Thursday, November 01, 2007

The two brothers who loved each other so much that their land was the site of the Temples

Jerusalem was a cultivated field; two brothers possessed that part of the ground where now the temple stands; one of the brothers was married and had several children, the other was single; they cultivated in common the field they had inherited from their mother; when harvest time was come, the two brothers bound up their sheaves, and made two equal heaps of them, which they left upon the field. During the night, the unmarried brother had a good thought; he said to himself, ' My brother has a wife and children to keep; it is not right that my share should be as large as his ; come, I will take some sheaves out of my heap and add them secretly to his; he will not perceive it, and so he will not be able to refuse them.' And he did as he had thought. The same night, the other brother awoke and said to his wife, ' My brother is young; he lives single and without company; he has nobody to assist him in his labour or to console him in his weariness; it is not right that we should take as many sheaves from our common field as lie. Let us get up, and go and carry secretly to his heap a certain number of sheaves; he will not perceive it, and so he cannot re fuse them.' And they did as they had thought. The next day, each of the brothers went to the field, and was very much surprised to see that the two heaps were still equal : neither one nor the other could account to himself for this prodigy. They did the same for several successive nights,but as each had carried to his brother's heap the same number of sheaves, the heaps still remained equal; until one night both stood sentinels to search out the reason of this miracle, and they met one another carrying the sheaves they had mutually designed for each other. " Now the place where so good a thought came at the same time and recurred so continually to two men, must be a spot pleasing to the Deity ; and men blessed it, and chose it to build on it a house for God."

--A beautiful midrash Palestinian Islamic folktale .

On a private email list which must not be named, someone asked

"Is there any authentic basis to the legend that the Beis Hamikdash was built
where two brothers secretly brought part of their harvest to each other in the
belief that the other needed it more than him?"

The answer is that it seems to be just what I wrote above. In short, the first appearance of this story in Western literature seems to be Alphonse de Lamartine's travelogue from the 1840s. The first appearance in Jewish literature is in Louis Ginzberg's Legends of the Jews. The first appearance in yeshiva or Bais Yaakov? Who can say. But it's a nice story, isn't it? Sort of reminds me of the Romantic poem Abou Ben Adhem (a historical figure) by Leigh Hunt.

See this article from 1994 by Eliezer Segal and this post by Menachem Mendel from last year, as well as the Ha-Safran archives where this topic popped up two weeks ago.

1 comment:

  1. Berel Dov Lerner6:10 PM, May 12, 2015

    "The first appearance in Jewish literature is in Louis Ginzberg's Legends of the Jews"!?!?!?!?!?!?!? *The Legends of the Jews* is a monumental work of academic scholarship - any story appearing there is accompanied by references tracking down it's origins. As for the story of the two brothers, Ginzberg gives the following citation: "Costa, Mikweh Israel, No. 59, based perhaps on Berthold Auerbach, who refers to this legend in his Village Stories. It is not sure whether these sources have been made use of by the writer in Ha-Zefirah, 1897, No. 172. It is possible that he drew upon an oral legend current among the Jews of Russia of today as it was among those of Germany at the time of Auerbach. This legend seems to be based on a midrashic exposition of Ps. 133.1."



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