Being Content WithYour Lot
ďA man's lot may be destined, but there are the poor who have great riches" (Proverbs 13:7). "Better a dry morsel and peace than a house full of everything with strife" (Ibid. 17:1). King Solomon, the wisest of all men, declared, "There is nothing. better than that a man should rejoice in his own works - for this is his portionĒ (Koheles 3:22). "For who is rich? He who is satisfied with his lot," declared our sages.
One day the elders of the Sanhedrin held a conference with King Solomon. "The people are restless and discontent," they said. "It is not a good omen."
"Why?" asked the king. "Haven't they enough food and sustenance to fill their bodily needs?"
"Yes," they replied, "the people have all that, but they are not satisfied with their lot and they have sent us to you for more luxury and less taxes."
"So they are not satisfied," mused the king. "I have an idea. I will send you as their emissaries to an island of the Netherland, which is ruled over by Ashmedai, king of the devils. Present your problem to him and I am sure you will discover the solution on that island."
Sanhedrin Set Sail
The king outfitted a large boat with ample stores and provisions and he gave the captain a map of the island. There were 71 rooms on the ship, one for each member of the Sanhedrin. They traveled for many weeks and soon entered a part of the world never before traveled by human beings.
A few days later, they entered the lagoon of an unknown island. In the center of the island was a very large mountain. At the bottom of the mountain grew many trees and stunning flowers. A stream of water wound itself through the foliage. It was truly a Garden of Eden. Multitudes of animals and birds inhabited the island. The Sanhedrin and the crew rowed ashore and were amazed at the beauty of the island. They began to climb the mountain, and when they reached the top, they entered a large plateau and in the middle of it was a mansion. Gorgeous gardens and luscious fruit abounded everywhere. Entering the mansion they saw every room was filled with beds and tables and fruit and other foods. They walked through the rooms but they didnít see a human being.
They began to wonder, "This is truly a Garden of Eden," they said. "But where are its people? There are more animals here than we have ever seen anywhere."
They decided to spend a few days there and they began to remove their supplies from the boat. In order to carry it up the mountain they attempted to catch some of the horses, mules and oxen which roamed so freely on the island. But no matter how hard they tried, they could not catch an animal. They devised nets and traps but the wily animals avoided them. As if by magic, the animals would disappear when they approached. Finally, the crew had to carry the provisions up the mountain on their backs.
Great was their wonder at the riches and abundance that they found in the mansion, but even greater was their astonishment at not seeing a human being. It appeared that only animals inhabited the island.
Summoned Before The King
While discussing this strange island, the sages suddenly saw a man approaching them.
"I come to summon you to appear for trial before King Ashmedai," he said.
They were very surprised. "We had no quarrel with anyone," they replied. "Who could be summoning us to stand trial?"
"You will find out soon enough at the trial," replied the man. "Meantime, you had better follow me for the king's word is law on this island."
They followed the man and soon came upon a beautiful palace. At the entrance of the palace were throngs of animals milling about. The group entered the throne room and the man bowed low before the king. All were momentarily blinded by the glittering diamonds and jewels and gold that adorned the room. Behind them followed all the animals, crowding the throne room.
The king angrily arose and shouted at the animals, "Haven t you any respect for the king?
Must you all come in at one time? Appoint one to represent you and he will appear to accuse the defendants.
Then, turning to the amazed people, he said, "Greetings unto you, O wise men of King Solomonís Sanhedrin. I trust you will enjoy your stay on this beautiful island. However, the animals of this island have filed a complaint against you that you are attempting to destroy them. This is not allowed, as all are treated equal in this place."
Animals Choose A Representative
The animals huddled together and they chose the mule to represent them.
"Your honor," began the mule, "we accuse man willfully violating the commandment of G-d in a tempting to destroy us. G-d created the animals, the birds and all creations, including man. All were created equal, none was given the power to rule over are other species. And yet man took the liberty of ruling. He destroys and eats the flesh of animals, uses the produce for his benefit and their labor to his advantage. Is what man is doing right in the eyes of G-d?"
The king turned to the sages and said, "Gentlemen you have heard the charge, what is your answer?"
"O king," replied the leader of the sages, "you are no doubt aware of the holy Torah in which is described the history of creation. G-d made man in His image and He gave him authority to rule over all the animals and beasts of the world. Generations later, there was a flood and Noah rescued every species of animal and beast. As a reward, G-d gave him authority to eat their flesh if he so desired. Now, if a ruler issues a decree, it is incumbent upon all of his subjects to follow it. How much more so if the King of kings, the Ruler of the world, issues a decree. Dare any creature oppose it?"
The king arose and said, "Well said, sages. I do agree with your arguments." Turning to the mule, he said, "Have you anything further to say or answer to these arguments?"
The mule remained silent, not knowing what to say. When the other animals heard the verdict go against them, they began to complain. "Why did we rely on the dumb mule to represent us? He hasn't enough intelligence to save his own skin." Turning to the king, the pleaded, "Give us 30 days time to prepare an answer."
The king agreed and they all departed. When the appointed time arrived, the sages appeared before the king but the animals could not decide who was to represent them and they began to quarrel among themselves. Finally, the insolent dog sprang forward and said, "O lord king, I demand that you punish man because they are so cruel. True, they may rule us, but it does not give them license to treat us so cruelly."
The meek lamb heard this, jumped forward and said, "If the king will give me permission to speak, I would like to say a few words."
"Speak!" commanded the king.
"O mighty king, listen not to the false words of the unclean dog," said the lamb. "He speaks falsely and he is cursed by G-d for his behavior. As evidence, although he gives birth to as many as six to a litter, rarely do you ever see a large pack of dogs live together in peace. At most, you will see a score of them join forces; whereas, we lambs bear only one young at a time yet we are often found in herds of thousands, happy to serve man, for so has the Almighty G-d decreed. In appreciation, man takes care of us, feeds us and watches over us and we in return are happy to give our lives to him for his use as he sees fit. For we obey the will of G-d and we therefore lead a happier and more contented life. We know our station in life and because of it the world is a better place to live in."
The king was very pleased with the words of the lamb and he arose and said, "Blessed are thou O lamb for wise words. You truly echo the words of G-d, in whose wisdom the world was created. If man were to take your words to heart, the world would be a better place to live in. Instead of striving for power and rule, they would live peacefully with each other, content with their status in life, and the coming of the Messiah would be hastened. Therefore, go forth to your king and to your people and teach them the lesson you have learned today."
The animals departed quietly with the fear of man in their hearts and the sages bid goodbye to the king and returned home. They narrated the story to the king and to the people, and all Israel took the story to their hearts. And as long as King Solomon lived, they ceased to talk of discontent and violence.
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Page last updated - 06/05/2009