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The Tale of the Two Brothers:

I was recently reminded of the observation that, while we Jews seem to have some valuable cultural traits, a genius for effective self-government isn't one of them. This in turn reminded me of The Tale of the Two Brothers, which I'd noted two and a half years ago, but thought I might take the liberty to repeat.

The Talmud, I have heard, tells of two brothers who lived on opposite sides of the hill; one lived alone and the other with a large family. One day, the one who lived alone thought to himself: "Oh, my poor brother -- there he lives, with all those mouths that he has to feed; he must be barely surviving, though he tries to hide that. I, on the other hand, just have to feed myself, so I'm doing very well, and have plenty left over. Let me take some of my surplus tonight, and go over the hill to leave it in my brother's barn."

But that very day, the one who lived with the family thought to himself: "Oh, my poor brother -- there he lives, with no-one to help him; he must be barely surviving, though he tries to hide that. I, on the other hand, have all these children who help me, so I'm doing very well, and have plenty left over. Let me take some of my surplus tonight, and go over the hill to leave it in my brother's barn." So at the same hour of the night, the brothers walk up the hill with their sacks of food, meet, see what the other is doing, and embrace. And on that hill, the Temple was built.

Well, that's the Talmudic story (or so I am told). But, some say, there's another version of that story. Two brothers lived on opposite sides of the hill; one lived alone and the other with a large family. One day, the one who lived alone thought to himself: "Oh, that awful brother of mine -- there he lives, with all those children who can help him; he must be rolling in wealth, though he tries to hide that. I, on the other hand, live all by myself, and badly need more food. Let me go over the hill and take some of the surplus from my brother's barn."

But that very day, the one who lived with a family thought to himself: "Oh, that awful brother of mine -- there he lives, all alone, with no-one else on whom he has to spend money; he must be rolling in wealth, though he tries to hide that. I, on the other hand, have so many children to take care of, and badly need more food. Let me go over the hill and take some of the surplus from my brother's barn." So at the same hour of the night, the brothers walk to the other's barn, walk back up the hill with the sacks of food that they've taken, meet, see what the other is doing, and start punching each other. And on that hill, the Knesset was built.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. More on the Knesset:
  2. The Tale of the Two Brothers:
More on the Knesset:

A reader passes along this follow-up:

Yeshiva University decided to field a crew team. Unfortunately, they lost race after race. They practiced for hours every day, but never managed to come in any better than dead last.

The chief rabbi finally decided to send Yankel to spy on the Harvard team. So Yankel shlepped off to Cambridge and hid in the bullrushes off the Charles River, from where he carefully watched the Harvard team as they practiced.

Yankel finally returned to Yeshiva. "We had it backwards," he announced. "It's one guy shouting and eight guys rowing!"

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. More on the Knesset:
  2. The Tale of the Two Brothers: