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The Mother Who Heats the Lake - La maman qui chauffe le lac

(Translated By Emile M Tubiana  from French original version)   A rich man in town enjoyed constantly mocking people who were deprived of goods or work. He made jokes on their account even if this sometimes cost him a fortune. One day, in front of all the old men, he called the poorest man of the village and said to him:

"Do you want to get rich in one night?" The poor guy hurried to volunteer and said to him: 

"What do have I to do to gain a fortune as you say?" The rich man answered him with a nonchalant and mocking smile:

"If you are ready to spend one night naked in the Lake of Galilee soaked to the neck in cold water, from sundown to sunrise, and if you succeeded, I will pay you an honorable sum, thousand gold coins." Hearing the fabulous sum, the poor man immediately accepted the bet without hesitating. Then, at the appointed hour, the man appeared in front of all the witnesses of the village. It was before sundown, he undressed, and right when the sun started to descend behind the hill, at the horizon, he entered the water to the neck and waited patiently for the morning, just as the rich man had envisaged it.

The night was very cold, the poor man shivered initially, but the sum was so large for a man like him, that he preferred to risk his life for the chance of being rich and able to put an end to all miseries that he had endured all his life. With this sum, he could buy a house and live all his life with his mother, without effort.

During the day, his mother had learned the news of the bet, which her son had made with the rich man. She took with her some logs and hurried towards the beach where everyone was warmly dressed to attend the spectacle of the night. Most of them were covered with wool capes, others had brought blankets, and some had prepared a campfire in order to be able to spend the night at the lake shore.

Seeing her son entering the water in this cold, the poor mother lit a small fire and kept blowing into it, taking deep breaths, all through the night, while hoping to be able to heat the cold water of the lake. At the sight of the mother with her small logs, the rich man was delighted and made fun of her.

The mother did not cease her efforts and until the morning, she was doing nothing but bringing logs that she found on the beach and continuing to feed the small fire. She struggled, she blew, and each time the fire reddened, she rubbed her two hands of joy. The passers by took her for insane. From time to time, the rich man approached her and said: 

"Madam, the water must be quite hot, but be careful, your son will lose the bet." The night passed and finally the first rays of the sun appeared, the witnesses declared the end of the night and the end of the bet. The poor man easily got out of the water and claimed his due. Seeing him leave the water gently, the rich man was sure that the mother had actually heated water. He thought for a moment, and then he said to him:

"But your mother has heated the lake and this was not envisaged in our bet." Amused by this adventure the witnesses joined the rich man’s arguments. Eventually the poor man found himself without any support. The only option that remained available to him was to make recourse to justice and to take his complaint before King David.

One month passed since the bet; the king’s soldiers announced to him that the awaited judgment would take place on the third day of the full moon of the month and that it would be held in the king’s palace in Jerusalem. The day of the judgment, everyone was present. King David listened patiently to the arguments of one party, and then of the other party and after a moment, the king pronounced his verdict and declared that the rich man was right and that the mother had actually heated the water of the lake and that by consequence she had violated the terms of the bet. Seeing himself lose the last hope that he still had and not having any other recourse, the poor man took his mother by the hand and said to her:

"Mom, I do not have a chance, it is unjust, but what can I do in front of King David’s judgment?"

Solomon, King David’s son who was barely seven years old, had attended this judgment and as he had mingled with the public, he had also heard the statements of plaintiff to his mother. He launched a glance to the poor man, and then he smiled and went away to the palace. In the evening, Solomon told his father, the king:

"Dad, I would like to cook tomorrow and please invite the wise men of our town, who had attended the judgment”. King David was content with the news and about the generosity of his son. He accepted the invitation without knowing the reason. The next morning the king ordered to invite the wise men of the city, as his son had asked him.

The following day all the wise men were present and chatted among themselves. King David joined them a little later, and also took part in the conversation. When it was time for dinner, Solomon was not ready with his soup. The prince entered the room, excused himself for the delay and requested the guests to have a little more patience.

King David accepted his son’s excuses and attributed this hitch to his son’s lack of experience, and as he did not want to disappoint him, he asked the guests to wait. Thus passed almost the entire evening and Solomon made several appearances with these same excuses. Finally, King David’s patience approached its limits. Trying to please the guests and thinking that by then the soup had to be ready, he requested them to join him in order to return a visit to his son to see how the soup was cooking.

Arrived at the kitchen he saw to his great astonishment that Prince Solomon was sitting on the ground blowing into the fire while the pot was suspended on the ceiling beam without contact with fire. By seeing this, the king exclaimed:

"But my son! How do you expect that the pot would be heated, if the fire is on the bottom and the pot is suspended on the top at such a great distance from the fire?" The prince who by his way of making soup had indeed wanted to provoke the king’s reaction, answered in a desperate voice:

"Dad, and how do you expect that the lake would heat with a small fire of a few logs that the mother had made on the beach at a distance far greater than that of my pot from the fire?" King David calmly listened to the arguments of his son and understood the allusion he made. He took a glance, smiled sweetly, and answered calmly:

"My son, I congratulate you on the spirit of justice and of compassion which you are showing for this poor man and since you doubt judgment, I would be prepared to give another chance to this poor man and to redo the judgment. Then the king turned to the wise men and said to them:

"My son’s argument is valid and it deserves our consideration to redo the judgment. The wise men who found the prince’s argument very astute, made a sign of agreement. In the meantime, everybody present had not had Solomon’s soup, but by precaution King David had envisaged another meal instead.

The next day the king had redone the judgment in front of all the wise men of the city and obliged the rich man to pay the sum, which he owed to the poor man. King David apologized to the mother and to the poor man.

After the public had left the court, the king requested that the wise men, the poor man’s mother, and her son remain, because he wanted to discuss with them. When they were alone, the king assembled them around him and asked the following question of the poor man:

"Tell me the truth! Was the water of the lake hot or cold?" The poor man, who could not lie, answered:

"My king, the water was as hot as in a steam bath." The king addressed his son and said to him:

"My son, I made you a favor to redo the judgment, and as you have just heard, my first judgment was right anyway." Then he added:

"My son, the mother’s faith, to believe that she could heat the lake with a small log fire was sufficient to heat the entire lake”.
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Upload Date: 31/12/1969

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