“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was within me an invincible summer.” (Albert Camus)
There are instances in our lives (many, perhaps) that remain with us for a lifetime. Whether positive or negative, these encounters make an impact, embedding themselves within our psyche. Over time, these moments transform and evolve.
Judaism teaches us that a moment is here, and a moment is gone. Everything that occurs in our lives can be used as a valuable lesson to inspire growth and create change. Much of what the Torah teaches us to do here in the physical world holds its true purpose in the spiritual world. And, ultimately, as shown by this story from King Solomon, we are told to stay awake throughout our lives and embrace each moment. The story goes like this:
King Solomon’s kingdom was a harmonious one, in part, because he had a servant who always did perfectly what the King asked him to do. Soon, other servants became jealous and the harmony was disrupted. In order to restore the harmony, the King decided to set up a situation where his faithful servant would fail.
The King called him in and said, “I would like you to find me a ring which, when you are happy and you put it on, you become sad and if you are sad and you put it on, you become happy.”
“No problem,” said the servant, “I will have it to you in a few days.”
“No, no, no,” the King replied, “Pesach is a few weeks away. I would like you to present it at the first Seder.”
“Fine.” When his local search proved unsuccessful, the servant organized search groups – one to the north, one to the south, one to the east and one to the west. He told each group to ask everyone they ran into if they had heard of such a ring or knew where he could get one. The members of his search party came back with absolutely nothing.
The servant began to panic and increased his own efforts. Soon, it was two days before the Seder. The servant was upset and depressed. How could he disappoint the King? He had always fulfilled his requests easily and speedily. The servant wandered around the streets of Jerusalem and found himself in the slums of the city.
It was here that he saw a small Jewelry shop. He passed by it, quite forlorn, but then turned back. “What could I possibly have to lose?” he thought out loud. He went in and told the jeweler what he was looking for.
“Sure! Sure!” said the Jeweler, “I can make such a ring.” He dug into a drawer filled with trinkets and bangles and chains and whatnot. He pulled out a ring and engraved something upon it and handed it to the servant. The King’s servant couldn’t even look at the ring. He put it in his pocket and left.
Walking with his head hung low, the servant hoped the King would forget his request from weeks before. The night of the Seder, the servant was sad and miserable. The King, with a huge smile on his face called the servant up to present the ring.
“Did you get the ring?” the King asked.
“I hope so,” the servant replied.
“Well, give it here,” the King boldly said.
The servant hesitantly and anxiously handed over the ring. The King put it on, looked at it and – immediately – the smile was wiped from his face. The servant, upon seeing the King’s mood shift, began to smile.
On the ring, the jeweler had inscribed the words gam zeh yavor, meaning, “This, too, shall pass”.
When one is in the midst of devastation or upheaval, it is challenging to recognize that the moment will pass. One is not yet prepared to grow from the experience, to learn from it, change from it and move on from it. But, if we don't, we will remain stuck.
Our darkness has the potential to lead us to light. Unfortunately, without darkness, we would not even know the light. This, in no way, provides us with answers for those moments, but it does give us reason to move forward, to overcome and to discover joy once more. It also reminds us to stay awake during the breathtaking moments and to pay attention to everything in between.
The world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it. (Helen Keller)