Dramatis personae

Bar Hadaya: an expert in interpreting dreams, who interprets dreams favorably when he is well-paid, and unfavorably when he is poorly paid.

Abbaye: Dreamer 1, pays well for the interpretation of his dreams.

Raba: Dreamer 2, pays poorly for the interpretation of his dreams.

Tarzayana: guardian of the king's treasure

The King: as kings will be



Scene I: In a little Talmudic village at the edge of time.

Enter Abbaye, Raba and Bar Hadaya.

Abbaye to Bar Hadaya. I dreamt the verse from Deut. 28:31: "Your ox shall be slain before thine eyes." What can it mean? Pray interpret it for me (money is no issue!).

Raba to Bar Hadaya. Funny, I dreamt the same verse. Pray interperet it for me too (I'm short on cash but I'll pay what I can).

Bar Hadaya, nodding solemnly towards Raba. You are going to lose your ox and will not be able to eat anything thereof because of your troubled mind.

[Turning to Abbaye] Bar Hadaya. You will do excellent business, and you will slaughter an ox for a banquet. But you will not be able to eat thereof because you will be too busy. Wine, however, you will drink, to the full enjoyment of your heart.

[Several days later]

Abbaye and Raba to Bar Hadaya. We both dreamt a dream that the gates of our houses fell in.

Bar Hadaya [nodding favorably towards Abbaye]. Not to worry. It's an omen of only good things.

Hadaya [Turning towards Raba]. Your wife will die.

[And so whenever they dream the same dream, Bar Hadaya interprets it favorably to Abbaye and unfavorably to Raba, because the one pays him well and the other never pays him anything.]

Scene II: At sea

[Raba and Bar Hadaya are traveling upon the seas. As the ship draws near the shore, a book falls out of the bosom of Bar Hadaya.]

Raba [picking up the book and reading from it]. Hm, says here, "All dreams go according to the mouth." If I understand correctly, this means that what happens following a dream depends upon the interpretation.

[Light bulb turns on and/or token falls into slot; Raba turns in great anger towards Bar Hadaya.]

Raba. You wicked man! Why have you always interpreted my dreams in an evil sense, whereas you always gave a good interpretation to Abbaye? I can well imagine that if I had given you money, you would have interpreted them favorably to me as you did to Abbaye. I am willing to forgive you everything except one thing which I cannot forgive you, namely your interpretation of one dream signifying the death of my wife. May it be the will of God that you be delivered into the hands of a cruel king who will also have no mercy on you.

Bar Hadaya. What am I to do now? We have been told that the curse of a learned man comes true even if the person cursed is innocent. How much more so in the present instance, where Raba had good reason to curse me! His curse will surely come true. I will take upon myself the penance of going into exile, for we have been told that if a man goes into exile, God forgives his sins.

[Exit Bar Hadaya, departing from thence and traveling about as far as Rome.]


Scene I: Rome, at the gate to the palace.

[When Bar Hadaya arrives in Rome, he sits down at the gate of one of the king's officers called Tarzayana, which means the guardian of the king's treasure.]

Tarzayana. Bar Hadaya, I hear you are a skilled interpreter of dreams. Last night I dreamt that my finger was pricked by a needle. Pray interpret this dream to me.
Bar Hadaya. Have you money to pay my fee? If so I will interpret the dream for you.
Tarzayana. Absolutely not! I am a king's officer and don't you forget it!
Bar Hadaya. Indeed. And I am a professional, and you insult me greatly. Bug off.

Scene II. In a supermarket in Rome, Tarzayana bumps into Bar Hadaya.

Tarzayana. Woe is to me, wise Hadaya. I dreamt a second dream, a more frightening dream. I dreamt that a worm was gnawing at two of my fingers. What might be the meaning of such a dream?
Bar Hadaya. Pay me my fee, I will gladly tell you its meaning.
Tarzayana [indignant]. Out of the question!
Bar Hadaya. Well, then, fuhgettabowdit!

Scene III. Tarzayana seeks out Bar Hadaya in a health spa in Rome.

Tarzayana. Woe is to me! A terrible and even more frightful dream did I dream last night. This time the worm entered my hand and I fear it forbodes something awful.
Bar Hadaya. Perhaps I did not make myself clear. Pay me my fee and the interpretation is yours.
Tarzayana [sighing]. Alas, my anxiety defeats me.
[Tarzayana empties his coin bag into Bar Hadaya's palm]
Bar Hadaya. Well, now, here is the meaning of your dream. A moth has entered the clothes of the king which are in your keeping (as guardian of the king's treasure) and has destroyed them.

Scene IV. Back at the palace, the King hears his clothes have been destroyed and sends for Tarzayana.

The King. I order you killed for this unpardonable negligence.
Tarzayana. Why am I to be killed? Let the man be killed who knew of it and refused to tell me.
[The guards fetch Bar Hadaya and upbraid him.]
Guards. Why did you not tell him of it until the third day, when you got your fee, and meanwhile the clothes were eaten by moths? You, therefore, deserve to be killed.

[They bend down two pines and tie Bar Hadaya's legs, one to each of the trees. They then let the trees go and Bar Hadaya is torn to pieces, and thus the curse of Raba is fulfilled.]

Therefore no man should go about with a false heart, for in the end the truth will out and his deceit will not profit him, just as happened in the case of Bar Hadaya, who acted treacherously and came to a grievous end.



This "morality play" is based on a story found in Ma'aseh Book (JPS, 1934), a book of Jewish tales and legends translated from the Judeo-German by Rev. Dr. Moses Gaster of London. Dr. Gaster (b.1856 in Rumania; d.1939 in England), distinguished rabbi, orator, and Zionist leader, was also a scholar in many fields of Jewish learning, with a strong interest in folklore.

Gaster's story is based on a tale in the Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 56a.

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