• A woman lost all of her material possessions, and she was ordered to appear before the King. She was worried about what the King would say to her, and she asked three friends to go with her when she appeared before the King. The first friend said that he would not go with her to see the King. The second friend said that he would go with her to the palace, but that he would not go with her inside the palace to see the King. The third friend said that he would go with her to see the King and that he would plead for the King to show kindness to her. In this parable, the woman is a human being who has died and so has lost all her material possessions. The first friend symbolizes her wealth, which will not go with her after she dies. The second friend symbolizes her family, who will go with her only as far as her gravesite. The third friend symbolizes her good deeds, which will plead for her before God.
• Bahlool the wise fool once visited a foreign cemetery, where he was surprised to see that all the gravestones seemed to show that all the people buried there had lived very short lives. However, a resident of the foreign land explained that in his land a headstone listed only the years that the person had been happy, not the years that the person had been alive. Bahlool thought a moment, and then he said, “If I die in this land, please make sure that my headstone says that I was born, then I immediately was buried.”
• When Rabbi Zusya was dying, he was afraid even though he knew that God is loving and merciful. He told his students, “When I stand before the Throne of Judgment, I am not worried that God will ask me, ‘Why were you not a Moses?’ After all, I am not Moses. I am not worried that God will ask me, ‘Why were you not an Isaiah?’ After all, I am not Isaiah. However, I am worried that God will ask me, ‘Zusya, why were you not Zusya? Why didn’t you live up to the best that Zusya could have been?’”
• During 1902, James McNeill Whistler was very ill — so ill, in fact, that a London newspaper thought he had died and so it printed his obituary. Mr. Whistler wrote a letter to the newspaper, correcting the errors in his obituary and saying that reading it had greatly improved his health.
• When comedian Lewis Black was a junior at the University of North Carolina, he took his first class in playwriting. As part of the class, each student wrote a one-act play and read it in front of the class. The professor of the class was very old, but he was also very intelligent. Mr. Black noticed that the professor always fell asleep after the first few pages of a play were read out loud, but that the professor always woke up in enough time to hear the last few pages of the play being read out loud. Mr. Black also says that the professor would always “give an absolutely insightful interpretation of the work and how to improve it.” This was mystifying, until Mr. Black figured out that beginning playwrights always made the same kinds of mistakes. Because Mr. Black and his fellow students were beginning playwrights, they were making mistakes that the professor had seen many, many times before. Mr. Black says about the professor, “The guy was always on target.”
• The first time Maria Tallchief taught ballet to children, she decided never to do that again. Due to illness, her friend Elise Reiman asked her to take over a class, and she agreed. All of the children looked adorable, but as she was beginning the first exercise, one of the adorable children raised her hand and asked to go to the bathroom. Ms. Tallchief let her, and immediately another adorable child raised her hand and asked to go to the bathroom. Again, Ms. Tallchief let her, and immediately all of the adorable children had to go the bathroom and the studio was empty of students. When the children came back — slowly, and not in a group — they and she knew that she had lost control. Whenever Ms. Tallchief asked them to do something, they replied, “But Miss Reiman says we should do it this way.” Ms. Tallchief swore that that would be the last time she taught ballet to children — but years later, fortunately for ballet, she relented.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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