Rabbi Mendel Futerfas spent many years in a Siberian gulag. One of his fellow prisoners was a tightrope walker.
The rabbi asked the tightrope walker, "What is the secret to your art? What does one need to master? Balance? Stamina? Concentration?"
The tightrope walker's answer surprised him
"The secret is always keeping your destination in focus. You have to keep your eyes on the other end of the rope, and how you get there is a straight line, never wavering. But do you know what the hardest part is?"
"When you get to the middle?" the rabbi ventured.
"No," said the tightrope walker. "It's when you make the turn. Because for a fraction if a second, you lose sight of your destination. When you don't have sight of your destination, that is when you are most likely to fall."
There was once a king in India who was a big chess enthusiast and had the habit of challenging wise visitors to a game of chess. One day a traveling sage was challenged by the king. The sage having played this game all his life all the time with people all over the world gladly accepted the Kings challenge
To motivate his opponent the king offered any reward that the sage could name. The sage modestly asked just for a few grains of rice in the following manner: the king was to put a single grain of rice on the first chess square and double it on every consequent one. The king accepted the sage’s request.
Having lost the game and being a man of his word the king ordered a bag of rice to be brought to the chessboard. Then he started placing rice grains according to the arrangement: 1 grain on the first square, 2 on the second, 4 on the third, 8 on the fourth and so on.
Following the exponential growth of the rice payment, the king quickly realized that he was unable to fulfill his promise because on the twentieth square the king would have had to put 1,000,000 grains of rice. On the fortieth square, the king would have had to put 1,000,000,000 grains of rice. And, finally, on the sixty-fourth square, the king would have had to put more than 18,000,000,000,000,000,000 grains of rice which is equal to about 210 billion tons and is allegedly sufficient to cover the whole territory of India with a meter thick layer of rice.
It was at that point that the sage told the king that he doesn’t have to pay the debt immediately but can do so over time. And so the sage became the wealthiest person in the world.
This story resonates with me during this time in regard to not only how Covid-19 exponentially grows, but also how kindess and generosity of spirit do as well. Read this article in The Washington Post.
I was unable to find a source for this story, although all signs point to HIndu scriptures.
If you have a source please let me know.
Payasam is an Indian dessert consisting of rice, boiled in milk or coconut milk, flavoured with cardamom, and often containing groundnuts.
Online Cohort #12
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January 3 and 10
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January 14 and 21
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Mark Novak is co-founder of The MultiFaith Storytelling Institute