Solving the Mysteries of Life


Solving the Mysteries of Life


Search our Archives:

Opinion & Society

"The Tale Of Finkel"

by Jason Endfield © 2003

Chaim Finkel - just Finkel to those few who knew him - was a thoughtful man. He pondered life's mysteries while he went about his everyday business. He was around middle aged, tall and with pronounced, and not very flattering, features. His black hair was good and thick, though here and there a little grey.

Each day, as he walked to work along the banks of the Vistula River, he would throw bread to the ducks and swans and with each piece that he threw he would ask the bird a question: "why are we here, bird?", "why do we grow old?", "why must we lose loved ones?". He listened for their answers and imagined the Great One would answer him through these lovely creatures.

When he reached the small bookshop in town where he worked, he would ponder some more and he gazed for long periods deep in thought. Often the shop's owner, Reb Perlmann, would scold him, "Finkel! Stop dreaming and stack books! The world moves too fast for dreamers!"

In the evening, Finkel would walk home again along the Vistula's bank, though now the ducks and swans were gone, preparing to roost on the islets in the river. Now, depending on the time of year, there may be hundreds of frogs croaking excitedly, or a few fish leaping in and out of the water; this fascinated Finkel - how was it, he wondered, that these simple creatures had such unbounded joy in life? Did they not know that they would one day die? Did they merely act on instinct? Finkel didn't think so - put a fish in a jar and the joy is gone; it is the freedom that provides the joy.

Finkel would often go to see the Rabbi. He would visit the Rabbi burdened with a question and, usually, after nodding thoughtfully, the Rabbi would give the same answer: "Finkel, you should stop thinking and start living; when you have started living you will let the Almighty take care of such matters as suffering, death and injustice. These are His concerns."

Finkel didn't really understand this but he would thank the Rabbi and leave. In his prayers he would sometimes ask the Almighty for answers but mostly he asked for health for his family. He had no wife, but elderly parents who loved him dearly and whom he loved more than anything else in the world.

Finkel had wanted a wife but it had never happened; there were many matchmakers in town but he had only once been offered a match and she was, may we be forgiven for saying so, not a beauty and had neither brains nor the ability to cook. Finkel turned her down gracefully and she married a gentile woodcutter and bore him two ugly, stupid children. Occasionally Finkel wondered what his life would have been like had he married this woman but he knew that marriage cannot change a person's traits and she would have retained her own particular faults.

Finkel was aware that he was no handsome brut but he wasn't a toad either and, as his mother had said at the time, why should he settle for less than the best? So it was that Finkel had reached middle age and had ever more questions on his mind.

Then it happened one day as Finkel walked to work. As usual he had with him some bread and many questions for the birds. He threw a piece of bread to a small brown duck and asked it a question, "what is the secret of happiness, bird?" To his astonishment, the duck fixed Finkel in it's gaze and swam to the water's edge; it stepped out of the water, shook itself and marched up to Finkel, who was so taken aback that he felt his legs give way and he found himself sitting on the wet grass by the river.

The little duck purposefully approached him and perched on Finkel's lap. It began to quack and Finkel found that he could understand what the duck was saying! Finkel sat open mouthed and stared at the little brown duck.

"Finkel," said the duck, it's eyes staring into those of the amazed man, "you want so many answers and you have so many questions, but the answer to all of them is the same - Finkel, your Rabbi is right, life is for living. You have been given a most unusual gift, the gift of life; the animals, the birds and the trees - we all have been given this gift, and we are enjoying it. So you should be too Finkel. Only the Great One knows how long we each have here before we are taken or some mishap befalls us, so Finkel we all must enjoy what time we have and live our life to the fullest. Finkel, that is the answer to all of your questions."

With that, the duck winked at Finkel, turned around and waddled back into the river. Finkel stood up, brushed himself down and shook his head in disbelief as if waking from a dream.

He didn't make it into work that day.

The next morning his parents received a note from him and a large sum of money. Finkel himself was never seen again.

Jason Endfield is a UK based Jewish writer. Currently he is seeking a publisher for his collection of short stories. He can be contacted via:


from the March 2004 Edition of the Jewish Magazine




The Jewish Magazine is the place for Israel and Jewish interest articles
The Current Monthly Jewish Magazine
To the Current Index Page
Write to us!
Write Us
The Total & Complete Gigantic Archive Pages for all issues
To the Big Archives Index Page