Translated by Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum
From THE SEVEN BEGGARS
RABBI NACHMAN'S LAST STORY
THE LOST CHILDREN
There was once a mass flight of people from a certain country: everyone fled. As they were on their way they passed through a forest, and a boy and a girl got lost. One person lost a boy and another lost a girl. They were still little children of about the age of four or five. They had nothing to eat, and they cried and screamed because they were hungry.
Suddenly a beggar appeared with bags in which he was carrying bread. The two children approached him and began to follow him. He gave them bread, and they ate.
"How did you come to be here?" he asked.
"We don't know," they replied - they were only little children.
When he was about to leave, they asked him to take them with him. "But I don't want you to go with me," he said.
They noticed that he was blind. They wondered how he was able to find his way if he was blind. The fact that they wondered about this is itself unusual since they were only small children, but they were intelligent.
The beggar blessed them that they should be like him - that they should be elders like him - and then he left them some more bread and went on his way. The two children understood that God was watching over them and that He had sent them this blind beggar here in the forest to give them food.
When all the bread was finished, they again started crying for food. Night fell and they slept. In the morning they had nothing to eat, and they cried and screamed.
Again, a beggar appeared. He was deaf. They started talking to him, but he signaled with his hands that he could not hear. He also gave them bread and left. They wanted him to take them with him but he would not do so. He blessed them that they should be like him and also left them some bread and went on his way.
When all the bread was finished, they started to cry again. Along came a beggar with a speech defect. They started talking to him, but he stammered so badly that they did not know what he was saying. He could understand what they were saying but they didn't know what he was saying. He too gave them bread to eat and went on his way, blessing them that they should be like him.
Afterwards came a beggar with a crooked neck, and the same thing happened. Then a hunchback beggar came, and then a beggar with no hands, and then a beggar with no legs. Each one gave them bread and blessed them that they should be like him.
When all the bread was finished, they started making their way to an inhabited area. They came to a road and followed it until they came to a village. The children went into one of the houses, and the people had pity on them and gave them bread. They went into another house, where the people also gave them bread. They went from door to door and saw that they were having success.
They decided to stay together always. They made big beggars' sacks for themselves and went from door to door and attended all the celebrations - circumcisions and weddings. They then decided to move on and went to the larger cities, where they went from door to door. They went to the fairs and sat with the other beggars on the pavement with their charity plates. The two children became well known to all the beggars. They all knew them as the children that were lost in the forest.
Once there was a great fair in a large city. The beggars journeyed there and the young pair went with them. It occurred to the beggars that they should make a match between the pair and have them marry. As soon as the beggars began discussing the idea they all thought it a very good idea and agreed on the match.
But how were they to make the wedding? Since the king's birthday banquet was to be held shortly, they decided that all the beggars should go, and from the meat and bread they would beg for themselves they would make the wedding. And so it was: all the beggars went to the king's birthday celebrations and begged for bread and meat. They also collected all the leftover meat and party rolls from the feast. They went and dug a great pit large enough to hold a hundred people. They covered it with reeds, earth and dung and all went inside. There they made the wedding for these two children. They brought them under the marriage canopy and everyone was very happy.
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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