Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


We Must Appreciate What We Have

"Man muss zufrieden sein"


There is an ancient Chassidic story that has been told for many generations.  A poor Jewish farmer lives with his wife and ten children in a one room shack.  He works very hard and his home is overcrowded.  He wants to resolve his dilemma; thus, he visits his Rabbi to find a solution.  The good Rabbi is the wisest of men in his village, a “Chochem,” a scholar who was blessed by “Haschem”  (G’d) with the ability to assist in answering questions that help in alleviating problems through his enormous insight into humanity's ills. 

The poor Jewish man walks for several miles, knocks on the Rabbi's door and receives  a hearty welcome as he tells of his misfortune.  The good Rabbi tells him to go home and take his cow into the shack.  The farmer is puzzled but does what he is told.  It is not quite a day when he returns for consultation with his mentor.  The Rabbi, stroking his gray beard, advises the man to add his goat to his home.  Again he does as directed.  Again, he returns to the Rov and speaks of his unhappiness with his situation.  Once more he is directed to add his sheep to his entourage.  Two days pass; the poor man is exhausted from walking to and from his problem solver.  The latter, after offering the poor man a Glaesele (glass) of tea, directs his visitor to invite his goose into his shack.  The noise and the crowding seems close to unbearable in the little shack.  In desperation, he hobbles to the “Schul” adjoining the Rabbi's dwelling.  He enters and sees the Rabbi davening.  The poor man, between prayers, approaches the wise man who is schockling back and forth pulling his beard, looking up to heaven.  The Rabbi turns to the almost desperate human before him.  He then asks the poor man to daven (pray) with him and then strongly suggests that he delete the cow from the room.  The good man sees his Rabbi many more times and is advised to delete one animal after another.  As the last animal is deleted, the poor man is so overjoyed that he can barely contain himself.  His home suddenly seems so spacious, as he appreciates every blessing that he has!

There is another story, although not of a Jewish content or nature, that speaks of a poor man who was visited by a “genie.”  The creature offers the man one wish that he can be granted.  It does not take long before the poor man asks for a sack of gold.  He is to rub a magic salve in his right eye, with magical qualities, which when it is applied to the right eye and the right eye only will grant  his desire.  The action as directed will instantly produce the wealth of one sack of gold.  The genie does as he had promised and produces  the magical salve.  The genie, with a wave of his body, disappears instantaneously.  The recipient dips his finger into the salve then closes his eye lid as directed by his vanished visitor.  When he opens his eyes a sack of gold is standing before him glistening at his feet.  He is thrilled and cannot believe his good fortune.  It does not take long, however, that he looks at the size of the sack and he ponders how much he can buy and own with the contents of the container.  He realizes that he never owned that much in his whole life.  Yet he wishes he had yet more and how all of his neighbors would envy him if he had yet more of this sparkling treasure.  After some pondering he makes his decision.  He so very much wanted to be the richest man in his town.  He reaches for the salve that he had been given and smears another potent dab into his left eye, then closes both eyes and chuckles with the joy of anticipation.  How happy he would be when he could buy any and everything that his heart desires and much, much more.  He thought about how he would guard his treasure and how his neighbors and others in his surroundings would bow before him and how good he would be and how happy his riches would make him.  After wallowing in his thoughts and subsequent anticipated happiness, he opened his eyes and, lo and behold, he was blind!


Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

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