Unable to work outside because of the heavy snow, the men used the forced inactivity to repair and sharpen their tools and tell each other stories.
Yoav noticed his grandfather was awake. “Please, Sabba, tell us a story!”
Yochanan smiled at his favorite grandson. “I don’t have any.”
“Yes, you do! The one of the young man who went away!”
“Oh no! Not again!” Yoav’s mother rolled her eyes.
Ignoring her, Yochanan pulled Yoav close. “A long, long time ago, there was a young man who didn’t want to be a vine-grower, like his family had been for generations. No…, he wanted to see the world behind the mountains that surrounded his little village. So one day, he told his father to give him his share.
The father was sad. ‘Please, don’t go!’ he begged.
‘A stupid idea!’ the older brother said. ‘Why leave? You know what you have here.’
But the young man wanted to taste what life was like out there. He ended up on the island of Tyre where he lived in a beautiful stone house full of servants. His friends liked him, for almost every night he held parties, and he wasn’t stingy with wine and expensive gifts.
The young man enjoyed his new life, and especially liked the women of Tyre, who were dressed elegantly in garments made of beautiful fabric. Their jewelry jingled while they walked, and they always smelled nice.”
Yochanan put his mouth close to Yoav’s ear and whispered, “Not like your mother and Savta!” They snickered behind their hands like little children sharing a secret.
“What are you whispering about?” Yochanan’s wife demanded to know.
“Nothing, my dear!” Yochanan winked at Yoav.
“Don’t you dare tell him about the prostitutes!” His wife warned.
“He needs to learn about these things, woman! And I’m the one who’s telling the story!” Yochanan cleared his throat. “Yes, those women. You know, Yoav, on the island there was a huge temple full of women so beautiful, the young man had never seen before. He didn’t care the temple was full of idols. He just wanted to spend time with those beauties, and didn’t mind having to pay lots money for it.
And then, one day, his money was gone. So were his friends. Suddenly, nobody wanted to be around him anymore. He got into debts, and ended up as a slave tending pigs.”
“But those aren’t kosher animals, Sabba!”
“True, but what else could he do? He didn’t dare to go back, afraid his father he would say, ‘I told you so!’
But when his owner punished him for stealing carob pods from the pigs only because he had been so hungry, the young man realized he would be better off being a servant to his father than to continue living like this.
He ran away, and after a long, dangerous and difficult trip through the mountains, he finally reached his little village.
All the way he had been rehearsing what he was going to say to his father; he was afraid he would be rejected and sent away. But you know, to his amazement, his father had seen him coming and welcomed him with open arms.
‘Abba, can you forgive me?’ the young man sobbed, and told him he was ready to do any work his father had for him.
But the overjoyed father didn’t want to hear any more, and ordered a feast to be prepared. His lost son had come home!”
“And the older brother, Sabba. Was he happy too?”
“No, not really. He was angry at his father, and didn’t want to meet his brother. It took many years before they made up.” Yochanan sighed. It had grieved him that his brother had been so hard-hearted and unforgiving. He suspected his brother was jealous of him; that in his heart he would have loved to do the same, but was afraid to step out.
“Huh? Oh, I was just thinking.” Yochanan smiled. “You know Yoav, sometimes it’s good to take a risk, but then you have to be willing to pay the price, which can be high. There are times that it’s better to stay where you are, and learn to be satisfied with what you have. Although I didn’t deserve it, Adonai has been gracious to me.”
He lifted the boy from his aching knee. “Never forget the advice from an old man, who had to learn the hard way!”
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