can you carry that which cannot be carried?

    April 2009 Passover Edition            
Search the Jewish Magazine Site: Google


Search our Archives:

» Home
» History
» Holidays
» Humor
» Places
» Thought
» Opinion & Society
» Writings
» Customs
» Misc.


The Journey of Amos Goodheart

By Ted Roberts

If faith is the sap of the Jewish tree of life, then good deeds are it’s fruit. Those who believe that good deeds are the fruit of the Tree of Life like to tell the riddle of Amos Goodheart.

It all began late one night as Amos, a wealthy merchant, read his Chumash (the Bible). A heavenly messenger came through his roof and ceiling as easily as a sunbeam penetrates the stained glass window of your synagogue. Amos put down his bible and stared in wonder at the angel. “Tomorrow,” said the messenger, “you must appear before the throne.”

Next morning, dressed in his finest clothing, Amos the Good stood in the throne room of his ruler. Solemnly, the King told him that he must prepare for a journey to another Kingdom far over the cloud-crowned mountains that surrounded his homeland. Tomorrow, said his ruler, he must leave. “Be at the throne room at dawn and I will show you the way. And be prepared for your journey over the mountaintops,” he cautioned.

A thousand questions, like the lights that flashed in the huge chandelier over the throne, danced in Amos’s mind. How could a man prepare for a trip to an unknown land?

But before he could turn doubts into questions the King spoke. “Amos, you may only carry that which cannot be carried.” The voyager was left with his unanswered questions. But one did not question the King.

Not much time, thought Amos the traveler. By dawn tomorrow he must be ready for a long trip to a foreign country.

Due to the generosity of the King he owned many possessions. But what to carry in the light of the riddle? What did it mean? The king loved riddles. But how could he carry what cannot be carried?

His advisors thought about the puzzle with faces distorted by wrinkled foreheads and narrowed eyes. Carried, but not carried? “I have it,” said his advisor. “It is simple. A cart. We will load up a cart. You will ‘carry’ nothing. But a donkey shall pull a wagon full of legal papers, money, food, and clothing. Maybe even a second one containing a few of your more interesting friends and musicians to entertain you on this long, hard journey.

Amos frowned. No, he didn’t think a “cart” fell within the king’s meaning.

Finally, after further talk Amos figured out that his Ruler intended him to carry whatever bundles did not require the labor of his hands and arms. Aha, he would fill his pockets. But due to his good fortune what huge pockets they must be.

First, gold. He must bring his gold coins. A new business in a new land would require much money as well as credit. Gold had value everywhere. And there was his lock-box full of contracts, documents of legal ownership, and titles. He must bring his titles. But wait - what about food for the trip?

A journey without a map? The path might lead through desert, wilderness, oceans perhaps. He would need food: many wheat cakes flavored with sesame oil and honey - his favorites. Why be bored with tasteless cakes on such a long journey? But he recalled the king’s riddle. He could “only carry that which could not be carried”. And pockets were only pockets; there were hard choices to make.

He summoned his tailor. “Make me a suit of clothing, immediately!” he commanded, “with many pockets. Huge pockets. Deep and wide. For tomorrow our ruler is sending me on a lengthy journey to a faraway Kingdom.”

Late that night the puzzled tailor returned with his creation. The merchant smiled. It was made exactly as he desired. A row of pockets lined the front and back of the pants. And the coat - by use of the lining - was one gigantic pocket. Tomorrow, thought the merchant, he would load up and appear before his Master.

And so he did. In the gray dawn the silly figure of Amos Goodheart stood before the palace of his king. His pockets, stuffed with gold coins, oily wheat cakes, and bunches of legal paper, pulled him down like an invisible hand. His pants, had he not grabbed them with both hands, would have fallen below his knees. Even worse than his sagging pants, his coat stuffed with soggy wheat cakes, slumped his back and shoulders. And splotched with rotten sesame oil, it was beginning to smell like the fishmonger’s week-old cod at the bazaar. His dignity had fled. This was no way to appear before the King. Amos the Righteous was now Amos the clown.

But what could he do? Every pocket held something he needed that could mean survival in a new Kingdom. Loaded like a mule, he stumbled to the palace. The throne room was empty and dark as a moonless midnight. Gone were the teak paneled walls, the fleecy carpet, the jeweled chandelier. Where was the King? How to reach the new Kingdom without the map or the guidance of the Master Navigator? He was surrounded by shadows. Behind him, unreachable, lay his former home. Ahead, there was only a frightening mystery.

Amos Goodheart slumped on the dirt floor that once was covered with a rug of the purest fleece. A gust of wind chilled his face like the breath of the Angel of Death. He looked up to direct his prayers to the Master before whom he kneeled. Now he saw that there was no solid ceiling in the throne room. There were only infinite walls with a cloudy canopy. Above him a pale light, like dawn, silhouetted shadowy figures, half-human, half-smoke.

“Help me, please help me,” cried Amos. “The King is gone and I don’t know the way to the land over the mountains.”

Suddenly over the hum of the wind, he heard voices. First a child. “Amos Goodheart, have no fear. You paid the doctor to straighten my leg. I chased the rabbits in the meadow and helped my father with the harvest, thanks to you.”

Then an older couple: “Amos, you were a loving son to us. You brought grace like sweet music to our family.”

A pale woman said, “When I was sick you brought me meat in broth with bread. Hunger and loneliness you banished from my life.”

“You helped me one cold winter night, pull my mule from the ditch,” said a neighbor. “And inspired me to do the same for others”

“And I’m the beggar boy. Every Sunday on your way to shul, a coin you put in my cup. I grew up without bitterness because of you.

Blessings from a life of good deeds anointed the head of Amos Goodheart. He stood tall. His clown clothes dissolved at his feet. And he smelled like honey clover in the meadow. “Here, here is the way,” they said. And they all set off together on the longest journey a man can make. Amos Goodheart carried nothing except his good deeds.

Ted Roberts ("The Scribbler on the Roof") Website:,
Buy Ted's collected works at link


from the April 2009 Passover Edition of the Jewish Magazine

Please let us know if you see something unsavory on the Google Ads and we will have them removed. Email us with the offensive URL (