Rabbi Eliezer was famous for his extraordinary powers of persuasion. One day, he was arguing his theological position in front of a group of 10 sages. After Rabbi Eliezer had finished making what he had felt was a logically airtight argument, complete with many eloquent rhetorical flourishes and an overall sense of Holiness, he was satisfied the sages would agree with him. He had shown a mastery of scripture, appealed to all the great Rabbinical traditions, and had brought in the world’s great philosophers to bolster his case. All that was left was for the sages to vote. Eliezer was shocked when, after the vote, all ten sages rejected his position.
“I’m sorry Eliezer, it is 10 to 1. Majority rules and your position has been rejected.”
Rabbi Eliezer was dumbfounded that his great logic and rhetoric had not changed any minds, but he resolved to use more powerful means of persuasion. He said, “If I am correct, let this fig tree uproot itself and move to the other side of the yard.”
No sooner had the rabbi said this than the fig tree miraculously uprooted itself and moved to the other side of the yard. However, the sages were unmoved.
“No proof can be found in a fig tree,” they said.
“Fine…,” said Rabbi Eliezer, “If I am correct, let this stream we are standing by flow backward!”
No sooner had the Rabbi said this than the stream that they were all standing by began to flow in the other direction. However, the sages were still unpersuaded.
“No proof can be found in a stream,” they said.
Undeterred, Rabbi Eliezer bellowed in a commanding voice, “If my argument is correct, let God, Himself, say so…”
Suddenly, the clouds parted and a great shaft of light fell on the rabbi and the ten sages, and a voice, ancient and eternal, sounding like thunder and many rushing waters said, “My servant Eliezer is correct, listen to him!”
“Alright, Eliezer,” said the sages, “Now it’s 10 to 2…”
This humorous Jewish parable illustrates a profound truth: some people will never ever change their minds. Many times we expend a great deal of time and energy trying to win over people who are just not going to be won over. Disciples are of course called to share their faith and try to persuade others to trust in God but sadly some people will never be moved no matter what you say or do. In these cases we must pray that God will do in their hearts what we cannot, and then move on. Jesus, himself, could not convince his critics that his vision of God’s Kingdom was the right one. He was often frustrated with those who were hard hearted and stiff necked. Jesus focused on offering love and healing and sharing the good news with those whose hearts were opened to it. May the way of Jesus be our way as well.
Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…