PARABLE OF THE SPOONS

Rabbi Haim of Romshishok was an itinerant preacher. He traveled from town to town delivering religious sermons that stressed the importance of respect for one’s fellow man. He often began his talks with the following story:

I once ascended to the firmaments. I first went to see Hell and the sight was horrifying. Row after row of tables were laden with platters of sumptuous food, yet the people seated around the tables were pale and emaciated, moaning in hunger. As I came closer, I understood their predicament.

Every person held a full spoon, but both arms were splinted with wooden slats so he could not bend either elbow to bring the food to his mouth. It broke my heart to hear the tortured groans of these poor people as they held their food so near but could not consume it.

Next I went to visit Heaven. I was surprised to see the same setting I had witnessed in Hell – row after row of long tables laden with food. But in contrast to Hell, the people here in Heaven were sitting contentedly talking with each other, obviously sated from their sumptuous meal.

As I came closer, I was amazed to discover that here, too, each person had his arms splinted on wooden slats that prevented him from bending his elbows. How, then, did they manage to eat?

As I watched, a man picked up his spoon and dug it into the dish before him. Then he stretched across the table and fed the person across from him! The recipient of this kindness thanked him and returned the favor by leaning across the table to feed his benefactor.

I suddenly understood. Heaven and Hell offer the same circumstances and conditions. The critical difference is in the way the people treat each other.

I ran back to Hell to share this solution with the poor souls trapped there. I whispered in the ear of one starving man, ‘You do not have to go hungry. Use your spoon to feed your neighbor, and he will surely return the favor and feed you.’

‘You expect me to feed the detestable man sitting across the table?’ said the man angrily. ‘I would rather starve than give him the pleasure of eating!’

Source: Moshe Kranc, The Hasidic Masters’ Guide to Management
Devora Publishing, 2004) pages 108-109

Note: There are variations of the tale across many religions and cultures, it’s message so universal.

CONSIDER THIS

The difference between heaven and hell is not the setting. It’s in the way people treat each other.

So much of how we deal with the world simply comes down to perspective. Heaven and hell, the same place and situation, the only difference the attitudes and approach of the people present.

We can create heaven and hell for one another, right here in this world, by the way we treat each other. We have the ability to cause suffering and pain, and we have the ability to bring comfort and hope.

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TO BE SAVED

The disciple asked, “Master, what does it mean to be saved?”

And the master answered, “A piece of bread on the plate in front of a starving person is salvation.” 

Source | Philip Chircop sj
Based on a quotation by German Reformed theologian Jürgen Moltmann

CONSIDER THIS

“Salvation is not something that happens only at the end of a person’s life. Salvation happens every time someone with a key uses it to open a door he could lock instead.”  – Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church (HarperOne, 2012) Page 115

THEY ARE HUNGRY TOO

One night a man came to our house and told me, “There is a family with eight children. They have not eaten for days,”

I took some food and I went. When I came to that family, I saw the faces of those little children disfigured by hunger. There was no sorrow or sadness in their faces, just the deep pain of hunger. I gave the rice to the mother. She divided the rice in two, and went out, carrying half the rice. When she came back, I asked her, “Where did you go?” She gave me this simple answer, “To my neighbours; they are hungry also.”

I was not surprised that she gave – poor people are really very generous. I was surprised that she knew they were hungry. As a rule, when we are suffering, we are so focused on ourselves, we have no time for others.

Source | Mother TeresaMother Teresa: No Greater Love
(New World Library, 1989) pages 39-40

CONSIDER THIS

When we are suffering, we are so focused on ourselves, we have no time for others.

THE WISE AND COMPASSIONATE JUDGE

A story is told about an incident that happened during the thirties in New York, on one of the coldest days of the year, the world was in the grip of the Great Depression, and all over the city, the poor were close to starvation.

It happened that the judge was sitting on the bench that day, hearing a complaint against a woman who was charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She pleaded that her daughter was sick, and her grandchildren were starving, because their father had abandoned the family. But the shopkeeper, whose loaf had been stolen, refused to drop the charge. He insisted that an example be made of the poor old woman, as a deterrent to others.

The judge sighed. He was most reluctant to pass judgment on the woman, yet he had no alternative. “I’m sorry,” he turned to her, “But I can’t make any exceptions. The law is the law. I sentence you to a fine of ten dollars, and if you can’t pay I must send you to jail for ten days.”

The woman was heartbroken, but even as he was passing sentence, the judge was reaching into his pocket for the money to pay off the ten-dollar fine. He took off his hat, tossed the ten dollar bill into it, and then addressed the crowd:

“I am also going to impose a fine of fifty cents on every person here present in this courtroom, for living in a town where a person has to steal bread to save her grandchildren from starvation. Please collect the fine, Mr. Bailiff, in this hat, and pass them across to the defendant.”

And so the accused went home that day from the courtroom with forty-seven dollars and fifty cents — fifty cents of which had been paid by the shame-faced grocery store keeper who had brought the charge against her. And as she left the courtroom, the gathering of petty criminals and New York policemen gave the judge a standing ovation.

Source | Based on an incident reported by James. N. McCutcheon in
Margaret Silf, One Hundred Wisdom Stories from Around the World 

PONDER AND CONSIDER

Mercy and truth have met each other: justice and peace have kissed.Psalm 84:10

  • How open are our eyes and ears to the cry of the poor?
  • How quick are we to bring charges against others?
  • How creative are we in finding ways mercy and justice kiss?

CHILDHOOD PERCEPTION

Young Maria, only four years old, returned home from Nursery School complaining, “Mummy, I’ve got a stomach ache.”

“That’s because your stomach is empty,” Sarah, her mother replied kindly. “You’ll feel better when you have something in it.”

She made Maria a small snack and sure enough, maria felt better immediately.

Later that afternoon the pastor, a family friend, dropped by to see Sarah. While he was chatting with Maria’s mum, he mentioned he’d had a bad headache all day long.

Maria perked up straightaway and announced to the pastor, “That’s because it’s empty, father. You’d feel better if you had something in it!”

PONDER

Is it possible that we all see and hear things through our own unique lens?