The Rooster Prince


A very wealthy King had a young Prince who was to be heir to his entire Kingdom. The prince would wear fine robes and attend elaborate feasts where he would sit at the head of the table and discuss the great issues of the day with esteemed guests from all around the world. Everyone looked to the Prince for inspiration and leadership. 

One day, no one is really sure why, the Prince suddenly decided that he was a rooster. He stripped down to all but a loin cloth and squatted beneath the table pecking at scraps like the rest of the roosters, clucking and crowing as roosters do. At first, everybody thought this was a joke, but it soon became clear that the Prince had indeed convinced himself that he was a rooster.

This went on for weeks and the Prince didn’t snap out of it. He remained beneath the table in his loincloth, behaving like a rooster. The King was greatly disturbed and didn’t know what to do. He secretly had the best doctors in the Kingdom brought to the castle to try and restore the Prince to his former self. One by one, they did their best. Some tried to convince him logically that he was not a rooster with well reasoned arguments but the Prince would just look at them, turn his head sideways and cluck. Others tried to scare his sense back into him. Some even tried feeding him elaborate concoctions but none of it worked. The Prince still believed that he was not a Prince, but a rooster. Finally, the King brought in the local Rabbi.  

“Rabbi, please, I beg you,” said the King, “Restore my son to what he once was.”

The Rabbi looked at the Prince squatting under the table pecking at the scraps and said, “I believe I can do this but you’ll have to give me a week.”

The King agreed and the Rabbi set to work. He stripped to all but a loin cloth and got under the table and squatted. He pecked on the scraps and clucked and crowed like a rooster just like the Prince. The Prince immediately warmed to his fellow rooster.

 After two days of this, the Rabbi said to the Prince, “You know, we can still be roosters if we eat good food from plates. There’s no reason we must peck at these scraps.” 

The Prince shrugged and agreed with an approving, “BUCK BUCK,” so the King ordered the servants to put all the finest foods from the top of the table underneath the the table and for the next two days, the Prince and the Rabbi squatted under the table in nothing but their loincloths, clucking and crowing, while eating the finest foods with a knife and a fork.

After these two more days were up, the Rabbi said to the Prince, “You know we can still be roosters if we talk to one another. There’s no reason we must cluck and crow.”

The Prince looked at the Rabbi and said, “Sure. That makes sense.” So for the next two days, the Prince and the Rabbi squatted under the table in nothing but their loincloths, talking with one another, while eating the finest foods with a knife and a fork. 

Finally, on the sixth day, the Rabbi said to the Prince, “You know, we can still be roosters if we wear clothes and sit at the table. There’s no reason we must squat beneath the table in nothing but our loincloths.”

The Prince agreed to this and for the rest of the day, they sat at the table in their robes, talking with one another, while eating the finest foods imaginable with a knife and a fork. On the seventh day, the Rabbi bid farewell to his fellow rooster and the King thanked him from the bottom of his heart. For the rest of his days, the Prince did all the things a Prince (and later, a King) was supposed to do. He was a source of inspiration and leadership to the entire Kingdom and no one knew his secret: that deep down, no matter how he acted on the outside, he was still a rooster.

There is a profound truth at work in this engaging Jewish parable. We cannot bring true healing unless we are willing to get on people’s level. The meaning of the word “compassion” is to “suffer with.” Compassion means getting in the trenches with people and experiencing the world from their perspective. As disciples walking in the way of Jesus, we’re called to approach our neighbors the way he did. According to pastor and speaker, Ryan Leak, only 8% of Jesus’ miracles were performed in the synagogue. Jesus met people where they were at. He ate with them, drank with them, laughed with them, all the while offering steps towards healing and forgiving. When we come alongside people and help them take tiny steps toward wholeness, we are doing the sacred work of discipleship.  The way of Jesus is the way of suffering with others and bringing them through that suffering into new life. The Gospel is all just lofty talk if we are not willing, like Jesus washing his disciple’s feet and the Rabbi ministering to the Rooster Prince, to strip down to our loincloth, get on our knees, and serve.

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…


The Chameleons on the Ark


Of course there were chameleons on the ark. There was every kind of animal on the ark and Noah was in charge of feeding them all. This was much harder than you’d think! Some animals ate plants, some nuts, some berries, and of course some animals ate other animals. Some ate during the day and some ate during the night. Some ate one large meal; some ate many tiny meals and Noah was in charge of figuring this all out. One particular animal that vexed him were the chameleons. Try as he might, Noah could not figure out what the chameleons ate.

