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Pick a Pickle
选择你的酸黄瓜
2022/1/7 14:38:16 来源: 世知网

A Yiddish Folk Tale

Retold by Benjamin Westfried
Illustrated by Marylin Hafner

陈沚菁 译


在一个叫海乌姆的村庄里,人人都不开心。大家觉得自己的日子没有别人过得好,于是总是向教堂的拉比抱怨。有一天, 拉比终于忍无可忍,他召集所有人开会,要求每个人带上一根酸黄瓜。人们又开始抱怨起来,拉比一定是闲来无事搞这种没用的活动,但是在好奇心的驱使下大家还是都到场了。村民们怯生生地站在拉比面前,拉比像往常一样智慧与沉着。他让村民把酸黄瓜假想成自己的人生,现在他们有机会可以重新选择,也就是挑选一根别人的酸黄瓜。村民们纷纷把目光投向自己一直羡慕的对象,如果拿了他们的酸黄瓜,是否就意味着过上自己羡慕的生活呢?  



LONG AGO, IN the unhappy village of Chelm, there lived a wise, old rabbi. All the Chelmites were unhappy because they thought their neighbors had better lives than they. So, day and night, the envious townsfolk would set upon their rabbi to kvetch—that is, bellyache; that is, gripe; that is, complain—about their lot. Before the rabbi could even raise a spoonful of breakfast to his lips, the baker would burst into his house for a morning’s kvetch.
“They say my bagels aren’t crispy! Of course, my bagels aren’t crispy! I know my bagels aren’t crispy! Tell me, Rabbi, how can I make crispy bagels when all I’ve got is a hundred-year-old oven that’s really an icebox! The czar’s heart is warmer than my oven! And how can I afford a new oven when nobody buys my bagels? You see the pickle I’m in? A schoolteacher I should have been. Schoolteachers don’t have such headaches.”
No sooner would the baker stomp out the door when in would march the butcher. “My customers do nothing but kvetch. Kvetch! Kvetch! Kvetch! ‘This chicken’s too fat! This meat’s too tough! Not fresh! Too dry! Too juicy!’ Oy vay! They’re driving me crazy, Rabbi! ‘Be a bookkeeper,’ my dear mother—may her name be a blessing—told me. A bookkeeper. But did I listen? Nooooo. Now look at this pickle I’m in!”
And after the butcher kvetched, the tailor kvetched, then the shoemaker kvetched, then the milkman kvetched, until everyone in town had kvetched to the poor rabbi. It was more than a person could stand. Something had to be done. And something was.
Early one brisk autumn morning, just after the High Holidays, the rabbi marched to the village square, where he posted a huge sign that read: ALL CITIZENS OF CHELM WILL GATHER HERE AT NOON. BRING A BIG GREEN PICKLE.
“A pickle? Has the rabbi lost his senses?” asked the butcher.
“Why do you suppose he wants us to bring pickles?” asked the baker, scratching his head.
“Well, you can count me out,” declared the milkman. “Who’s got time for such foolishness?”
“I’m not going, either,” protested the tailor. “Maybe the rabbi has time to fritter away, but I don’t. Some of us have to work for a living.”
To hear the townsfolk talking, one might have thought the rabbi would be the only person to show up! But, in fact, all of Chelm was there at twelve sharp with a big, green pickle. Really, now, who would’ve missed such a thing?
The rabbi stood motionless in the middle of the square, only the tzitzith by his sides and the tips of his wispy payes fluttering gently in the breeze. The townsfolk gathered sheepishly before the wise, old man.
After a long, awkward silence, the rabbi finally spoke. “I want you all to put your pickles down by your feet!”
After considerable mumbling and grumbling and shuffling and head scratching, the Chelmites put their pickles down by their feet.
When silence had settled back in, the rabbi spoke once again. “Imagine that everything you are is in your pickle. All your naches and tsuris are in your pickle. Your wisdom and your foolishness are in your pickle. Your blessings and your curses are in your pickle. Your talents and your flaws are in your pickle. If you don’t like your pickle, no big deal: pick someone else’s. Go ahead and choose.”
And, with that pronouncement, all the citizens now had the overwhelming task of deciding whose pickle they wanted. The baker’s eye immediately fell on the schoolteacher’s pickle. The schoolteacher’s eye shot over to the tailor’s. Every eye examined every pickle in town.
To this day, it isn’t clear who chose first. Some say the baker, some the milkman, but one thing is absolutely certain: when it was over, the townspeople of Chelm—all the men, women, boys, and girls—had taken back their very own pickles.
Since that day, whenever a Chelmite approached the rabbi to kvetch, though not many of them did, the rabbi would simply say, “It’s your pickle; you picked it,” and that would be the end of that.
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