For the past few weeks, we talked about “self-esteem” using stories because our lives are stories. I would like to conclude the series with a tale (cheldecheduch el chelid) that changed my worldview.
In every culture, stories are told from generation to the next to bequeath wisdom to their children. For example, we have the story of Uab – a greedy child who couldn’t be satisfied with enough. His hungry soul couldn’t be satisfied and demanded for more…! He was burned alive, as it were!
Here’s the story:
There was a young man who lived long ago in Istanbul, Turkey. Because he was poor, he had only a single room, sparsely furnished with a few books and a small cot for a bed. One night the young man had a dream—a vision, really. In it, he saw himself walking on a street in what he came to realize was the city of Cairo in Egypt, a place he had never been. He could clearly see the name of the street and the houses that lined the road. In the vision, he walked up to one particular house, noting the address. He entered into a tiled courtyard and then into the main house. An open door drew him to a particular room within the house. In this room sat an old man surrounded by treasures beyond anything the young man had ever imagined.
Diamonds, emeralds, and rubies were piled high in pyramid shapes. Gold and silver bars lined the walls. Exquisite carpets and artifacts from around the world lay at his feet. The young man stared at the treasures and then at the old man in amazement, for in that moment he somehow knew that these treasures belonged to him. He didn’t know how he knew (it was a vision, after all) but he was certain that all of it was rightfully his.
The young man bolted awake from the dream. So confident was he in its veracity that he set off that very day on the long journey from Istanbul to Cairo in order to claim his treasure. In those days travel was slow and the young man, being poor, had to work along the way to pay for food and lodging. After several months, he eventually arrived in Cairo. Upon making inquiries, he found the very street he had seen in his dream/vision. Sure enough, the house that he saw in the dream had contained the old man and his treasures, was precisely where the young man expected it to be. Knowing his way, he entered into the tiled courtyard and then into the room of treasures where he planned to make his claim.
There sat the old man, but there were no jewels, no gold or silver, no carpets or artifacts. The young man, undeterred by the absence of the treasures, recounted his vision to the old man and concluded by saying, “Since everything else in my vision has been accurate, I assume that the riches are hidden here somewhere. Please hand them over to me.”
The old man was silent for some time, looking intently at the young man, his eyes glistening. After a while, he spoke. “It’s strange,” he said. “I, too, had a dream. I dreamed of a young man in Istanbul who looked exactly like you.”
“Yes, go on,” implored the young man, certain that this information would lead him to his treasure.
The old man proceeded to describe the street on which the young man lived in Istanbul. He described the young man’s mother and father, his siblings, his friends at work, and the books on the wall of his simple room. “In my vision,” said the old man “the greatest treasure, more precious than all the shiny rocks and metals of the world, was there on a small cot in that room.”
The young man suddenly realized what the old one meant. In that moment, he saw that his existence, his very being, was all the treasure he would ever want or need. A profound peace overcame him. He bowed to the wise man and, taking his leave, returned home to Istanbul where he lived out his quiet days.
The young man’s journey home to himself dominates this story. As our hunger for finding treasures or any other circumstances, that we think will bring us peace slows down our homecoming to the treasure that we are. [/restrict]