[I have some stories that I keep telling the little kids who clamor for me to retell it and retell it. And since some newly minted Mommies keep asking me for stories to tell their own children, slowly I’ll share what I’ve found to be some kids’ favorites. Here’s one.]
Shlomo Hamelech and the Loaves of Bread
In the days long before we had bakeries, getting food was not so easy. Now there was this little old lady who lived then, and she was all alone. She had never had children and her husband had died. All alone, with no money, life was hard for her. One day she woke up hungry, but there was no food at all in her home. None. Not even an itty-bitty crust of bread.
“I know what I’ll do,” said that lady, “I will go find some wheat for myself.” You see, in those times, all field owners in Israel had to leave the corners of their field and dropped stalks for poor people. Those parts of the field belonged not to the owner, but to the poor folks. So the little old lady decided she would go get what she could. Picking wheat stalks is hard work, especially when you haven’t had breakfast; but our brave little lady set out and began to gather wheat. Soon, the lady had a stack of wheat stalks. But her work was not yet down. Now she had to separate out the wheat kernel from the chaff. When she finished that, she still didn’t have what to eat. She had more work to do, because now she had to grind the wheat kernels, grind, grind, to make flour. And when that was done, her work was still not over. For now she had to mix the flour with water and pound it, knead, knead to make dough. Her tummy was rumbling from hunger. It was long past lunchtime, but she had to wait for the dough to rise. Then she made three little loaves out of the dough and stuck it in her oven. Yumm, the smell of baking bread rose in her kitchen, making her mouth water and her stomach rumble some more. She waited…and then came that perfect time, the time to eat. She opened the oven door to take out the loaves of bread…when, suddenly, there was a knocking on her door. Knock, knock.
The lady went to the door and opened it. On the doorstep stood a hungry, skinny man. His eyes were rolling around his head, his knees were knocking together from shivering and the bones of his body poked out of his skinny body. “Lady,” he cried, barely able to talk, “I’m dying of hunger. Haven’t eaten in days. Food, please!” The lady ran to the oven and pulled out one loaf of bread and gave it to the man. He bit into it with gusto, slumping down as he chewed. The lady watched, happily, as he ate the bread. When he finished, he said, “you just saved my life.” As he left, the lady smiled. “There, I was able to save a life, but I still have two loaves for myself.” She headed to the oven, removed the two loaves and put it on her table, when, suddenly, there was a knock on her door. Knock, knock.
The lady went back to the door and opened it. There were two small children, sobbing away. “Children, what’s wrong?” asked the sweet lady. “Our mother is sick in bed and we haven’t had food to eat and we have no food in the house to give her,” explained the children. So the lady took another of her loaves of bread and handed it to the children. “Take that home,” she instructed them, “and your mother will eat some and give you some.” “Oh thank you, kind lady,” said the children, their tears now gone. The lady closed the door smiling. “There, I was able to do more kindness with my bread and still have a loaf for me.” She washed her hands, picked up the loaf, when, suddenly, a gust of wind tore through her window and that wind blew the bread right out of her hands and out the window.
The lady couldn’t believe it. She opened her door and stared. There was her loaf of bread in the air, being sucked by the wind, as if it was just a dry leaf. The lady began running after the loaf, but the wind was faster and pushed that loaf quickly, quickly, out of the reach of the hungry old woman. Plip, plop, the wind blew the loaf of bread right into the ocean, and the poor hungry woman watched her last loaf of bread sink into the waves.
The lady was not smiling now. She was angry. How dare the wind steal her bread?! She had been such a good lady and shared so generously, saved lives, and what was her reward – her loaf of bread stolen by the wind! That was it. She was fed up and would not put up with this. She decided, being a simple lady, to bring the wind to justice. She put on her hat, grabbed her cane, and off she went to the court of Shlomo Hamelech.
Now the guards of the palace did not know what to do with this strange case, and so they let the woman into Shlomo Hamelech. “Oh, King,” she said, “I am calling the wind to court for it stole my bread.” She then told the story of what had happened. Shlomo Hamelech, smarter than any man, realized how hungry this lady must be. He, therefore, sent her right away into the kitchen and told his servants to serve her a warm, nourishing meal, telling her he would take care of the wind after she ate.
While she was out of the main room, the door swung open and a group of rich men ran in, carrying bags and boxes of monies and gems. “King Shlomo,” they called out, “we are donating all this to Tzedaka [charity]. “That’s an awful lot of money to be giving away,” said the King, “why so much?” “Well, we just had the weirdest thing happen. We were on the high seas when our ship got this huge gaping gash in the side. Water was pouring in and we were sinking. We knew we’d soon be on the bottom of the ocean, so we started praying and crying. We told Hashem, ‘just save us and we’ll donate to charity everything we have on this boat.’ As soon as we said that, a big burst of wind came along and we heard a THUNK. Something flew right into the gash and our boat became watertight again. Here we are, alive and dry, and keeping our promise to give everything to Tzedakah.”
“Do me a favor,” said the King. “I want you guys to go look at what plugged up the ship’s hole.” The men went, and when they returned they were laughing. “You won’t believe it, but we found this loaf of bread saved our life,” they said, showing a soggy loaf of bread. Yes, it was the loaf of bread the wind had stolen from the old woman.
Shlomo HaMelech called the woman from the kitchen and asked her, “does this bread look familiar.” “That’s my bread,” the lady shouted happily, “how’d you get it back?!”
“Ah, my good lady,” said the King, “not only is this your bread, but all these jewels and these sacks of money, all these are yours now, too.”
A better place to give that money than to a woman who gave more than she kept for herself could not be found. And so the little, poor woman, became the little, rich lady, who always had bread for herself and for others.
Concluding the story, said King Shlomo, “Sh’lach Lachmecha Al Pnay Hamayim…” cast your bread upon the face of the water, for in the many days that pass it will return back to you. Give Tzedakah, be charitable, do good for others, for it will come back, boomerang back the goodness to help you, too.