The Princess and the Lumberjack
By Larry Fine
The relationship between the body and the soul has inspired many philosophers and thinkers to try to understand the mechanics of these two disparate entities. On one hand we have the body, including the thinking mechanism, the brain, with all of its fragilities and frailties; which spends most of its time engrossed in planning and pursuing its earthly desires. Totally bound by material goals and desires, it can not but strive to attain physical aspirations. On the other side is the G-dly soul; delicate and pure in nature and devoid of all desires for the physical mundane world.
How are we to reconcile the two opposites which are locked up in a walking prison called a body? Why on earth would G-d create a seemingly lose-lose situation for man?
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To better understand this let us illustrate it through a parable:
A story is told of a lumberjack who was a plain and simple man. He lived in the far removed forests of a kingdom, far from most civilized people spending most of his months chopping the trees and one month each year he would float them into the town that was many miles downstream were they were sold. He occupied the long winter nights by cooking and curing the few hides from the animals that he caught or whittling on some wood to make some tool. He could not read or write. He lived alone and rarely had a visitor.
In this kingdom a coup was fermenting. The army wanted to over throw the kind king and take over the responsibilities of running the country. When they attacked the palace, the king took his family and escaped to a nearby country that gave him refuge. His only daughter, the princes, was not at home at that time. When she heard of the coup, she ran for her life, for if the army were to capture her they would either torture her or execute her.
As it would be, she wandered deep into the forest. After several days of not eating or seeing any person, she came upon the small shack in which our lumberjack lived. First she peeked through the window to see who was inside. Being exhausted from fleeing the army and seeing only the lumberjack, she was desperate and decided to chance his hospitality.
She knocked at the door and explained to him her predicament. She told him that she was the princess and that the king had to run away. She did not know if the king and her family were executed or if they had made it to safety.
She was a beautiful and delicate maiden in the prime of her youth. The lumberjack was a man who understood nothing of life other than eat, sleep and work, but his heart was over whelmed by this beautiful and helpless girl and so he agreed to give her lodging in his little shack. She made him promise not to tell anyone that she was there and he agreed.
The lumberjack thought what could he give her? He gave her one of his coarse woolen blankets and a pillow stuffed with leaves. He made for her the same tasteless gruel that he ate. Sometime he would bring back a small animal which he would skin and cook for her. He had no eating utensils and so they ate with their hands.
The lumberjack had never had a relationship with a female before, much less a royal beauty, and in his heart he longed that some how he could convince her that he was indeed a good fellow and perhaps she would consider him as a husband. But deep in his heart he knew that this was just a ridiculous dream. She was tender and kind, with delicate tastes. She had received the best education in the kingdom and had enjoyed the most exquisite clothing and enjoyed the best orchestras on the continent. The lumberjack knew in his heart that she would never be happy with him, but he loved her anyway.
Soon the army came looking for the princess. They came to the house of the lumberjack inquiring if he had seen the princess.
"Oh," he exclaimed to them, "if only she would come to live with me here in my cabin forever, it would make me the happiest man in the world."
"Idiot," the soldiers exclaimed, "even a female cow would not live in a filthy barn like your shack!" Laughing they turned and continued on their way searching. The lumberjack knew in his heart that they were correct; he could never be the fitting mate for the princess.
Nevertheless the lumberjack still secretly carried this love in his heart. If he could not have the lovely princess, at least he vowed to return her unharmed to the king. So day after day, he worked hard to bring her what she needed, knowing that it would never be enough to meet her regal requirements, but what could he do, all he understood was the forest, the trees and a few animals.
After several years the king raised a large army and re-conquered his kingdom and punished those rebellious officers who had made the coup d'état. When the lumberjack returned the princess to the king, the princess described the good intentions of the lumberjack to the king. The king gave a great reward to the lumberjack, but not the princess for she was destined to marry royalty.
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The above parable can be used to understand the G-dly soul and its relation to the body. The body is likened to an animal in relation to the G-dly soul. The person is a coarse creature that can really not have a relationship with the G-dly soul that his body shares. This is reserved only for those pure and righteous beings that we call "tzadikim" those who have never sinned. But for the average person, the best that we can do is to stand guard to make certain that the holy soul that G-d has given us remains pure until it is time to return it to our Maker. If we are able to do this, then there will be a great reward.
from the March Passover 2007 Edition of the Jewish Magazine