Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Parable of the Gossiper

In his remarkable work, "The Book of Jewish Values" Rabbi Joseph Telushkin relates a 19th century Jewish folktale about a man who went about town slandering his rabbi. One day, realizing that many of the things he had said were unfair, he went to the rabbi's home and begged for forgiveness. The rabbi told the man that he would forgive him on one condition: that he go home, take a feather pillow from his house, cut it up and scatter the feathers to the wind. After he had done so, he should then return to the rabbi's house.

Though puzzled by the rabbi's strange request, the man was happy to be let off with so easy a penance. He quickly cut up the pillow, scattered the feathers, and returned to the rabbi.

"Am I now forgiven?" he asked.

"Just one more thing," the rabbi said. "Go now and gather up all the feathers."

"But that's impossible. The wind has already scattered them."

"Precisely," the rabbi answered. "And though you truly wish to correct the evil you have done, it is as impossible to repair the damage done by your words, as it is to recover the feathers."

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