middot enthusiasm stories everything and nothing

everything and nothing

Written by  rebbetzin malkah

art-horse2Once upon a time, a father and a son went to sell their old horse in the market. While they were on their way to the market, a group of people commented, “We have never seen such idiots in our life. In spite of having a horse, you are walking!” They both thought about it and sat on the horse.

Another group of people came and said, “How cruel you are! You both are sitting on this poor old horse. Have some mercy on it.” They both thought about it, and the son sat on it while the father started walking.

Again, another group came across and said to the son, “What kind of young lad are you? You are enjoying a ride on this horse, while your old father has to walk in this hot weather.” The son started walking and made his father sit on the horse.

Another group came across and said to the father, “What kind of father are you? Your little son is walking and you are enjoying yourself on this horse.” Both father and son became so upset that they carried the horse on their shoulders. Then all the people started laughing at them. Finally, they got rid of that horse by throwing it into a river.

This story, when first read, might seem absurd to most of us.  But on second glance, how many of us carry on like this, seeking to adapt ourselves in every possible way without having a plan?  Are we ill-informed and certain that what is suggested to us is the right and only way?  Do we try and fit in at the expense of our honor and our values? And does it happen that whenever we are trying to adapt it becomes so burdensome that we throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater, or in this case the horse in the river?

The key to this story is that pleasing everyone is not always possible nor is it necessary.  We need to have the ability to know when to adapt and change, and when to be firm in our convictions.  Maybe one or several out of the four groups was correct, or maybe none at all.  Perhaps it was all perspective and opinion.  But if we expect to get anywhere in life, we need to hone our ability to know which group we want to be influenced by, know why we want to be influenced, or not at all. 

Adaptability is strongly connected to middah of decisiveness.  One path for one person may not necessarily be the path for another.  And even more, two people walking down the same path might appear quite differently to an observer. If we feel we are called to live our lives in a certain way, we need to be able to be adapatable, decisive and checking ourselves along the way so as to know the best way to go.  The goal in life is to learn from one another, to glean, to grow and do so with wisdom.  Let us strive to do that in a peaceful manner, in a way that is informed, and filled with settled conviction.

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