By Ted Roberts
Since he was of the human race, troubles swarmed around his life like gnats surround a dead crow on the forest floor. The rent was overdue, he had a sciatica pain in his leg, and he owed Shlomo, the bartender, thirty rubles. Even worse, he'd stolen his neighbor's plow horse. But none of this mattered when his thoughts strayed to Rachel, his sick, crippled daughter. Aha, he pondered, it must be a dybbuk - an evil spirit that had nestled in his soul - maybe from the tavern where he went too often. Clever dybbuks were known to leap from one victim/ host to another. Now it possessed him. The dybbuk was poisoning his life. He must find the king; only he could restore the daughter he loved.
That's why he had been wandering for several hours now - searching, searching for his King who he knew lived in a golden palace deep in the woods. The King was his last hope to cure his young daughter, struck down with a deadly disease. Everyone knew he possessed healing powers. The seeker even brought a list of his good deeds. It was rumored that the King kept a list of his own of each of his subject's deeds. But who knew. Maybe he missed crediting him for the time he had pulled Meyer Pushkin's wagon out of the mud. And he didn't even like Meyer Pushkin. But first he must find the King.
The grief-stricken father had read all the books - talked to all the wise men, leafed through many pages of maps, but still his head was whirling. Only the King could make his daughter well. He must find the King. The seeker had never seen him. But it was rumored that he was wise, benevolent, and all powerful. If you sought him out and obeyed his laws, your problems disappeared. But first you must find him and present your credentials; goodness, kindness, and obedience were a prerequisite of course. But how to find him?
Ah, a rustle of limbs and leaves told him someone was approaching. Maybe he would know the way. "The King - his palace?" said the seeker. "Where is it? Which of these paths will take me to the palace?"
"How fortunate you encountered me. I am the only inhabitant of the forest that knows the pathway to the palace. Oh, it's close," said the stranger, "follow the paved road till you come to the Magnolia tree - now in bloom - a huge green and white chandelier of blossoms. You can't miss it. Turn right there on the pebbled road and in less than half a mile there is the King's palace. I know the way since I visit the King often. Just do as I say."
Invigorated, the seeker followed his directions only to find that the pebbled road ended in a thick, impenetrable wilderness. Devastated, he sat on a stone ledge and waited for something. He knew not what. But hark, someone was coming. "Where oh where is the King's palace? I was told it was at the end of this road."
The stranger laughed softly. "How fortunate that you encountered me. I am the only inhabitant of the forest that knows the pathway to the palace. Whoever told you those directions couldn't even find his own elbow. No, no. Recall you passed a fork in the main road. You took the right fork; you must go left. At the end of the left fork, there you will find the radiant palace of the King. But listen, why wander in this dangerous wilderness - buy one of my maps - only twenty rubles."
The seeker leaped to his feet, reinvigorated. "Ah, thank you, but no need. I'll follow your directions." And this time, taking the left fork, he walked many leagues only to find himself on the banks of a broad, turbulent river. No palace in sight. His spirits sank. Again, the wrong path and not the slightest glimmer of the King's palace. He lay face down on the riverside grass and shed bitter tears.
A hand tapped his shoulder. "Stranger," he said, "now is not a day for tears. The trees are as green as the grass and luscious fruit provided by the King for your journey hangs from their boughs. While above, the sun smiles upon the King's world of beauty. And not accidently lights the path to his palace."
The seeker nodded through his tears. "Yes, I know, but I seek the King in vain. I've crossed and re-crossed the forest wherein he resides - with no luck whatsoever."
"Today is your lucky day. "How fortunate you encountered me. I am the only inhabitant of the forest that knows the pathway to the King's palace. This very morning I spoke to the King. You should not have listened to those other wanderers lost in the woods. They never scanned the map to the King's abode. Now listen carefully. Just continue on the left fork by the brook. You must turn off where the grove of orange trees stands. Walk half a mile and there, facing you with all of its splendor in a clearing surrounded by Pomegranate trees, there rises the palace of the one and only King. And you know he welcomes all who come to him."
Up jumped the seeker bound on this new navigational solution. Need I tell you the results? Same, same, same - nothing - a foggy swamp as different from the imperial palace as the wilderness of Cush from the towering Himalayas. The fool who gave him directions couldn't find the King's palace if the moon hung above it. The seeker propped himself against a fallen log and moaned. Through his lamentations he hears someone approach. He wore a yarmulke and a snow white tallith over his shoulders. And a long, dark cloak; far different from the other forest dwellers.
"There are infinite pathways through the forest to the King's abode. But there is no path for you except the one you make. And you must make it yourself. Here," he said, and gently laid an ax at the seeker's feet. "You will need it. There are briars and thorn bushes and tangles of vine that trip you up. Go that way," he pointed, "and you shortly will be rewarded by the shining spires of the King's palace, the reward for hacking your own path through the woods. But let me tell you a secret. If you have led a good life, you can even take the wrong road and still end up at the palace."
The seeker wildly set off slashing through the underbrush. Soon, through the tops of the tallest Pines, a faint gold glimmer brightened the sky. He had found the path. Soon he would be with the King. Soon his daughter would run in sunlit meadows.
Buy Ted's collected works at http://www.lulu.com/content/127641
from the April 2013 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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