Over the course of these past several months, I have stood in my share of long lines at airports, hotels and cabstands while visiting clients in various cities. Unfortunately, many overhead conversations involved a common theme of loved ones in some form of distress. It’s disconcerting on a number of levels to see so many fearful for a future thought somehow not as bright as for previous generations. Rather than regale you with references to cycles and tales from the historical record to instill faith and hope, I thought rather to share a story that may provide a measure of solace to those that worry of the days to come.
You undoubtedly remember the phrase, “this too shall pass”. Are you aware of its origin?
One day Solomon decided to humble Benaiah; his most trusted minister. He said to him, “There is a certain ring that I want you to bring to me. I wish to wear it for Sukkot (a Jewish religious holiday typically falling in late September) which gives you six months to find it.” The minister accepted Solomon’s request and stated simply, “If it exists anywhere on earth, your majesty, I will find it and bring it to you. What can you tell me of the ring and its origin?” The king replied that it possessed magic powers and added, “If a happy man looks at it, he becomes sad, and if a sad man looks at it, he becomes happy.” Solomon knew that no such ring existed, but desired only to lead his minister to a greater degree of humility. Spring passed and then summer, and still Benaiah had no idea where to obtain the ring. On the night before Sukkot and with all hope of obtaining the ring lost, Benaiah decided to walk in one of the poorest quarters of Jerusalem framing the words of failure to his King. Passing by a merchant who had begun to lay out the day’s wares on a shabby carpet, he asked “By chance, have you heard of a magic ring that makes the happy wearer forget his joy and the broken-hearted forget his sorrows?” He watched as the elderly merchant took a plain gold ring from his carpet and engraved an inscription. When Benaiah read the words on the ring, he smiled. That night, the holiday of Sukkot was met with great festivity. “Well, my friend,” said Solomon, “have you found what I sent you to obtain?” All the ministers laughed and Solomon himself smiled warmly. To everyone’s surprise, Benaiah held up a small gold ring and declared, “Here it is, your majesty!” Amusement and incredulity alighted the face of the King as Benaiah handed to him the ring. As Solomon read the inscription, the smile and all color ran from his face.
The jeweler had inscribed three Hebrew letters on the gold band: which began with the words “Gam zeh ya’avor” — “This too shall pass.” At that moment Solomon realized that all his wisdom, wealth and unsurpassed power were but fleeting possessions as all things will one day return to dust.
Remember, always, that life can only bring you pain, it can not bring you harm – unless you permit it. We face dark times, but we need not travel without faith, hope and charity.
Be cheerful in all weathers.
Gam zeh ya’avor!
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