himself to the ground and pleaded with the king that he was not a spy and he should not be beaten for at least a few weeks.

"Why should I wait a few weeks until I have you beaten?" asked the king.

"Well," replied the man, "I know that if I am painfully beaten by these branches, there is a chance that I will be hit so hard that I will be unable to work when I am released, and worse, I may lose much of my memory. I have recently been freed from a neighboring prison where I was held captive. While I was in the other king's prison, I left my business in the hands of neighbors, neighbors who owed me money. If you free me for a few weeks, I shall return to my home, settle my accounts with my neighbors, and earn some money so that my wife and children can be provided for, just in case I am unable to work after I am hit with the branches. If you do not let me return home for these few weeks, my wife and children might be left without food or money to survive."

"Hmmmm, I see what you mean," said the king. "But how do I know that you will return after I let you go. What kind of fool would return to prison to receive a beating after he has been let go?"

"Sir," replied the man, "I have a very good friend in this city. Maybe he would agree to be taken hostage in order to guarantee my return."

And so the man's best friend was brought before the king, and the friend agreed to be held as a prisoner, guaranteeing the man's return. Should the man not return, the friend would be beaten.

The king thus freed the man so that he could provide for his wife and children, and the friend was taken hostage to guarantee the man's return. The king gave the man 30 days in which to return.

The king returned to his throne and thought and thought. "I wonder whether the man will return in 30 days. Can these men be such good friends that one would allow himself to be beaten in order to save his friend?"

And so, one month passed, and on the second day after the New Moon, the thirtieth day after the man's release, there was no sign of the man. So, at dawn, the king called for the captain of his army and ordered that the man's friend be brought to the fortress' courtyard so that he may be whipped and beaten with the sticks. The man's friend was brought to the courtyard, and just as he was about to be beaten, there was a shout. "Please stop!," someone shouted.

It was the man. He had returned. He immediately took the place of his friend and told the king that he was ready to accept the beating (even though he wasn't a spy). The king had never witnessed such friendship. He was overcome. He therefore ordered that both men be freed. Obviously neither of them were spies, and the king saw that he was in error. He then rewarded each of the friends with money, gifts, and an offer of jobs in the government. He then told them that he had never before met people who were such good friend and asked if he could be their friend also."

The friends embraced each other with tears in their eyes, and they told the king that yes, they would be delighted to have him as their friend. -- Revised: July 1999
Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Acquired in August 1999.

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