Avram's well

Let me tell you about my friend Avram's well. When he first bought the farm, this well was a ruin. Completely dry. And all its boards had dried out, too. Most had turned a mossy green. Some had even sprouted wood mushrooms. People, among them me, stood around the well with hearts heavy as empty buckets, groaning nd sighing.

Then we decided that sighing and groaning were no good, and we formed a work force. We called it The Friends of the Well Work Force. And work was begun to repair the well, to guide it deeper into the earth toward new, brimming sources. Ladders and ropes, shovels and hammers, pipes and pumps, new boards and planks, all we brought to the great task. Such a racket of repairing and singing was never heard on the farm before.

And then there it was, the well made like new. No more mossy boards. No more eruptions of mushrooms. The boards shone all the way down to the water, and even under. And the water! There are some wells, you can't see your reflection in them; the water seems to steal a look at your from around a corner , apologizing for greeting you with murky eyes, when, God knows, you have your own troubles. But this well's water was so clear it was exuberant. It didn't merely hold your reflection; it rose up and took it.

Avram had the honor of drawing the first bucket. He is a short but powerfully built man with the hands of a farmer and the soul of a poet. He calls himself "God's ox"; he is yoked to the holy load, the sweet burden of the Bible.

So it was no surprise that when he was drawing the first bucket, he spoke of the sacredness of wells and water. For, he asked, didn't our forefather, Jacob, meet Rebecca at a well? And wasn't Moses himself drawn from the water? "And look," he said, as we leaned over the edge of the well, "look at the rope we've got here, that is pulling up the bucket." We looked. It was no ordinary rope, for sure. It was the arms from old shirts and blouses that had too many torn and threadbare places to be repaired, and had thus given of their last strenghts to make, one arm tied to another, the rope of the well.

"Joseph's coat, ripped into as many pieces," Avram said, "couldn't have made a better rope!"

There were cheers for the rope.

"Somewhere it is written," Avram said, "that God lies as deep as the sources of a well. Ah, if only men could tie their understandings together, as we've tied the pieces of our rope, think what a bucketful of God they could draw!"

When the bucket reached the top of the well, it was so full it splashed over. And the bucket of every heart spashed over a little, too. Everybody danced as if it were the birthday of water itself, and the ground shook with joy.

Later, when the stars were out, I stood with Avram looking down into his well at our reflections. The stars shone in our hair. For a moment our faces seemed to float up toward us, as if to ask, "Where are we, with the stars and God, or with the well and the world?" Then, smiling, they fell into a stillness.

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