A man was travelling through the desert. He was hungry, thirsty and tired when he found a tree that provided abundant shade, delicious fruit, and a spring ran under it.
The man ate of the fruit, drank of the water and rested in the shade.
When he was ready to resume his journey he turned toward the tree and said:
“Tree, how shall I bless you? Shall I bless you with sweet fruit? Your fruit is already sweet. Shall I bless you with abundant shade? Your shade is already abundant. Shall I ask for a spring to run under you? A spring is already running under you. There is one thing with which I can bless you: May it be God’s will for all the trees that come from your seed to be like you.”
Source: Talmud Bavli, Taanit, 5b
Quoted in Pablo R. Andinach
The Book of Gratitudes: An Encounter Between Life and Faith
(Wipf & Stock, 2016) page 93
A blessing is an act, gesture or word whereby one person transmits the power of life to another. | Walter Brueggemann
How do you, like the generous tree in the story, transmit the power of life to another?
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
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.”