The first day, he left them grass to eat and he came by the next day and the grass was still there. So he left berries but the following day the berries were untouched. The third day, he left flies and they were left alone on the fourth. This went on for awhile and Noah became more worried and frustrated as the chameleons became smaller and paler. He would say to the chameleons, “How I wish you would just tell me what you want to eat!” but each day, the chameleons continued to deteriorate in silence.

Finally, around day 15, Noah was passing by the chameleons’ cage with a pomegranate. As he stood there pitying the marvelous and mysterious creatures who would likely not survive the flood, he began to cut his pomegranate. As he cut into the center of the fruit, a worm hopped out and fell into the cage. One of the chameleons immediately seized the worm with their tongue and ate it. Surprised and relieved, Noah sent his sons to fetch some worms to restore the chameleons to health.

Later when the flood was over and Noah was watching all the animals file out of the ark, he spotted the two healthy chameleons and felt a great sense of relief that he was no longer responsible for their care.

This old Jewish midrash demonstrates the truth that God is a much better provider than we are. As human beings, we are often quick to criticize God’s management of the world but we don’t stop to think about all the intricacies and minute details that go into creation. This parable also speaks to our tendency to try and solve our problems without God. Noah worried himself with the fate of the chameleon and took their burden fully upon himself without praying for a solution. Surely the God who was in the midst of saving all of creation from the waters of the flood could be trusted to provide worms for two small chameleons. 

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

Majority Rules…


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…

The Silver Window


Once there lived a kind and generous man. Every morning he would wake up and look out his bedroom window and gaze on all the townspeople below, saying prayers for them and counting his many blessings. During the day he would perform good deeds to the people he saw below and when he came home he would go to his bed satisfied and smiling.

Now one of the town’s elders surprised him by leaving a large sum of money upon his death, in reward for his kindness. The man decided he would use all of this money to do good deeds and bless the beloved people he saw out his bedroom window each morning. First though, he decided to allow himself one indulgence: he had the edges of his favorite window adorned with pure silver.

Each morning, the man got up and went out to his bedroom window and looked down as was his custom and prayed for the people below, and resolved to do good deeds for them. But each morning, he also looked at the silver adorning the outside of his window and thought, “How much beautiful would this window be, if I added a little more silver!”

Slowly, but surely, he began to spend less of his money on his fellow townsfolk and more adorning the edges of his favorite window. As the silver took up more and more of the window, he saw less and less of his fellow townspeople, so he thought of them less and prayed for them less. Until, at last, one morning the man woke up and looked into his silver window and all he saw was his own reflection.

This lovely Jewish parable reminds us that the process of becoming completely self centered is a slow one that begins around the edges, but will eventually consume us if we let it. To follow Christ means to love others as we love ourselves. To serve Him is to serve our neighbor. These things bring contentment and joy. Serving ourselves and loving ourselves brings only darkness and despair. Perhaps the difference between heaven and hell is the difference between a window and a mirror.

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

Elijah’s Cup


The Rabbi Bel Shem Tov joyfully celebrated Passover every year with his disciples. They faithfully observed the Seder tradition of leaving a cup for the prophet Elijah at the table and opening the door for him towards the end of the meal. One year, when it came close to time for the Passover celebrations, one of the Rabbi’s disciples came to him and lamented:

“Every year, we celebrate Pesach together and every year we leave a cup for Elijah and every year we open the door for him towards the end of the meal. Yet, year after year, he fails to show. Why does the ancient prophet spurn us so?” 

Rabbi gave this question some thought before responding. 

“Let me tell you what you must do,” he said, “On the first night of Passover, pack up a cart with food, wine, matzos, and gifts for children. Go to the next village over. There is a small house in the poorest part of town with a green painted bench outside. Go into this home and celebrate Passover with the family inside. Elijah is sure to show up there.”

When the time came, the disciple did as the Rabbi had instructed. He showed up to the house with his cart. He was greeted warmly and invited inside. The kids loved their gifts and they all celebrated together. The disciple had a marvelous time that night but the prophet Elijah never showed up, even when they opened the door for him. His cup remained at its place untouched. The disciple came home dejected.

“I thought for sure Elijah would show up,” the Rabbi said, “He must have been delayed or you must have been late and missed him. I’m sure if you go even earlier next year, you will see him.”

The disciple awaited with anticipation all year until the holiday finally came back around. Then he did as he was instructed the year before. He loaded a cart with food, wine, matzos, and gifts for the kids, and he went to the instructed house, even earlier than the previous year. As he was wheeling his cart past the green painted bench to the door of the small house, he over heard a conversation. 

“What are we going to do?” the wife was asking her husband, “We don’t have anything to celebrate with this year. No food. No gifts. Nothing.”

