User:O'DaveY/The Rabbi's Gift
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The Rabbi's Gift is a parable concerning the issues of respect and community building. It has been told and retold in various (similar) forms for hundreds of years. The story goes roughly as follows:
Once upon a time set high upon a hill, there was an old walled city. And at the very center of the city, at its highest point, stood a friary as old as the city itself, and built to be the beacon of illumination for all the citizens.
As chance would have it, in the forest in the valley below, there was a little hut that a rabbi from a nearby town occasionally used for a hermitage. From their vantage point the old monks could always see when the rabbi was there. "The rabbi is in the woods, the rabbi is in the woods again," they would whisper to each other. But none would venture out to speak with him because he was so different from them and he mostly just kept to himself in his little hut in the woods.
One day as he was worrying about the future of his order it occurred to the abbot to visit the rabbi and ask if he had any advice regarding the friary and it's plight.
The rabbi was surprised at first but welcomed the abbot warmly to his abode. When the abbot explained why he had come the rabbi said that he understood, but he was afraid all he could offer was commiseration.
"I know how it is", he explained. "The spirit has gone out of the people. It is the same in my town. Almost no one comes to the synagogue anymore". So the abbot and the rabbi sat and worried together for a while. Then they read the Torah and cried and spoke at length of deep things. Finally, the time came when they had to say goodnight. "It is wonderful that that we have finally met and talked after all these years", the abbot said, "but is there nothing you can tell me, no piece of advice you could spare that might help save my dying order?"
"No, I am so sorry", the rabbi responded. "I have no advice I can give you on that. But I can tell you that the Messiah is one of you."
When the abbot returned his fellow monks were waiting for him on the front step. "Well, what did the rabbi say?" They quizzed.
"He said he could not help us", the abbot replied. "We just talked and wept and read the Torah together. The one thing he did say, just as I was leaving, was that the 'Messiah is one of us'. I don't know what he meant".
In the weeks and months after, the old monks considered this and wondered if there was anything to it. Could he have possibly meant one of the monks in this monastery? If so, whom? Could he have meant the abbot? Yes, certainly, if he meant anyone at the monastary, he must have meant Father Abbot. He has been our leader for thirty years.
On the other hand, he could have meant Brother Haden. Certainly Brother Haden is a holy man. Everyone knows that Haden is man of illumination.
Certainly he did not mean Brother Melvin! Melvin gets crotchety at times. But come to think of it, even though he can be a thorn in people's sides sometimes, when you look back and think about it, Melvin is always right. Often very right. Maybe the rabbi did mean Brother Melvin.
But surely not Brother Darin. Darin is so passive, a nobody. But then, somehow, he is always there for you when you need him. Maybe Darin is the Messiah.
And of course the rabbi couldn't have meant me. I'm just a regular person. Yet supposing he did? Suppose I am the Messiah? O God, not me. I couldn't bear that.
Thinking this way, the monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the remote chance that one of them was the Messiah. And each even treated himself better too, on the even more remote chance that he himself might be the Messiah.
Now, because the view from the monastery was magnificent, a few people still came in from the city from time to time to picnic on it's tiny lawn, or to wander along its deserted halls, and even on occasion to go into the old chapel to meditate. Suddenly now when they did so, without even knowing it, they sensed this respect that now surrounded the monks. It seemed to change the whole atmosphere of the old place.
It was now a friendlier and more inviting place to be. Not really knowing why, people enjoyed coming back more and more often to take in the peaceful views of the sleepy valley below, or to pray in the chapel, or to perhaps enjoy an occasional passing conversation with one of the monks. And people began to bring their friends with them. And then their friends brought their friends.
And then it happened that some of the younger men who came to visit the monastery started to talk more and more with the old monks. And after some more time one asked if he could join their order. Then another. And another. So within a few years the monastery had again become a thriving order. And all as a result of the rabbi's gift.
The Moral of the Story
The moral of the story is that by respecting your self and the others around you, particularly in an exceptional way, you will encourage others to join and participate in your community. Also, as a sort of an ironic twist, it was the rabbi who introduced the friars to the idea. This illustrates that it is often useful, and perhaps even essential, to consider the opinion of those with very different views of the world.