Baal Shem’s parable: two men on a tightrope

1001 Tales Discourses

“How did you manage to cross?” “Whenever I felt myself toppling over to one side, I leaned to the other.” From our series 1001 Tales, compiled by Shanti.

Rope walking

Once, when the Hasidim were seated together in all brotherliness, pipe in hand, Rabbi Israel joined them.

Because he was so friendly they asked him: “Rabbi, how should we serve God?”

He was surprised at the question and replied: “How should I know?”

But then he went on to tell them this story…

There were two friends of the king and both were proved guilty of a crime. Since he loved them, the king wanted to show them mercy, but he could not acquit them, because even a king’s word cannot prevail over the law. So he gave this verdict: a rope was to be stretched over a deep chasm, and, one after another, the two were to walk across it. Whoever reached to the other side was to be granted his life.

It was done as the king ordered and the first of the friends got safely across.

The other, still standing on the same spot, cried to him: “Tell me, friend, how did you manage to cross?”

The first called back: “I don’t know anything but this: whenever I felt myself toppling over to one side, I leaned to the other.”

[…] The Rabbi is saying to his disciples, ‘You ask how we should serve God?’ He was indicating with this parable: remain in the middle.

Don’t indulge too much and don’t renounce too much. Don’t be only in the world and don’t escape out of it. Go on keeping a balance. When you feel that now you are falling into too much indulgence, lean towards renunciation, and when you feel that now you are going to become a renunciate, an ascetic, lean back again to indulgence. Keep in the middle.

Quote by Osho from The Art of Dying – Talks on Hassidism, Ch 3

Rabbi IsraelRabbi Yisroel (Israel) ben Eliezer (born circa 1700, died 22 May 1760), often called Baal Shem Tov (bɑːl ˈʃɛm ˌtʊv/), or Besht, was a Jewish mystical rabbi and is considered to be the founder of Hasidic Judaism.

Series compiled by Shanti
All excerpts can be found in: 1001 Tales

Comments are closed.