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Monkey see, monkey Jew

                            MONKEY SEE, MONKEY JEW         By Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Joshua Levi made beautiful kipot for Jewish people to wear when they went to synagogue. The kipot were woven with many colors and silver threads. He worked on them all week and at the end of the week he had finished ten kipot. Joshua put them in a box and gave them to his son to deliver them to a synagogue in a town a day’s journey away. David, his son, got on a donkey and left the village early the next morning. It was a hot day, and a long way, and after a few hours David was thirsty and tired. When the road went through a forest David decided to get off the donkey and lie down for a few minutes. David didn’t intend to fall asleep, but he did.

While he was asleep a troop on monkeys came by. They saw the sleeping boy, the donkey and the box. The box interested them. Maybe it had food in it. They opened the box and took out the kipot. The monkeys had never seen kipot before but they saw that David had one on his head so they put them on their heads. They liked this very much and began jumping up and down with many hoots and a few hollers. The noise woke David up.

He tried to grab the kipot from the monkey’s heads but the monkeys just ran up the nearest tree and sat on its branches hooting and squealing. David began to cry. He had to get the kipot back or his father wouldn’t get paid for a week’s work and the family would go hungry. The monkeys didn’t seem to care, they just screeched louder and louder.

The noise attracted an old man who was walking along the road. When he saw the monkeys with the beautiful yarmulkes on their heads he started laughing. He laughed so hard he fell on the ground. “How can you laugh when I am crying?” asked David.

I am sorry,” said the old man, “but I have never seen monkeys wearing such beautiful yarmulkes before. In fact, I have never seen monkeys wearing anything Jewish before. I didn’t know monkeys could be Jewish.”

The monkeys are not Jewish.” David said, “Those kipot were made by my father for some very important people and I am supposed to deliver the kipot to them before the High Holydays. Now I can’t do it and everybody will be disappointed.” David began crying again.

The old man stopped laughing. He was silent for a moment. Then he said, “Monkey see, monkey do. All we have to do is turn them into Jews, and they will know that it is a Mitsvah not to steal, and it is a Mitsvah to return something that has been lost. Start praying.”

David didn’t understand what the old man was talking about but he seem so certain that David began to sing the Shm’a. He said it over and over and soon the monkeys started hooting in rhythm with him. The old man told him to start swaying back and forth as he prayed, and when he swayed the monkeys started swaying too. Then the old man told him to stop praying and take his yarmulke off and put it in the box. David did it. A moment later the monkeys stopped swaying and came down from the tree. They put their kipot in the box and then they ran up the tree to see what would come next.

David quickly put the top on the box and got on his donkey. He turned around to thank the old man but the old man had disappeared. Later on people told David that the old man must have been the prophet Elijah who often comes by to help people disguised as an old man or a beggar.

David would reply that Elijah had taught him the importance of always setting a good example for people by doing lots of Mitsvot because, “MONKEY SEE, MONKEY JEW”.