The Taxman's Sheep
Some today may call Danny a scrooge or a miser. Some might just say he was looking out for himself. Danny was called all sorts of names by his suffering people, a tightwad, a quisling, a renegade, but virtuous that is not one of the words they called him.
No one can argue against the fact that Danny was a smart boy, but keep in mind the fact that "smart" has two definitions and the second definition is associated with pain. This word "pain" was something his people were all too familiar with. First Assyria then Babylon then ruled over by Greeks. These were a people who couldn't stand being ruled over by anyone. Now in Danny's time, they were under the oppression of an iron fist. The people were poor enough working the land, but now they had to pay taxes to cover the cost of the Emperor's army. This was called a head tax, but it was only the beginning of a long line of taxes. I suppose you've heard the Beatle's song.
There were taxes for trade and tax booths for crossing into the cities. There was also a public tax the Publicani collected for buildings and infrastructure and random taxes for tithes and customs, basically he taxed your feet. The Emperor's men used the Publicani because they were local yolkals. They were part of the oppressed people but they didn't want to live that way. A Publicanus would collect taxes in a way that the Emperor's people could not. It's because the Publicanus knew where the money was. They knew all the local customs. They knew if someone was getting married or if someone was selling their cow. These tax collectors showed up right on time to every occasion in the village. They collected taxes in the name of the emperor but their income came from keeping part or most of the taxes for themselves. It was regular practice for publicans to cheat people out of their taxes and pocket the profits. In this way Publicans like Danny became rich.
Danny really wanted the people of his village to respect him. He wanted them to see him in his high position as a Publican, but instead of calling him Publican they called him "Public Sinner". The looked at him as worse than a prostitute. At least a prostitute sells their own body. He was selling his nation away, stealing from the poor and giving to the rich.
He considered this tax collector job as a stepping stone. One day it would lead him to great power and wealth and he would win a seat as governor and finally give his own people the freedom and respect they deserved. He couldn't stand being miserable and poor. He couldn't stand being oppressed. His own parents suffered so much to keep their faith and identity. He thought they were naïve. They lost their donkey and were thrown off the land. The land he grew up in was now "Property of the Empire". He hated the Empire as much as any of them, but the Empire was too powerful. The only way to bring back freedom to the village was the join the Empire. Danny couldn't understand why so many people disagreed with him.
His own people didn't talk to him. They dissociated from him as if he were a man with leprosy. They didn't even want his money anymore. When he was poor they market people would give him a Sachlav on the house. Now they turn the other way when they see Danny coming. His old friends don't talk to him. Even his wife pretends like she doesn't know him. Danny thought to himself,
"It serves them right. They don't know how important it is for me to be at my highest performance as a Publican. I shall soon rule over this village as local governor."
In his dreams he was greeted with respect by his people and by the Empire, but in reality they both despised him. The people of the Empire considered him local colony freak. The saw him as a "necessary evil" to keep the Empire's colony cohesive. Through taxmen like Danny and the Valor of the Emperor's Army there would be true peace in the world. In his idealism he liked to walk like the men of the Empire. He bought their clothes and even had a golden carriage made with the portrait of the great Emperor himself. The problem was no one really cared. All his dreams were really lies and he knew it.
Danny set up a beautiful tax bench next to the seashore. He would rest there and look for opportunities to collect taxes from the fish sales. A toothless little seven year old boy passed by and kicked dust at him yelled,
"You damn Deep (meaning to say thief)!"
The boy's dog barked at him. What really got Danny was this boy and his dog were angry but they had more a life than he had. It was lunch time and all the people were having Matzo with their family and here he was alone. He was his eating his lunch by himself. Everyone who passed by tried to keep a distance. Danny really hated his job. He hated his life, but there was no other way. It's either eat or be eaten Danny thought to himself.
It was getting hot and the sun was making him sleepy. Along the shore he saw a small crowd of people. At the center was that teacher he heard people talking about. Some called him a rebel leader. He thought to himself,
"Better stay awake. A lot of tax money walking by."
As the teacher got closer Danny realized this man had no money and his followers were the refuge of the earth. How could he be the one everyone is making such a fuss about. He wouldn't even harm a fly.
The teacher walked forward and Danny saw a serenity in his eyes. This man was like a child so simple yet with authority. The people hung on his every word... and he just kept getting closer. It's as if he was going to walk right into Danny's tax office.
Danny started day dreaming again. Why couldn't his life be like that? Why did he have to be such a jerk? Is this what life is really about, just make some money and die. He thought about that word "die". The people would be better off if he did "die".
He looked into the sea and saw the waves crash in. His life really did suck. Lost in his daydream Danny could barely hear the voice that called him....
It was the teacher looking at him with a smile.
"Out of all the people in the world, why did the teacher come to me?"
The teacher kept looking at Danny waiting as if he did have all the time in the world.
Danny didn't need a second thought. This was real and it was happening to him. It was the opportunity of a life time.
Danny had a habit of never inviting people to dinner unless he could get something out of it. When he looked at the teacher and the crowd that hung around him he knew that he wasn't going to get any tax money out of them. Instead for the first time in his life he began to think about what he could give them. He was excited and invited all of them to his house. Something inspired him to forget about the cost and splurge.
At the dinner table he made an announcement,
"Thanks to this teacher, my life was saved. Right here and now I am giving half of my possessions to the poor."
He said that if he had mistreated or cheated anyone in the past he would pay back four times the amount. Danny gave in liberality to all who came to him. His wife had been living with her parents but when she heard the news about Danny's change she came to see with her own eyes. It was true. The look of greed and envy was gone from his eyes. Instead she could see compassion. She couldn't believe he was the same person and she cried.
"Danny. You are really Danny?"
Together Danny and his wife managed to give away half of his possessions to the poor and there were so many poor in that village. Now hey were a little less poor. The toothless seven year old boy came up to Danny and said,
"I wiss I had a baby seep."
Danny gave the boy a big hug. The boy didn't kick dirt at him or bite him or tell him to go to h.... Danny quickly took one of his own, a young lamb from out in the barn and gave it to the boy.
This life of Liberality emptied Danny and his wife of material possessions but they were never poor. They were the happiest and richest couple in town.