The Rabbi Who Lived in the Woods
By Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein
There once was a Rabbi in training. His teacher usually held his lessons outdoors where he would intersperse his scholarly talks with lessons about nature. His long white beard flowing and hands clasped behind his back, he would interrupt their walks, saying, "You see that mushroom? It's poisonous; don't ever eat it."
"Why is he telling me this," his student would wonder. "I never eat food that is lying around, my mother is a great cook and I am never hungry in her home."
On another walk the older man would point to the nearby fields. "Come and see, there are some herbs growing here. If you cut yourself, take the herbs and rub them into the wound, it will help them to heal." Again the student said to himself, "Why does he tell me this? We have a doctor in the village; I go to him when I need medical assistance."
This went on for months and then years. The younger man's head bowed as he respectfully listened to his learned teacher, who always interrupted his Talmudic teachings with talks about how plants in the wild can be used to a person's benefit.
One day a cloud came over the village: the Holocaust had reached the young Rabbi's village.
Facing capture and the dreaded concentration camps that were rumored to be the fate of the Jews, he fled into the forest. There he was able to live by eating the plants, shrubs, fruits and berries that his dear Rabbi had taught him would be safe to eat. When he suffered a cut or wound, he used the same herbs that he had been taught would make him well.
Not only did the young Rabbi's strong faith keep him alive but all the things his old teacher had shown and taught him, when they had wandered together through the forest years before, came to his rescue and kept him alive. What had never seemed important to the young man thirsting for Biblical knowledge, served to save his life.
After the Holocaust ended, the young man went on to become a great, learned Rabbi, in his turn revered by those whose lives he touched.
We never know how important our learning may prove to be. We should savor all kinds of knowledge; you can never tell when one will become important later in life.
Exercise: How can you relate to this story?
Have you ever learned something that when you first started, it seemed purposeless and burdensome?
I remember how terrible I felt when I first took typing. How boring the practice exercises were!
Yet, over the years typing has proven to be one of my greatest assets, making it possible for me to keep notes and records on so much of both my personal and professional life.
Can you reminisce about some form of learning that went from feeling irritating and annoying, to becoming a very positive, important part of your life? If you have a story from your life, write it down. If you can't think of one, just carry with you the memory of the Rabbi's walks in the forest. You never know when something you're asked to learn will someday result in enchantment rather than in frustration or annoyance.
Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein , originator of THE ENCHANTED SELF®, a method of bringing delight and meaning into everyday living, invites you to view her new line of ENCHANTED WOMAN products, downloadable e-books, and free gifts at http://www.enchantedself.com
from the February 2004 Edition of the Jewish Magazine