The Kabeel’s Donkey – A Children’s Story

By Rabbi Daniel Lev

Once upon a time in old Yemen there was a town where Jews and Muslims lived in peace.  It was called Dhamar. The king of Yemen would assign a Mayor (called a Kabeel) to each town and, unfortunately, the one he chose for Dhamar was very mean. He did not like the fact that there was peace between the Jews and Muslims. He was determined to do bad things to the Jewish community.


His first action was to make a new law in the town that all Jewish orphans had to live with Muslim families. These orphans were not allowed to be brought up as Jews.


Now, on the outskirts of the town there was a little Jewish orphanage run by Rabbi Yosef. He and the six kids who lived there had a very happy life. Each morning they would get up, get dressed, say their prayers, have a nice breakfast and then go outside to sit under the big beautiful tree that stood a few yards from their house. The tree had big leaves and it gave them a lot of shade. It was a great place to learn Torah from Rabbi Yosef – who also taught them Hebrew, and math, and many other interesting subjects.


The Rabbi was not only a loving teacher, but he was very wise. He heard about what the Kabeel wanted to do and recalled that this mayor was not too bright. So, Rabbi Yosef started thinking of a plan that would keep his orphans with him so they could continue learning and living Torah.


A few days later the Kabeel himself came riding up to the tree where Rabbi Yosef and the children were singing Hebrew songs. The Kabeel got off of his donkey, interrupting the singing, and walked right up to the Rabbi and shouted, “You are not following my edict! I said that all Jewish orphans must be placed in Muslim homes and I mean it! Do you want to be punished?!”


“Oh your Excellency,” replied Rabbi Yosef, “I heard your edict but, you see, these are not Jewish children – they are donkeys. I did not want to insult the Muslim mothers and fathers by sending those donkeys to raise as their children!”


“What!” yelled the Kabeel, “these are children sitting here!”


Rabbi Yosef sadly lowered his head, sighed and said, “Oh your Excellency – I’m sorry to say that the children I had here ran away as soon as they heard of your edict. I became so lonely and bored that I just had to teach someone Torah. So, I took a small heard of young donkeys I kept for the children and I sat them under this tree and began teaching them Torah.  After only a week they began to turn into what you see here as children……but really, on the inside, they are donkeys.” At that point the kids began to shout out noisy donkey-laughs!


The Kabeel was appalled! He didn’t want to send donkey children in the homes of Muslims! In his pea brain he came up with an idea to test the Rabbi. “OK” he said, “I want to see if you can truly do what you say. I will leave you my donkey and I will return in a week.”


After the Kabeel left, Rabbi Yosef and the children took the donkey to a faraway town and sold it for a good price. He spent the money on a nice meal for the children that included sweet cakes. They then returned home and before long they returned to their daily life of Torah. True to his word, the Kabeel returned a week later riding on a horse. He jumped down and demanded, “OK Yosef, where is my donkey man!?”


“Oh holy Kabeel,” replied the Rabbi, “I cannot believe what a smart donkey you left me. Only after three hours did he turn into a man, and in three days I taught him all that all that I knew. He then traveled to the greatest university in Arabia and within another three days he learned enough to become a great lawyer. The king heard of him and made him the judge in the nearby town of Taziz.”


Everyone (but the Kabeel) knew about this judge – he was very strict and even meaner than the Kabeel.


The Kabeel was so excited to find out that his donkey man was a judge that he jumped on his horse and rode off to see him in Taziz. Upon arriving, he entered the court room and sat in the back. There he saw the judge (who had a hairy face and hairy ears). The judge yelled and condemned and punished all who came before him. “You!” he shouted at a fellow who stole an apple, “You will spend ten years in jail!”


The Kabeel was so impressed with “his” donkey man judge that he stood up and shouted to him, “Hello! Remember me? I am your master and I love what you do.”


The judge growled at the Kabeel, “Who do you think you are!? I am not your servant!” To which the Kabeel replied, “Oh yes you are, you are my donkey and I have known you since I saw your mother give birth to you in my barn!” The judge became white hot mad and shouted to his guards, “Arrest that man – I want him flogged right now!!!”


The Kabeel jumped up fast, ran to his horse and rode hard out of town and did not stop until he reached the safety of Rabbi Yosef’s orphanage. There, he jumped off his horse, and shouted at the Rabbi, “Yosef! Do not ever teach donkeys the Torah, they grow too proud and will try to kill you.” Pointing to children who sat under the tree he commanded, “Get rid of these donkeys and find those Jewish children. I will rescind the edict and allow the orphans to remain with you – just don’t teach the Torah to any more donkeys, it’s dangerous!”