THE ROOSTER PRINCE

In a distant land, a prince lost his mind and imagined himself a rooster.  He sought refuge under the table and lived there, naked, refusing to partake of the royal delicacies served in golden dishes – all he wanted and accepted was the grain reserved for the roosters. The king was desperate.  He sent for the best physicians, the most famous specialists; all admitted their incompetence.  So did the magicians.  And the monks, the ascetics, the miracle-makers; all their interventions proved fruitless.

One day an unknown sage presented himself at court.  “I think that I could heal the prince,” he said shyly.  “Will you allow me to try?”

The king consented, and to the surprise of all present, the sage removed his clothes, and joining the prince under the table, began to crow like a rooster.

Suspicious, the prince interrogated him:  “Who are you and what are you doing here?” – “And you,” replied the sage, “who are you and what are you doing here?” – “Can’t you see?  I am a rooster!” – “Hmm,” said the Sage, “how very strange to meet you here!” – “Why strange?” – “You mean you don’t see?  Really not?  You don’t see that I am a rooster just like you?”

The two men became friends and swore never to leave each other.

And then the sage undertook to cure the prince by using himself as an example.  He started by putting on a shirt.  The prince couldn’t believe his eyes. – “Are you crazy?  Are you forgetting who you are? You really want to be a man?” – “You know,” said the Sage in a gentle voice, “you mustn’t ever believe that a rooster who dresses like a man ceases to be a rooster.”  The prince had to agree.  The next day both dressed in a normal way.  The sage sent for some dishes from the palace kitchen.  “Wretch!  What are you doing?” protested the prince, frightened in the extreme.  “Are you going to eat like them now?”His friend allayed his fears:  “Don’t ever think that by eating like man, with man, at his table, a rooster ceases to be what he is; you mustn’t ever believe that it is enough for a rooster to behave like a man to become human; you can do anything with man, in his world and even for him, and yet remain the rooster you are.”

And the prince was convinced; he resumed his life as a prince.

Source: Nahman of Bratslav
in Elie Wiesel,
Souls on Fire: Portraits and Legends of Hasidic Master
(New York: Random House, 1972)
pages 170-171

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Here’s a slightly different rendering by Avishai Edenburg

Many years ago, in a kingdom whose name has since faded from memory, a prince went mad. The young heir to the throne took all of his clothes off, forsook speech for clucking, and spent all of his time under the dining room table, pecking at whatever crumb fell to the floor.

The king, terribly ashamed and afraid for his son’s sanity, offered all manner of honours and rewards for whoever would be able to cure his son, and while many physicians and miracle-workers heeded the summons, none were able to restore the prince.

The king had nearly resigned to sending the crazed princeling to a faraway island when a wise man came and promised the king he would solve the matter of the rooster prince. While skeptic, the king nevertheless thought there is no harm in one more effort.

He was then shocked and enraged when the wise man began undressing. “Are you mocking me?”The king screamed. “I will have you put to death!”

“My liege,” answered the wise man. “Lend me your trust, and you shall have your son back.”

Naked, the wise man crawled under the table and joined the mad prince, pecking at crumbs that fell to the floor. The king and queen stared in disbelief at the couple of madmen under their table, but the wise man had a plan.

When the prince grew accustomed to his fellow rooster, the wise man asked that the royal seamstress bring him clothes for two people. As the wise man was putting on trousers, the prince clucked in objection and said the first words since losing his sanity: “what are you doing? Roosters do not wear clothes!”

“Why not?” Asked the wise man. “Why should I freeze, just because I am a rooster?” and for the first time since he became a rooster, the prince felt the chill of the floor, and he reached for the clothes.

The next day, the wise man asked that the servants bring them apples. When the apples arrived, the wise man grasped one and bit into it. The prince looked at him incredulously: “roosters do not eat with their hands!”

“Why not?”Asked the wise man. “I shouldn’t deny myself the taste of this delicious apple, simply because I am a rooster.”The prince pondered the apple and looked at its glistening red skin, and took an apple in his hand and took a bite.

The day after, the wise man asked that the servants set two additional seats next to the table and call for the roosters to be fed as they serve the food. When the servants called for dinnertime, the wise man crawled out from under the table and took a seat. Glancing up at him, the prince said: “roosters do not sit in chairs and eat with the humans!”

“Why not?”Said the wise man. “Why should I endure the cramped space under the table, when I can eat in comfort like humans?” And the prince, after some deliberation, joined them at the table.

And so, every day, the wise man taught the rooster prince to act as humans do until he was completely functionally human, even as he never stopped believing for a moment that he was, in fact, a rooster.

CONSIDER THIS

Sometimes, the best way to help a fellow person out is to get down to their level, entering their world, using their logic and world of references in order to help them.

What ways and practices do you employ, if any, to meet others where they are? Is it OK to bring them where you are? Where is the boundary? 

