BEYOND TEMPTATION

A rabbi went on a journey with his servant named Jacob. Their cart was drawn by a lively horse of which the rabbi was very fond. When they came to a roadside inn, the rabbi went in to rest, leaving his horse in Jacob’s care.

In the meantime, a horse trader passed by and, seeing Jacob, soon made friends with him. He plied him with drink and Jacob soon was so intoxicated it was easy for the horse trader to induce him to sell him the horse for a song. Although drunk, Jacob was frightened by what he had done. What would the rabbi say when he came out of the inn? An idea occurred to him. He placed himself between the empty shafts of the cart and started to chew hay. When the rabbi came out, he was struck speechless by what he saw.

“What’s the meaning of this?” he finally managed to stammer. “Where’s the horse?”

“The horse? That’s me!” replied Jacob, and he uttered a loud whinny.

“What on earth are you doing?” murmured the rabbi, frightened to death. “Have you gone out of your mind?”

“Don’t be angry with me, Rabbi,” pleaded his servant Jacob. “Years ago a great misfortune happened to me. I was a young man then, a little wild and foolish, and, may God forgive me, I sinned with a woman. So to punish me, God turned me into a horse  – your horse. For twenty long years you have been my master, Rabbi, little suspecting who I really was. Well, it seems my punishment is over. I’m again a man, praise God!”

When the rabbi heard Jacob’s story he began to tremble and prayed for God’s mercy. However, there was a practical difficulty to attend to – he could not continue his journey without a horse, so he went into the market place to buy one. Suddenly, he stood face to face with his old horse. It was munching a wisp of hay at the horse trader’s. Going up to it in alarm, the rabbi whispered into its ear, “For goodness sake, Jacob! Again, so soon!”

Source: Nathan Ausubel, A Treasury of Jewish Humor
(New York: M. Evans and Company, 1951) 

PONDER AND CONSIDER

It seems to me that the human journey is never linear, neat and tidy. It is more like a dance of three steps forward and two steps backward . I call it the “backslide dance”.  I looked up the word “backsliding”  in the dictionary. It means “to relapse into bad habits, sinful behavior, or undesirable activities.” Maybe you’ve known the frustration of losing ground along the way, reverting to old, unhealthy habits.  What phrases would you use to describe this state? I came up with three phrases:

  • “I’m lukewarm”.
  • “I’ve grown cold”.
  • “I’m no longer on fire”.

And what can you do to change the tide and catch fire?

WHEN TEMPTED

Once a famous rabbi wished to have a glimpse of peoples’ hearts and test their opinions of themselves. He called three passers-by into his house. Turning to the first man he said, “Suppose you found a purse full of gold coins, what would you do with it?”

“I would give it to the owner right away provided, of course, I knew who the owner was,” the man replied.

“Fool!” the rabbi exclaimed. Then he put the same question to the second man.

“I wouldn’t give it back to the owner. I’d put it in my pocket. I am not so stupid as to let a windfall like that slip through my hands,” and man replied.

“Scoundrel!” exclaimed the rabbi. Then he put the question to the third man.

“How can I possibly know, rabbi, what I would do in a case like that?” the man replied. “Would I be able to conquer the evil inclination? Or would the evil urge overcome me and make me take what belongs to another? I do not know. But if the Holy One, blessed be He, strengthened me against the evil inclination, I would give back the money to its owner.”

“Your words are beautiful,” the rabbi exclaimed. “You are wise indeed.”

Source | Unknown

PONDER AND CONSIDER

The first was called a fool. Why?  He presumed he would be strong enough to resist the temptation to keep the money. No one is so secure that he can’t fall. People don’t fall because they are weak; they fall because they think they are strong.

The second was called a scoundrel. Why?  He was prepared – without the slightest qualm of conscience – to keep what didn’t be­long to him.

The third was praised. Why? He was a good and wise gentleman. He was aware of his weakness and  hoped that when faced with the temptation to keep the money he would be given the strength and the vision to do the right thing.

COOKIES

Toad baked some cookies. “These cookies smell very good,” said Toad. He ate one. “And they taste even better,” he said. Toad ran to Frog’s house. “Frog, Frog,” cried Toad, “taste these cookies that I have made.”

Frog ate one of the cookies. “These are the best cookies I have ever eaten!” said Frog.

Frog and Toad ate many cookies, one after another. “You know, Toad,” said Frog, with his mouth full, “I think we should stop eating. We will soon be sick.”

“You are right,” said Toad. “Let us eat one last cookie, and then we will stop.” Frog and Toad ate one last cookie.

There were many cookies left in the bowl. “Frog,” said Toad, “let us eat one very last cookie, and then we will stop.” Frog and Toad at one very last cookie.

“We must stop eating!” cried Toad as he ate another. “Yes,” said Frog, reaching for a cookie, “we need will power.” “What is will power?” asked Toad.

“Will power is trying hard not to do something that you really want to do,” said Frog.

“You mean like trying not to eat all of these cookies?” asked Toad. “Right,” said Frog.

Frog put the cookies in a box. “There,” he said. “Now we will not eat any more cookies.” “But we can open the box,” said Toad. “That is true,” said Frog.

Frog tied some string around the box. “There,” he said. “Now we will not eat any more cookies.” “But we can cut the string and open the box,” said Toad. “That is true,” said Frog.

Frog got a ladder. He put the box up on a high shelf. “There,” said Frog. “Now we will not eat any more cookies.” “But we can climb the ladder and take the box down from the shelf and cut the string and open the box,” said Toad. “That is true,” said Frog.

Frog climbed the ladder and took the box down from the shelf. He cut the string and opened the box.

Frog took the box outside. He shouted in a loud voice, “Hey birds, here are cookies!”

Birds came from everywhere. They picked up all the cookies in their beaks and flew away.

“Now we have no more cookies to eat,” said Toad sadly. “Not even one.”

“Yes,” said Frog, “but we have lots and lots of will power.” “You may keep it all, Frog,” said Toad. “I am going home now to bake a cake.”

Source | “Cookies” by Arnold Lobel
from Frog and Toad Together

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. | Romans 7:15 (nrsv)
  • What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. | Romans 7:15 (the message)

In the story, Frog and Toad eat so many cookies that they fear they will become sick.

  • Is there something that you like to eat or drink so much that you can’t stop yourself, even when you fear that you will get sick?
  • If you know that eating so much of something will make you sick, why do you continue to eat it?

Frog defines will power as “trying hard not to do something that you really want to do.”

  • How do you define will power?
  • If you really want to do something, why would you try not to do it?
  • Can part of you want to do something, while another part does not?

At the end of the story Frog says that they have lots and lots of will power because they want to eat more cookies but cannot because they have given them all away.

  • Does something have to be tempting you in order for you to have will power?
  • Do you have will power even when you are not using it?
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