A Story I Heard Somewhere Before
by Arch Stanton
IT WAS A blistering, bright, sunny day in Judea. The temperature was just over 103° under the sun-burnt date palm where King Nebuchadnezzar II sat. Classic descriptions of Nebuchadnezzar are of a tall, stately man who towered over his subjects — when in actuality, he was only 5’1” (think Strother Martin with a scraggly beard).
The King began slowly, with stilted words, “What we have here, Jews, is a failure to comm-un-i-cate. Some men you just can’t reach.”
The crowd listened in stony silence as the King continued, “You Jews just don’t seem to listen. Therefore, I’m going to have to take severe measures to correct your attitude. That’s why I’m a’ packing you up and shipping you off…”
A voice shouted from the crowd, “Damn Nebbe, you be blind stupid if you think we be movin’…”
The King interrupted, “…to Babylon.”
A murmur went up from the milling throng. Voices were heard to mumble. “Gott in himmel! Babylon? Isn’t that the central nexus for the silk trade route from China?”
A second voice replied, “Damn straight it is!”
Excitement shot through the crowd. A Jew got up and staggered around clutching at his heart. “This is it, this is the big one! I’m a’comin’ Yahweh, comin’ home to himmel!”
Another Jew jumped up and began to dance and sing, “I’m gonna be a rich man, Ya ba dibba dibba dibba dibba dibba dibba dum. All day long I’d biddy biddy bum. When I become a wealthy man. I wouldn’t have to work hard. Ya ba dibba dibba dibba dibba dibba dibba dum. I’m gonna’ be a biddy biddy rich, Yidle-diddle-didle-didle man.”
Rough hands reached out, pulled the dancer down and sat him on the ground. Another Jew quietly implored, “Might I remind everyone, we are the victims of a great tragedy here, so let’s act like it.”
A Jew jumped up from the crowd and threw himself at the King’s feet crying out, “Oh please Br’er Nebbe, please don’t send us to Babylon, anything but dat! Drown us in the ocean, burn us in ovens, wrap us in Torah scrolls and set us on fire, but please, please don’t send us to Babylon; any place but Babylon! How’s we gonna’ make a livin’? How’s we gonna’ provide for our families? Don’cha know, Jewish lives matter?”
The King patiently waited for the gnashing of teeth, rending of garments, and general merriment to stop before continuing on, “You’re going to be settled on the east side of the city in a borough we call ‘Babhattan.’ There you will be provided free Section Eight housing and a generous welfare allotment.”
The prostrate Jew looked up from Nebbe’s feet, “Section Eight housing? Generous welfare check? East side of the city where the traders first arrive on their journey from China? Oh please, please, Br’er Nebbe, please don’t send us to the Babylonian empire’s center of commerce, anything, anything, but that! However, as a precaution we’ve already packed — when do we leave?”
And so the Israelites went to Babylon to live out fifty years of tortured existence buying, selling, and generally profiting off Babylon’s center of commerce until the day King Cyrus lifted the banishment decree.
On that day, the King gathered all the Israelites before him and addressed the crowd. “The decree of banishment has been lifted, you are free to return to Judea. I would like a show of hands by all those wanting to return to Judea.”
No one in the crowd stirred.
A Jew began timidly raising his hand, but another beside him slapped it down.
“I guess that settles it, you’ll just have to stay here in Babylon.”
Once again, a Jew came up from the crowd and threw himself at the King’s feet, crying out amidst a flood of crocodile tears. “OK! But we alls jes want you to know, we be sufferin’ every minute of our captivity.”
Yama, lama, ding dong…
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