“Do not worry,” he reassured her, “Don’t you remember how last year we had nothing to celebrate with and the prophet Elijah himself showed up with everything we needed for the meal? God provided for us last year and He will provide again this year.”

The disciple wiped several tears from his eyes, smiled, and walked through the door to take his place at the table and drink from his cup.

It is traditionally believed that Elijah will show up to mark the beginning of the Messianic age, bringing redemption to the people of Israel. For this reason, the Elijah Cup is always present at a Passover Seder as a symbol of hope and expectation. “Be the change you want to see.” is the central message of this beautiful Hasidic parable. Each of us can bring a little redemption to this Earth by showing kindness to those in need. May we who walk in the way of Jesus show warmth and hospitality to our brothers and sisters who celebrate Passover this week. Our traditions this week are very different but we are similarly brought to a table in the name of love. We similarly wait for a promise to be fulfilled. Let us not forget that in the meantime we can be instruments of redemption by showing kindness to our neighbors.

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

When Night is Over…


A Rabbi once asked his disciples, “How do you know when night is over and dawn has come?”

“Night is over and dawn has come,” said one of the disciples, “when there is enough light that you can look out on a hillside, see an animal, and distinguish whether it is a sheep or a dog.”

“No,” said the Rabbi.

Another of the disciples decided to give the answer a try. “Night is over and dawn has come,” he said, “when there is enough light that you can look out into the yard, see a tree, and distinguish whether it is a fig tree or an olive tree.”

“No,” said the Rabbi again.

So the disciples asked the Rabbi to tell them the answer to the question. The Rabbi smiled and said,  “When you have enough light within you that you can look at a stranger and see a brother, then the night is finally over and dawn has come.”

“Sorrow may last for a night,” declares the Psalmist, “but joy comes in the morning.” What will that morning look like? How will we know it is upon us? This parable teaches us the simple truth that when we begin to see the world through the eyes of grace and compassion, morning is near. We see each other as through a glass darkly. We despise the faults in others that we excuse in ourselves. We do our best to not even see a stranger in need. But When we finally learn to see the image of God in others, we are walking in the light of Jesus. Night is finally behind us and dawn has come.

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

Nathan’s Parable


After King David had slept with Uriah the Hittite’s wife, Bathsheba, and impregnated her, he arranged for Uriah to be killed in battle so that he could take Bathsheba as his own. This angered God greatly. So He sent the prophet Nathan to confront the King.

Nathan feared for his life. What if the King decided to kill Nathan right then and there to keep the rumor of his sin from spreading? It was not uncommon for powerful men to kill those that brought them terrible news. Still, God had sent Nathan to rebuke King David and he resolved to be faithful to his call. Nathan devised a creative way to confront the King. While David was sitting on his throne, judging the people and arbitrating their disputes, Nathan came forward and brought him a case:

“O King, in one of your towns lives two men. One of those men is quite wealthy and the other is vey poor. The wealthy was blessed with hundreds of sheep and cattle but the poor man had nothing but a little lamb he bought at the market place. The poor man loved this lamb. It grew up in his house alongside his children. He fed it with food and drink from his very own table. Often times the little lamb even slept in his arms.

O King, one day a traveler came to this town and, as it is custom, the rich man invited him in and offered him a meal. Only, the rich man refused to slaughter any of his own sheep for the meal. Instead, he took the little lamb belonging to the poor man, without his knowledge or consent, and slaughtered it to feed to traveler.”

King David was enraged when he heard this. 

“As surely as the LORD lives, this man must die! Bring him to me and he will be forced to pay for that lamb four times over for doing such a cruel and merciless thing!”

Then Nathan stood up straight and his eyes flashed as with the fire of God. He pointed at King David and said, “You are the man!” 

Nathan then told the shocked King how he had offended God and he laid out the severe consequences that would result. Rather than getting angry or defensive, David simply bowed his head and said, “I have sinned against the LORD.”

It is a difficult thing to speak the truth to power. So difficult that many stomach injustice rather than standing up for what is right. This story from the Hebrew Bible demonstrates the profound effect a little bravery can have. Nathan used the power of story to tug at the heart of his King so that he could see the error of his ways. Jesus, too used story to show the powerful their folly. He also challenged them directly. Disciples walking in the way of Jesus have a responsibility to stand up to the powerful when they wield it to hurt others. Sometimes this means being straight forward. Other times it may take a more creative approach. Through art, we can hold a mirror up to the face of the powerful and let them see just who they are and what they are doing. As Hamlet says: “The play’s the thing, wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…