The Seven Beggars: The Land of Wealth

A Jewish wedding is celebrated for seven days. On the second of these, the bride and groom recalled the second beggar who had cheered them in the forest and given them bread. They wept, so strong was their longing to see him, and suddenly he stood before them saying, “Here I am,”

The embraced him and kissed him, and he said,

Today I bring you my gift. You will live the good life, just like I do. The blessing I promised you is now your possession, an outright gift with no strings, a wedding present.

You think I’m deaf? Nothing of the sort! I seem so because I won’t waste my time listening to the world’s complaints. There’s not a word spoken that isn’t a complaint about something that’s missing, people do nothing but wail about the things they lose.

Even the joys of this world are really just subtler complaints about what’s lacking. People are happy because, for the time being, they have something that was gone or they feared they might lose. None of this is worth listening to if you live the good life as I do, wanting for nothing. In fact, I have an affidavit to this effect from the Land of Wealth.

(And his good life consisted of this: he ate bread and drank water.)

There is a Land of Wealth, a realm of boundless riches. Once upon a time the rich men of that land got together to brag about the opulent lives they led. When they finished boasting I said, I live a better life than the whole lot of you If that’s not the case, then let’s see you help the country I will now tell you about.

There’s a country with a garden that bore fruit of every good scent and taste in the world. And the flowers that grew there offered to the eye every good color there is. They had a gardener there who maintained the place, and the whole country lived well because of this garden.

But the gardener disappeared, and the garden suffered, because no one else knew how to look after it. But still, the people of that country managed to get by with what few things grew spontaneously in the now untended garden.

A merciless king came to attack this country. He wasn’t able to harm it directly, but he spoiled that good life of theirs that came from their garden. He couldn’t ruin the garden itself, but he had three groups of specially trained agents who infiltrated that kingdom. The one group corrupted their sense of taste, so everything tasted off and spoiled; another group corrupted their sense of smell, so everything smelled rotten, and the third group corrupted their sight, so their vision became dim and clouded.

Then I (the deaf beggar) said to the men of the Land of Wealth who’d been boasting about the good lives they led, “If you really know how to live, then you will be able to help this afflicted land! But in fact, you can’t. If you try, you’ll be affected in the same ways, in taste, smell and sight.”

Nonetheless the men of the Land of Wealth set out for the kingdom with the garden. I went with them to see how this turned out. On the way there they continued, out of habit, to live the good life, but as they approached the hapless land matters degenerated. First taste, then the other two senses were spoiled. I asked them, “If this is how matters stand when you approach, what will you do when you get there?”

I gave them some of my bread and water, and they discovered in them all the good smells and flavors of the world, and their senses were restored.

Meanwhile, in the country where the garden was, people started casting about for ways to correct the national condition. There occurred to them the following delightful idea: there existed somewhere a Land of Wealth. Their soul of their lost gardener had the same celestial origin as that happy land, so what if they sent envoys to the Land of Wealth, who would be sure to help them because of the family connection?

They did exactly that. Their envoys encountered the men from the Land of Wealthwhom I was leading to them. You can imagine their delight and surprise at this lucky encounter!

“Pardon me for interrupting the general joy,” said I, “but I’m the one you people need.” I explained how the wealthy folk had suffered on approaching the afflicted land. Then alone went on with the envoys. 

We came to a city. There I saw a group of people gathered together. One made a clever saying which raised a laugh. More people gathered around to see what the fun was. Another one, to everyone’s pleasure, continued the banter. I leaned in to hear what they were saying.

It was all dirty jokes, racial slurs and mean-spirited witticisms! One made an off-color jest, another took up the theme with slightly more refinement, and everyone was delighted, as people are by such things.

I went on till I came to another city where I saw two men quarreling about some business matter. They went to court to settle it, and the court decided that this one was in the right and the other was in the wrong. They left the court but the fuss didn’t end there. One thought the damages awarded were too much, the other too little, so they took the matter to a higher court where the case was pleaded anew. This time the matter was settled, but then one of the parties took another person to court for a different reason, which had to be decided by still another court. And since this mania for litigation was universal among them, the land was filled with courts that had an endless backlog of cases.

I saw that the outcome of this superabundance of justice must be that the truth was nowhere to be found. Rather, today this one takes a bribe and edits his testimony to favor that one, and later on that one returns the favor, and so on, and that’s it for the truth!

I also noted that the land was full of sexual repression and sexual aggression, so much so that it seemed to them quite normal. I then understood how the wicked king’s agents had managed to corrupt the country’s senses of taste, smell and sight. They had introduced rude cruel words which ruined taste, so everything had the savor of rottenness. They introduced bribes, which dimmed everyone’s vision, as it says in the Bible, for a bribe doth blind the eyes of the wise. . . And sexual repression, which produces sexual aggression and violence, destroyed their sense of smell. Hate speech, legal lies and hypocritical morality are the first tools of tyranny, as the wicked king well knew, for these corrupt the senses, and people who are out of their senses are eager for all sorts of evil.

I told them that these were the first problems that need to be corrected. They had to find the people who were introducing these practices and expel them from the country. If they did this, and not only would taste, smell and sight be restored, they’d even find their lost gardener.

They did exactly that. They asked everyone they suspected of being an agent of the evil king where they were from. Not literally where they were from—they weren’t trying to get rid of immigrants. They inquired where everyone’s actions were coming from, who would ultimately benefit from their words and acts and legal precedents. It wasn’t all that difficult to see whose interests were being served. They drove the bad actors out of the country, or at least out of office, and the land was cleansed of their crimes.

Suddenly there was a public uproar. Could it be that the crazy person who goes around claiming to be the lost gardener, who everyone shouts at and drives away by throwing rocks—could it be that he really is the gardener? They brought him forward and I told them, “Of course this is the gardener!”

And so it is I possess an affidavit from the Land of Wealth that I’m the one who really lives the good life, because I fixed the afflicted country and got them back their gardener. Today I make you a present of my good life.

At this there was great delight and rejoicing and everyone was happy.

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