Issue nº 39

Stories of Arabs and Jews

Stories of Arabs and Jews

     Although in permanent political conflict, these two cultures have given us such extraordinary wisdom. Here are couple of their enlightened stories:

The importance of joy
     Al Husayn asked Ibn Muhammad:
     - Do you think the great prophet of our religion, Mohammed, knew how to tell amusing tales?
     Ibn Muhammad replied:
     - God sent our prophet with the gift of joy. He had sent other messengers before, who suffered and spoke the language of pain; Mohammed came to relieve his people's woes.
     "And one of the ways he encountered, was just that of teaching them to play and enjoy themselves. He did this in order to keep his men united in one ideal and plan. My father, who knew the Prophet, heard him say: "God hates all those who show sad faces to their friends."

Why tell stories
     Elie Wiesel recalls that the great Rabbi Israel Shem Tov, when he saw that the Jews were being mistreated, went into the forest, lit a holy fire, and said a special prayer, asking God to protect his people. And God sent him a miracle.
     Later, his disciple Maggid de Mezritch, following in his master's footsteps, would go to the same part of the forest and say: "Master of the Universe, I do not know how to light the holy fire, but I do know the special prayer; hear me, please!" The miracle always came about.
     A generation passed, and Rabbi Moshe-leib of Sasov, when he saw how his people were persecuted, went to the forest, saying: "I don't know how to light the holy fire, nor do I know the special prayer, but I still remember the place. Help us, Lord!" And the Lord helped.
     Fifty years later, Rabbi Israel de Rizhin, in his wheelchair, spoke to God: "I don't know how to light the holy fire, nor the prayer, and I can't even find the place in the forest. All I can do is tell this story, and hope God hears me."
     And telling the story was enough for the danger to pass; according to Wiesel, God created man because He adores stories.

What is written
     A blind man was begging on the road to Mecca, when a pious Moslem came over and asked whether the people were giving generously - as the Koran commands. The man showed him his little tin, which was almost empty. The traveler said:
     - Let me write something on the card around your neck.
     Hours later, the traveler returned. The beggar was surprised, for he had received a large amount of money.
     - What did you write on the card? - he asked.
     - All I wrote was: Today is a beautiful spring day, the sun is shining, and I am blind.

This will pass
     The Sufi tradition tells the story of a king who was surrounded by wise men. One morning, as they talked, the king was quieter than usual.
      "What is wrong, Your Highness?" - asked one of the wise men.
     "I'm confused," replied the king. "At times I am overcome by melancholy, and feel powerless to fulfill my duties. At others, I am dizzy with all power I have. I'd like a talisman to help me be at peace with myself."
     The wise men - surprised by such a request - spent long months in discussion. In the end, they went to the king with a gift.
      "We have engraved magic words on the talisman. Read them out loud whenever you are too confident, or very sad," they said.
      The king looked at the object he had ordered. It was a simple silver and gold ring, but with an inscription:
     "This will pass."

Where the truth is
     "Some disciples are always asking where the truth is," said Maal-El. "So one day I decided to point in one direction, trying to show them how important it is to follow a path, and not just to think about it.
     "Instead of looking in the direction I had pointed, the man who had asked the question started examining my finger, trying to find out where the truth was hidden.
     "When people seek out a master, they should be looking for experiences which can help them avoid certain obstacles. But unfortunately, reality is different: they adopt the law of minimum effort, trying to find answers to everything."
     "He who accepts, without question, the truths of his master, will never find his own path."

Knowing how to listen to insults
     In a kingdom of Arabia lived a queen called Layla. Her wisdom illuminated the land like the sun, her beauty blinded men, and her wealth was greater than any of her subjects.
     One morning, her chief advisor asked to see her, and said:
     - Great queen Layla! You are the wisest, most beautiful and wealthiest women in the world. But I have heard unpleasant things; some people laugh at or complain about your decisions. Why, in spite of all you have done for your subjects, are they still not content?
     The queen laughed and replied:
     - Loyal advisor, you know how much I have done for my kingdom. Seven regions are under my control, and all of them have enjoyed peace and prosperity. In all the towns, the decisions of my court are just and inspired.
     "I can do almost everything I wish. I can order the frontiers to be closed, the gates of the palace to be locked, the treasury coffers sealed indefinitely.
     "But there is one thing I cannot do: make the people shut their mouths. It matters not what false things people say; the important thing is to continue to do that which I consider to be true."

Issue nº39