Verse > Anthologies > Joseph Friedlander, comp. > The Standard Book of Jewish Verse
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Joseph Friedlander, comp.  The Standard Book of Jewish Verse.  1917.
 
Rabbi Ben Hissar
Anonymous
 
RABBI BEN HISSAR rode one day
Beyond the city gates. His way
Lay toward a spot where his own hand
Had buried deep within the sand
A treasure vast of gems and gold        5
He dared not trust to man to hold.
 
But riding in the falling light,
A pallid figure met his sight—
An awful shape—he knew full well
’Twas the great Angel Azrael.        10
The dreadful presence froze his breath;
He waited tremblingly for death.
 
“Fear not,” the Angel said, “I bear
A message. Rabbi Ben-Hissar,
One thing the Lord hath asked of thee        15
To prove thy love and loyalty.
Therefore now I am come to bring
Thy rarest jewel to thy King.”
 
Rabbi Ben-Hissar bowed his head,
“All that I have is his!” he said.        20
The angel vanished. All that day
He rode upon his lonely way
Wondering much what precious stone
God would have chosen for his own.
But when he reached the spot he found        25
No other hand had touched the ground.
 
Rabbi Ben-Hissar looked and sighed
“It was a dream!” he sadly cried.
“I thought that God would deign to take
Of my poor store for his dear sake.        30
But ’twas a dream! My brightest gem
Would have no luster meet for him!”
 
Slowly he turned and took his way
Back to the vale where the city lay.
The path was long, but when he came        35
Unto the street which bore his name
He saw his house stand dark and drear,
No voice of welcome, none of cheer.
 
He entered and saw what the Lord had done.
Lo! Death had stricken his only son!        40
Clay he lay, in the darkened hall,
On the stolid bier, with the funeral pall.
The pale death-angel Azrael
Had chosen a jewel that pleased him well.
Rabbi Ben-Hissar bent his head.        45
“I thank thee, Lord,” was all he said.
 
 
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