JHOM - Personalities - Glückel of Hameln - Memoirs-Birds


The story of the father and the baby birds

This story, one of many woven into the text of the Memoirs, is told in the beginning pages of the book, where Glikl dedicates the book to her children and explains to them her reasons for writing it.

We should, I say, put ourselves to great pains for our children, for on this the world is built, yet we must understand that if the children did as much for their parents, the children would quickly tire of it.

The Memoirs (analysis and selections):

The story of the father bird and the baby birds

The death of a child; the birth of another

Glückel mourns the death of Chaim of Hameln

Glückel rescues her ne'er do well son Loeb from debt

Appearance of self-proclaimed messiah Sabbetai Zevi

Dangerous travels to the Leipzig fair

A match and a wedding

A bird once set out to cross a windy sea with its three fledglings. The sea was so wide and the wind so strong, the father bird was forced to carry his young, one by one, in his strong claws. When he was half-way across with the first fledgling, the wind turned to a gale, and he said, "My child, look how I am struggling and risking my life in your behalf. When you are grown up, will you do as much for me and provide for my old age?"

The fledgling replied, "Only bring me to safety, and when you are old I shall do everything you ask of me." Whereat the father bird dropped his child into the sea and it drowned, and he said, "So shall it be done to such a liar as you." Then the father bird returned to shore, set forth with his second fledgling, asked the same question, and receiving the same answer, drowned the second child with the cry, "You, too, are a liar!" Finally he set out with the third fledgling, and when he asked the same question, the third and last fledgling replied, "My dear father it is true you are struggling mightily and risking your life in my behalf, and I shall be wrong not to repay you when you are old, but I cannot bind myself. This though I can promise: when I am grown up and have children of my own, I shall do as much for them as you have done for me." Whereupon the father bird said, "Well spoken, my child, and wisely; your life I will spare and I will carry you to shore in safety."

Above all, my children, be honest in money matters, with both Jews and Gentiles, lest the name of Heaven be profaned. If you have in hand money or goods belonging to other people, give more care to them than if they were your own, so that, please God, you do no one a wrong. The first question to put to a man in the next world is, whether he was faithful in his business dealings [*] . . .

[*] Rabbah said, "When one stands at the judgment-seat of God, these questions are asked: Hast thou been honest in all thy dealings? Hast thou set aside a portion of thy time for the study of Torah? Hast thou observed the First Commandment? Hast thou, in trouble, still hoped and believed in God? Hast thou spoken wisely?" Talmud, Shabbat, 31a.

Barnes & Noble linkGlückel. The Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln. Marvin Lowenthal, trans. Copyright © 1977 by Schocken Books (New York), pp. 2-3. Reprinted by permission of Schocken Books.



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