MOST of the rabbis were very poor. But the poorest of all was Haninah ben Dosah. Even on Friday, his wife had nothing to cook and nothing to bake. You know how busy your mother is on Friday. You know what good odors come out of the kitchen. You can smell the freshly baked pies, cakes, and cookies. You can smell the chicken soup. But the wife of Ben Dosah didn't even have to build the fire, for she had nothing to cook on it.
"Dear me!" she said. "All the women around me are busy getting ready for Shabbas. Only my home is cold and empty. I don't want them to pity us. Who can tell? Some kind neighbor may even bring us some food. O dear! O dear! What shall I do?"
You know at that time they did not have gas ranges or even coal stoves. They had ovens made of earthen clay. So Ben Dosah's wife took some wood and built a fire. The wood burned and the smoke went up through the chimney.
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It didn't take long before all the neighbors were talking about the wonderful thing that had happened. Haninah's wife had something to cook and to bake. And most of them were happy.
Now Ben Dosah's wife had one wicked neighbor. When she saw the smoke coming out of the chimney, she thought:
"The Rabbi's wife has nothing in her oven. What is all that smoke about? I must go in to see what she is burning in her oven." So the wicked neighbor threw her shawl over her shoulders and walked across to the Rabbi's house. She knocked at the door and waited a while. The Rabbi's wife, however, was ashamed to meet her. Therefore, instead of answering the knock, she ran into the next room. Again the wicked neighbor knocked at the door.
"O dear!" she thought. "I guess she is ashamed to meet me. Well, I'll go in anyway." So without waiting for any answer to her knock, she quickly opened the door and went into the house.
What do you think she saw? There on the stove all kinds of puddings and Shabbas dishes were being prepared. And she could smell cherry pies and honey cookies in the stove. It even seemed to her that she smelled the cookies burning.
When she saw all this she called to the Rabbi's
wife, "Hurry up, bring in your cookie turner. Your cookies are burning."
"What was that? What did you say?" the Rabbi's wife called from the other room. She was sure that she hadn't heard aright, because she knew that there was nothing in the stove. "Is it possible that she is making fun of me?" the Rabbi's wife thought as she was about to grasp her long cookie turner.
"Well, what are you waiting for? Hurry before they are all burnt," the neighbor's voice was heard again.
The Rabbi's wife, full of joy, seized her cookie turner and ran into the kitchen. She was blushing. But it didn't matter. She looked as if she were hot because of the hard work. Going over to the stove, she touched the cookies to make sure that they were real, and said:
"'I had just run out to get my cookie turner when you knocked on the door."
Now it was the wicked neighbor who felt ashamed, and without another word she went home.