Thursday, August 14, 2008

A World Without Wind

The Ben Ish Chai, zt”l, once told a story to explain the meaning of the Talmud’s statement: “Just as the world cannot exist without wind, so too can the world not exist without the Jewish people.”
Once there was a man who would always purchase exclusive rights from the royal crown to fish in a certain area. Since he made a comfortable living, he renewed his lease yearly for a number of years. One year, the king consigned the lease for this living to another of his subjects. When the man heard this he was shocked to the core, and ran to petition his case before the king.
“Is this fair?” he cried. “Is this just? How could his majesty take away my living without even informing me?”
The king agreed that it was unfair but could not repeal a decree that he had already written. Instead, he offered to grant the former lessee another man’s rights to a different living.
The lessee objected. “This would mean that I am stealing another man’s livelihood!” he claimed. He said to the king, “You are the absolute ruler here. I want you to lease me the wind for ten thousand gold coins instead.”
The king and his advisors thought that he man was mad, but the king granted his novel request.
The owner of all rights to the wind went to all the different smiths in his town and all the ship captains and forced them to pay for using their sails and bellows that harness the wind. He also charged a fee of anyone who opened his window to catch a passing breeze. Finally, he charged everyone for the right to breathe! He made a fortune in the year that he was allowed these rights to the wind!
This is why the Jewish people are compared to the wind. Everyone needs the wind of their breath—no one can survive without it. So too, everyone is dependent on the Jewish people to live since the whole world exists in the merit of the Jewish people!

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