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"A Rose by Any Other Name...!"

11/19/2020 07:05:20 PM

Nov19

Rabbi Reuben Israel Abraham, CDR, CHC, USN (ret)

This is the parable about the nurseryman and the Treasury Minister:

There were two distinct neighborhoods that bordered the expansive grounds of the Royal Palace.  The minsters, members of Parliament, and other high-browed blue-bloods lived in the neighborhood just north of the Royal Palace.  Each mansion competed with each other in grandeur.  Diamonds and gold were as plentiful as were the squirrels and pigeons, so much so that no one would even deign to bend down and pick up a stray silver talon that lay in the street.  In stark contrast was the workers’ neighborhood that lay to the south of the Royal Palace.  This area consisted of plain and simple two-room bungalows where the King’s servants lived.  These cooks, chambermaids, laundrymen, gardeners, and other servants had little to their name except for the beautiful flower gardens and impeccable cleanliness that gave their neighborhood a delightful charm.

The Treasury Minister was one of the northern neighborhood’s most important residents.  Although he was as rich as King Midas, he was beyond stingy.  All the other ministers despised him for this, and they often made comment that it was easier to extract blood from a rock than it was to obtain a shilling from the Treasury Minister.  Behind his back, they all whispered that he did not care one iota about the welfare of the King; his only joy came from seeing the royal coffers filled with gold bars.  All too often, the ministers would complain to the King that they had not received their annual allotments to which the Treasury Minister would reply that his only concern was the welfare of the kingdom.  The King, however, knew otherwise suspecting the Treasury Minister of corrupt behavior.  In fact, the King strongly believed that the Treasury Minister had been stealing from the royal coffers for years.  But because the kingdom was currently engaged in a war, the King could not make the opportunity to expose the scandal.  Instead, he decided to give the Treasury Minister more rope with which to hang himself.

The nurseryman who lived in the southern neighborhood was a cordial, kind, and simple man of extraordinary character.  He was always ready to do a favor for anyone be they rich or poor.  His love for the King knew no bounds, and he was willing to go to any length to see to it that the King was always satisfied.  In fact, the entire kingdom expressed amazement at the nurseryman’s dedication to his beloved King.  Every morning at 9 A.M. sharp, the King would cross the main road that separated the Royal Palace from the Parliament building.  The nurseryman would precede the King by one hour clearing from the monarch’s path all the horse droppings that had accumulated the previous day.  By 9 A.M., the road was spotless and sweet-smelling in honor of the King.  The nurseryman would then take the manure that he had loaded in the wagon and use it to fertilize the King’s chamber gardens.

The King’s chamber gardens resembled a miniature Garden of Eden, a small piece of Heaven on Earth.  Aromatic herbs grew alongside exotic flowers that represented every color of the spectrum.  Fruit trees of every variety sprang up from lush, green lawns frequented by all kinds of birds and butterflies.  The King loved to stroll in his personal Shangri-La often picking a ripe plum or persimmon right off the tree.  All this came about due to the hard work and diligent effort of the nurseryman who never sought anything in return from the King.  He toiled for the King from before dawn until far after the sun’s setting.  In the morning he would clean and fertilize.  In the afternoon he would prune and weed.  In the evening he would plant and water.  The palace chamber gardens were his doing and his doing alone.

One day, the Treasury Minister decided to give in to his long-time desire for an enticing red Jonathan apple from the King’s personal apple tree, this in spite of the fact that he had more than a dozen such trees on the grounds of his own estate.  With no shame whatsoever, he trespassed into the royal chamber gardens.  Just as his hand was about to snatch the apple of his eye, the King suddenly appeared.  “You dare to pick my apples under my own nose, Treasury Minister?  Is there no limit to your audacity?”  The King, who had been secretly watching the Treasury Minister all along, had already summoned the Palace Guard to make haste to the doomed minister’s mansion in order to confiscate the hundreds and hundreds of gold bars of royal gold that the Treasury Minister had stolen over the years.

          In this week’s parashah, Parashat Toldot, we read the following: “And Yitzchak sowed in that land, and he found in that year a hundredfold, and HaShem blessed him.” (Braysheet 26:12) Rashi comments on this verse saying that the people of that generation used to remark that the manure of Yitzchak’s mules was better than all of Avimelekh’s gold and silver.  Yitzchak resembles the nursery man in the parable in that he, like the nurseryman, would take the crudest material waste and convert it into a thing of beauty and spiritual gratification for the King of Kings, for Hashem.  Everything that Yitzchak did became a path in this world for more prayer, more Torah, and more good deeds to honor Hashem.  Like the Treasury Minister, Avimelekh used the land for his own personal appetites, trying to steal everything Yitzchak owned from the wells he had dug to the wife he had married.  Thus, by the verse found in our Torah it is easy to see how the manure of Yitzchak’s mules made a greater impact on the world than did Avimelekh’s gold and silver.  Perhaps it is indeed a mitzvah to “stop and smell the roses” in order to recognize and appreciate what Hashem has given and continues to give us.aShemHh

Sun, March 7 2021 23 Adar 5781