A man had been wandering about in a forest for several days, not knowing which was the right way out.
Suddenly he saw a man approaching him. His heart leaped with joy.
"Now I shall certainly find out which is the right way,"
he thought to himself.
When they neared each other he asked the man,
"Brother, tell me which is the right way. I have been wandering about lost in this forest for several days."
Said the other to him, "Brother I do not know the way out either. I too have been wandering about here for many, many days. This I can tell you: do not take the way that I have been taking, for that will lead you astray. And now, let us look for a new way out together."
My Rebbe, Zalman Schacter-Shalomi of blessed memory, always reminded us that "the only way to get it together - is together!"
A parable from Rabbi Hayyim of Zans, 19th C.
Found in Shai Agnon's Days of Awe
Once there was a king who received a gift of two magnificent falcons from Arabia. They were peregrine falcons, the most beautiful birds he had ever seen. He gave the precious birds to his head falconer to be trained.
Months passed and one day the head falconer informed the king that though one of the falcons was flying majestically, soaring high in the sky, the other bird had not moved from its branch since the day it had arrived.
The king summoned healers and sorcerers from all the land to tend to the falcon, but no one could make the bird fly. He presented the task to the member of his court, but the next day, the king saw through the palace window that the bird had still not moved from its perch. Having tried everything else, the king thought to himself, "May be I need someone more
familiar with the countryside to understand the nature of this problem." So he cried out to his court, "Go and get a farmer."
In the morning, the king was thrilled to see the falcon soaring high above the palace gardens. He said to his court, "Bring me the doer of this miracle."
The court quickly located the farmer, who came and stood before the king. The king asked him, "How did you make the falcon fly?"
With his head bowed, the farmer said to the king, " It was very easy, your highness. I simply cut the branch where the bird was sitting."
In a great oak forest where the trees grew tall and majestic, there was a little apple tree. It was the only apple tree in the forest and so it stood alone.
Winter came. As the snow fell to the forest floor, it covered the branches of the little apple tree.
The forest was quiet and peaceful.
One night the little apple tree looked up at the sky and saw a wonderful site. Between the branchesof all the trees, the little apple tree saw the stars in the sky, which appeared to be hanging on the branches of the oak trees.
"Oh God oh God," whispered a little apple tree, "how lucky those oak trees are to have such beautiful stars hanging on their branches. I want more than anything in the world to have stars of my branches, just like the oak trees have! Then I would feel truly special!
God looked down the little apple tree and said gently, "Have patience! Have patience little apple tree!"
Time passed. The snows melted and spring came to the land. Tiny white and pink apple blossoms appeared on the branches of the little apple tree. Birds came to rest on its branches. People walked by the little apple tree and admired it's beautiful blossoms.
All summer long, the apple tree continued to grow. The branches of the tree formed a canopy overhead as they filled with leaves and blossoms.
But night after night, the little apple tree looked up at the sky with the millions, and millions, and millions - and millions of stars and cried out, "Oh God, I want more than anything in the world to have stars in my tree and on my branches and in my leaves - just like those oak trees."
And God looked down at the little apple tree and said, "You already have gifts. Isn't it enough to have shade to offer people, and fragrant blossoms, and branches for birds to nest on so they can sing their song?"
The apple tree sighed and answered simply, "Dear God, I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but that is not special enough! I do appreciate how much pleasure I give to others, but what I really want more than anything in the world is to have stars, not blossoms, on my branches that I would feel truly special!"
God smiled and answered, "Be patient little apple tree."
The seasons changed again. Soon the apple tree was filled with many beautiful apples. People walked in the forest. Whoever saw the apple tree would reach up to pick an apple and eat it. And still, when night came to the forest, the apple tree look at the stars in the oak trees and called out, "Oh God, I want more than anything in the world to have stars in my branches! Then I would feel truly special."
And God asked, "But apple tree, isn't it enough that you now have such beautiful apples to offer people? Does that satisfy you? Does that give you enough pleasure and make you feel special?
Without saying a word, the apple tree answered by shaking its bracnches from side to side.
At that moment, God caused a wind to blow. The great oak trees began to sway and the apple tree began to shake. From the top of the apple tree an apple fell. When it hit the ground, it split open
"Look," commanded God, "look inside yourself. What do you see?"
The little apple tree looked down and saw that right in the middle of the apple - was a star. And the apple tree answered, "A star! I have a star!"
And God laughed a gentlelaugh and added, "So you do have stars on your branches. They've been there all along, you just didn't know it."
Online Cohort #12
with Mark & Renée
January 3 and 10
Registration and info here
Discover Yourself! #7
January 14 and 21
Registration and Info
Mark Novak is co-founder of The MultiFaith Storytelling Institute