The Bread and the Arc

At the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Jews were expelled from Spain. Many went to France, Germany, Greece; and some went to the Holy Land. Among them was Jacoby, a shoemaker by trade. Jacoby was a kind man, but most of all, Jacoby was a devout man. He went to the synagogue every Sabbath and listened to what the rabbi was saying, even though Jacoby spoke Spanish and the rabbi spoke Hebrew.

One Sabbath the rabbi mentioned in his sermon how at one time loaves of bread were offered to God. Jacoby heard and understood the words bread and God, and he got excited. He ran home and said to his wife, “Esperanza! Guess what? God eats bread! And you are the best baker in the whole country! This week make your best bread, and I’ll bring it to God.” That week Esperanza kneaded in the best ingredients and braided the dough with such love. Jacoby then took the seven loaves of bread to the synagogue. “Senior Dios,” Jacoby said to God. “I’ve got your bread. You will love it. My wife Esperanza, she’s a wonderful baker! You’ll eat every crumb!” Then Jacoby took the bread and put it into the holy ark.

No sooner did Jacoby leave than in came the shammes, the man who cleans up the synagogue. “Lord, you know I want to be here in this holy place; that’s all I want to do. But for seven weeks now I haven’t been paid. Lord, I need for you to make me a miracle. I believe you’re going to; maybe you have done it already. Maybe I’ll open the holy ark, and there will be my miracle.” He walked to the ark and opened it, and there was his miracle. Seven loaves of bread! Enough for the whole week. The next day, when the rabbi opened up the ark and Jacoby and Esperanza saw that the bread was gone, you should have seen the look of love that passed between them. The next week it was the same. And the week after. This went on for months. The shammes learned to have faith in God, but if he hung around the synagogue or came too early, there was no miracle. And so thirty years went by.

Now an old man, Jacoby came one day to the synagogue with his loaves of bread. “Senior Dios,” he prayed, “I know your bread’s been lumpy lately. Esperanza’s arthritis—maybe you could do something? You’ll eat better!”

He put the bread in the ark and started to leave when suddenly the rabbi grabbed him. “What are you doing?” the rabbi demanded.

“I’m bringing God his bread,” Jacoby replied.

“God doesn’t eat bread!” said the rabbi.

Jacoby said, “He’s been eating Esperanza’s bread for thirty years.”

The two men heard a noise, and they hid.

No sooner did they hide, than in came the shammes. “I hate to bring it up, Lord, but you know your bread’s been lumpy lately. Maybe you could talk to an angel.” When the shammes reached into the ark for the loaves of bread, the rabbi jumped out and grabbed him. The rabbi angrily told the two men that what they were doing was sinful, going on and on, and all three men began to cry. Jacoby began to cry because he only wanted to do good. The rabbi cried because all this happened because of his sermon thirty years ago. And the shammes cried because he realized there would be no more bread.

Suddenly they heard laughter from the corner. They turned and saw the great mystic, Rabbi Isaac. Shaking his head and laughing, Rabbi Isaac said, “No Rabbi, these men, they are not sinful. These men are devout! You should know that God has never had more pleasure than watching what goes on in your synagogue. On the Sabbath, he sits with his angels, and they laugh, watching this man bring the bread and the other man take the bread, while God gets all the credit! You must beg forgiveness of these men, Rabbi.”

Rabbi Isaac looked at Jacoby and said, “Jacoby, you must do something even more difficult. You must now bring your bread directly to the shammes, and when you do, you must believe with perfect faith that it is the same as giving it to God.”

As the old rabbi said, “You must believe with perfect faith that when you bring your bread directly to the shames, it is the same as giving it to God.” That sounds a lot like another rabbi named Jesus who said, “To the extent that you did it unto the least of these, you did it unto me.”