 

ON ONE FOOT

A rather eccentric looking young man wearing an old brown suit and holding a small, worn, stickered suitcase walked into the center of the city, spun around a few times in the middle of one of the main squares and then looked up to the skyline. Fixing his eyes on the closest church steeple, he immediately made his way to the front door of the rectory beside the church. He knocked on the door and asked to speak with the pastor. When the pastor met him in the parlor, the young man rose to his feet and immediately stood on one foot. Wearing a curious expression, the pastor asked how he could help the man. The young man said – I have come very far and wish to settle in this town and join your church; however first I would like you to instruct me in the entire faith as I stand on one foot. Assessing the man to be deranged, the pastor promptly showed him the door.

Returning to the city centre to repeat his spinning ritual, he headed in a new direction to the nearest church steeple. He made his way to the front door of the rectory and repeated his request to speak to the pastor: I have come very far and wish to settle in this town and join your church; however first I would like you to instruct me in the entire faith as I stand on one foot. Determining the young man to be irrational he also showed him the door.

A third time the young man repeated his spinning ritual and headed toward another church steeple and knocked on the door of the rectory. An old, slouched and limping, white-bearded pastor answered the door and showed him into a sitting room. The young man repeated his request saying: I have come very far and wish to settle in this town and join your church; however first I would like you to instruct me in the entire faith as I stand on one foot. The pastor looked at him through timeworn but wise eyes and smiled saying: Love God, love your neighbour, love yourself – the rest is all commentary.

Satisfied with the response, there and then, still standing on one foot,  the young man decided to settle in the city and join the parish church.

Source: Inspired by a story told by the Talmudic sage Hillel

CONSIDER THIS

Saint Augustine said that Scripture “teaches nothing but charity, and we must not leave an interpretation of scripture until we have found a compassionate interpretation of it.” 

THROW THIS RASCAL OUT OF PRISON

A king visited a prison in his kingdom and talked with the prisoners. Each one insisted on his innocence except for one man who confessed to a theft.

“Throw this rascal out of the prison!” cried the king, “He will corrupt the innocents!”

Source: An old Hasidic story retold my
Louis Newman in The Hasidic Anthology (Schocken Books, 1963)

 

CONSIDER THIS

It is a simple story which looks at our willingness to see the wrong in others and condemn them and yet be blind to our sins. The prayer comes to mind ‘Give me the grace creator God to see myself as others see me’.

Being set free starts by admitting that we are not as innocent as we would like to believe!

 

WHY WEREN’T YOU ZUSIA?

Once, the great Hassidic leader, Zusia, came to his followers. His eyes were red with tears, and his face was pale with fear.

“Zusia, what’s the matter? You look frightened!”

“The other day, I had a vision. In it, I learned the question that the angels will one day ask me about my life.”

The followers were puzzled. “Zusia, you are pious. You are scholarly and humble. You have helped so many of us. What question about your life could be so terrifying that you would be frightened to answer it?”

Zusia turned his gaze to heaven. “I have learned that the angels will not ask me, ‘Why weren’t you a Moses, leading your people out of slavery?'”

His followers persisted. “So, what will they ask you?”

“And I have learned,” Zusia sighed, “that the angels will not ask me, ‘Why weren’t you a Joshua, leading your people into the promised land?'”

One of his followers approached Zusia and placed his hands on Zusia’s shoulders. Looking him in the eyes, the follower demanded, “But what will they ask you?”

“They will say to me, ‘Zusia, there was only one thing that no power of heaven or earth could have prevented you from becoming.’ They will say, ‘Zusia, why weren’t you Zusia?'”

Source | Doug Lipman, The Storytelling Coach: How to Listen, Praise, and Bring Out People’s Best. (August House, 2006)

CONSIDER THIS

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”Oscar Wilde

We live in a world that has a very strong opinion what we “should” be.  We ”should” be young, thin, beautiful, rich, successful.  We “should” have the right stuff — like the right kind of house and the right kind of car.  And we “should” act like those around us that look the right way and have the right stuff. Where in all of that is authenticity?

Sometimes, without realizing it, we give up ourselves.  We slowly fall prey to the bombardment of the pop culture messages that constantly surround us.

PLAYING HIDE AND SEEK

There’s a great Hasidic story about the teacher Rabbi Zolman. One day his six- or seven-year-old son came bursting into the house, just sobbing, crying his heart out. He said, “Daddy, we were playing hide and seek,” …he may have addressed him in Hebrew… “Abba, Daddy, I was hiding way out in the woods, and I waited out there, behind the trees for hours. I didn’t know that the kids had decided not to play anymore. They didn’t come and tell me, and I waited out there.”

That wise and wonderful rabbi took his little boy in his arms, and he rocked him and said, “Ah, my son, that’s the way it is with God. God plays hide and seek with us. God hides behind the trees, but we have quit playing the game.”

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • You may think that the question “how prayerful are you?” would be the right question to ask when it comes to growth and transformation.  But have you ever thought that perhaps an equally important question is, “how playful are you?”
  • We often talk about our desire to find God as if God is lost.  How about allowing ourselves to be found by God, to be called by name and embraced by the source that gives life?