"Rabbi", the non-observant student began, "Do you believe all of this? How can you live by a way of thinking that is over 3,000 years old?"Once a man visited the zoo during his lunch hour. As he walked from cage to cage viewing animals he had seen many times before, something in the distance caught his attention. He rubbed his eyes and then looked again, not realizing that the spectacle had drawn him closer.
All eyes turned to the rabbi to see how he might answer the question. The rabbi was speechless all right. How do you teach in one answer what takes years to learn? The student smiled. The rabbi sighed, unsure of how to respond. Then, out of nowhere, the rabbi gave the only fair answer he could think of,
"If you had seen what I have seen, and learned what I have learned, youíd believe in it and do it too."
Mourn for the dead seven days, but for a fool all his life. Ben Sira 22:12* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Sure enough his eyes had not played a trick on him, and he stood there in utter disbelief in front of the lionís cage. He stood and stared with mouth open at the spectacle: there was a lamb lying down with the lion alive, without a look of concern. The lion for his part ignored the lamb altogether.
Could it be? Could this be a sign of something spectacular about to happen? Was this the fulfillment of a prophecy that, until now, he had taken to be a distant dream with little hope of being fulfilled? He ran home to tell his family about what he had seen.
The man told the story to his family, who remained skeptical. They followed him back to the zoo and again there was a lion and a lamb sharing the same cage. The family couldnít understand why more people werenít impressed by this aberration of natural instinct.
For two straight weeks the man returned during his lunch hour to see if anything had changed, only to find the lion and lamb still roommates. By now, though, the curator of the zoo had noticed the manís daily schedule of visiting the lionís cage and decided to ask the man why he enjoyed it so much.
"Excuse me, sir ..." the curator opened. 'I noticed that you keep returning everyday to the lionís cage. Is there something that you find interesting? Perhaps you can tell us so that we can advertise it and attract more people like yourself. Attendance has been down lately ..."
"Interesting?! Are you kidding me? Do you see what you have here in this cage?" the man asked excitedly. The curator looked in the direction of the cage, but didnít see anything out of the ordinary.
"A lion, sir ..." the curator responded dryly.
"Yes, a lion, but with a lamb! Do you know that lions like lambs a lot. But not to play with or to share a cage with, but to eat! This lion is not eating that lamb! How do you do it?"
The curator, catching on to the manís point answered in a deadpan voice. "No problem. We put a new lamb in the cage every hour."
Thereís harmony, and then thereís harmony. The two should never be confused with one another, though historically they often are. And very often the true version is sacrificed in the name of temporary peace or for the appearance of peace. The cost is very high, at least one lamb every hour.
Thousands of years of warring with one another with no real sign of change give one the feeling that we donít really understand what peace is about. We may talk about it, attempt to bring it about, yet every move we make somehow ends up achieving very little, or worse, works against us.
It always seems that one personís route to peace is another personís route to "piece". And the closer we get to the idea of universal brotherhood, the further we seem to get from the practice of it. Is it any wonder that there is no definitive direction for mankind?
Scientists dig deeper into the secrets of life, for the betterment of mankind. Technologists advance to make life more "bearable" for those who can afford what they produce. Physicists probe deeper to bring light about the universe into places of great darkness. In the end, the quality of life may improve for some, but the overall quality of mankind still leaves a lot to be desired.
If you want it like money and like buried treasures you seek it, then you will understand the fear of God, and the knowledge of God you will find. (Proverbs 2:4)To find a set of lost car keys people leave no stone unturned - how much more so is this the case when people seek riches. Yet, when it comes to understanding principles of life that are indispensable for sensible living, for a productive mankind, for universal harmony and peace on earth, the same people leave the most obvious stones unturned.
It is an ironic twist of history that it is those very concepts the Jewish nation brought to mankind, that the Jewish people are assumed to know the least about. The world looks at the Jewish people and its Torah, and then looks the other way in trying to create its "new world order", again.
Someday peace will arrive, thought itís not certain when. But there is a story that sums up what it will be like when that finally happens, and it goes like this.
There once was a condominium developer who was unique in appearance. Being from Europe, and not being ostentatious, he rarely looked the part. In fact, to look at Mr. Richman, one might assume that he was a middle-class American about to retire, not the multi-millionaire developer that he had become.
As was often the case, the manís expertise was sought by other developers, and one day the man was invited to join a project begun by another firm. The president of the firm had never met Mr. Richman, since all their conversations had taken place by telephone.
Mr. Richman arrived at the office of his co-developer exactly at 9:00 a.m. as arranged but, typically, did not announce himself, instead waiting to be asked his name. However the secretary, expecting a well-dressed businessman, simply ignored the developer.
Twenty minutes passed and the president, knowing Mr. Richmanís reputation for punctuality, called his secretary to ask her if she had heard from him. "No," she replied, "but there is an older man in the reception area ..."
"What does he want?" the man interrupted, somewhat frustrated.
"I donít know. He hasnít introduced himself."
"Maybe heís collecting for one of those charities. Tell him to come back tomorrow."
About five minutes later, the president of the firm walked out and passed the waiting room, barely seeing Mr. Richman. All of a sudden it occurred to him that the man sitting in the reception area might be the famous Mr. Richman, who had been made to wait for over an hour!
"Mr. Richman?" the man asked hesitantly.
"Yes."Mr. Richman answered.
"Iím so sorry. I didnít know that it was you the whole time. My secretary told me that a man was in the reception area ... but we thought that ... that you were one of those charity collectors. We get a lot of them coming through here all the time."
At that point, Mr. Richman raised an eyebrow and in a soft, calm voice responded to the flashy president,
"If this is how you deal with charity collectors, then I have no business with you. Good day." And away Mr. Richman walked, leaving the would-be co-developer with his mouth wide open.
The answer to all of mankindís questions is right under its nose ... if it would only recognize it for what it is and stop assuming that it is something that itís not. The Torah is a framework that all of mankind can share. And when it does, then many people will be able to look at the same painting and interpret it in a similar enough fashion to live in peace and harmony.
Just one more story. Once a man was walking down the street when he spotted another man, sitting on the sidewalk, deep in thought. Curious as to what the man was thinking about, he asked,
"Why are you so deep in thought?"
The thinker turned to the man and said,
"Pardon me ... Oh, ah, see that house over there?"
"Yes," the first man answered, even more curious about what the connection was.
"I need to get into that house."
" see,Ē"said the first man, and before he could offer a suggestion, the thinker continued.
"At first I thought I should try the window, but that turned out to be too difficult. Then I considered scaling the wall and lowering myself down from the roof, but that too had its drawbacks. Now Iím considering drilling through the wall, right into the house itself."
"Excuse me, sir." the first man interrupted, somewhat confused.
"Did you try the door?"
"The what? Oh, the door? Oh no, thatís too simple, too conventional ... that wouldnít do."
At that point, the first man realized he wasnít dealing with someone who quite saw reality as it was, nor wanted to, so he continued on his way.