With Apologies to Sholem Aleichem…An Old Rabbinic Tale (truly) – September 23, 2020

There is a Yiddish folktale about a man who lived with his wife, eight children, mother, and father?in?law in a one?room house. He was miserable so he went to the rebbi and complained, “It’s so crowded!” The rebbi said, “Take your goat into the house.” The man was even more miserable and with each subsequent visit to the rebbi, he was advised to take in his chickens, ducks, sheep, cow, and then finally his horse. When the house was truly unbearable, he returned to the rebbe, distraught. “It’s terrible!” So the rebbi said, “Let out the goat, chickens, ducks, etc.” When he did, everything felt calm and quiet. He returned to the rebbi and thanked him for his excellent advice.

There once was a woman
Who felt so crowded in her house,
Global warming sat on her bed,
And the crisis in health care
And the lack of public funding for education and the arts squeezed into her living room.
The occupation and siege of Palestine sat at her kitchen table,
And the debilities of aging taunted her in the bathroom.
Her cat peed on the rug everywhere.

She went to her rebbe and said, “Help me! Help me! My house is too crowded!”
And the learned rebbe handed her a large sack and said, “Take this home.”
And she did.

When she opened the sack, a poof of orange hair fell out followed by a rotund man,
Who sat on her head and made it hard to take a deep breath.
She tried to persevere, choking and gasping.

But finally rushed back to the rebbe.
“Help me! Help me! My house is too crowded and I have a terrible headache!”
And the learned rebbe gave her a coffin and said, “Take this home.”
And she did.

When she opened the coffin, a river of blood fell out, and the bodies of all the Black and Brown and trans-people killed by police,
Filled up her house and leaked out her doors.
She tried to persevere, sobbing and cleaning and going to protests.

But finally rushed back to the rebbe.
“Help me! Help me! My house is too crowded and my heart is broken.”
And the learned rebbe handed her a box and said, “Take this home.”
And she did.

When she opened the box, Roe V Wade fell out, torn and tattered,
And leaned against the fireplace gasping.
She tried to persevere with duct tape and glue.

But finally rushed back to the rebbe.
“Help me! Help me! My house is too crowded and I am frightened for my daughters and granddaughter.”
And the learned rebbe handed her a tiny vial and said, “Take this home.”
And she did.

When she opened the vial, the coronavirus swept into her face and out her windows,
And slay whole countries and economies, and human bodies.
She tried to persevere, lonely and frightened, with her mask and isolation and cold hearted zoom calls.

But finally rushed back to the rebbe.
“Help me! Help me! My house is too crowded and I want to touch my friends and hug my daughter and travel to distant lands.”
And the learned rebbe handed her a purse and said, “Take this home.”
And she did.

When she opened the purse, an iphone fell out, filled with Trumpian fake news and malignant social media and reports of election suppression and fraud and QAnon conspiracies.
She tried to persevere but she spent her days reading and scrolling and filled with rage and pessimism for the future.

She finally rushed back to the rebbe.
“Help me! Help me! My house is too crowded with lies and the voices of racists and neo-Nazis and skin heads and proud boys and Republicans and even the President himself. I can’t bear this one more minute.”
And the learned rebbe handed her a large pot and said, “Take this home. Careful it’s hot.”
And she did.

When she opened the pot her house filled with smoke and toxic fumes from forests and cities
Burning everywhere and the smoke filled every room,
And the entire Pacific coast and then blew east to Boston and even the Republicans were choking.
She tried to persevere but her asthma squeezed her lungs and her eyes burned and her mood
Plummeted from the gloom and the orange grey sky and she wept for the forests and the wild animals and the houses and the people burned to ash.

She finally rushed back to the rebbe.
“Help me help me! My house is too crowded and I can’t breathe.”
And the learned rebbe handed her an envelope and said, “Take this home.”
And she did.

When she opened the envelope it was a funeral notice: “RBG is dead.” And the news hung from her ceiling like a dark heavy cloud.
She tried to persevere but she worried about one hundred years of progress, of rights for women and workers, freedom of speech, freedom to protest, and the galloping hoards of fascism.

She finally rushed back to the rebbe.
“Help me help me! My house is too crowded and, and, and she collapsed at his feet.
He lifted her up and said, “Take the pot out of your house.”
And she did.

And the smoke lifted, and the grey sky gave way to blue,
And sun beamed down on Seattle,
And the AQI was healthy.
And the woman took a walk by the lake and into Seward Park,
She felt strong and healthy and revived.

And returned to her house,
Ready to struggle and to win.