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The Princess & the Peasant

The Princess & the Peasant

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There is a parable about the princess who married a peasant. Her father the king had interviewed a variety of suitors and none qualified. Finally he said: "Let the next man who walks in the door be your husband." And she agreed. And the next one to walk in was the gardener from the estates of the king, and they had to get married. He was so happy and she was devastated. But this was the situation. And they got married, and he prepared the house and he put straw on the benches where they were going to sleep, and she was not happy. And the next day he brought her potatoes and she wasn't happy, and he brought her the best tomatoes from the best of the fields, until she came back to her father and said: "Look, how can I explain to him that I am from the palace of the king? He can't offer me what I need because he has no concept that it exists."

This is a parable of the soul who married the body. The body is the peasant, offering us Wall Street and condominiums and success and power and all other kinds of potatoes and tomatoes. The soul goes to G-d and says: this peasant is not giving me what I need.

Most of us live thinking that we are the peasant. That is why however much we have it is never enough. Because we are feeding ourselves the wrong thing. It can be everything the peasant has ever dreamed of, but it's still not enough because the princess has been raised on finer stuff.

The teachings of the Chassidic masters allow us to access the consciousness of the princess. They opens our eyes to the fact that we often go through life thinking that we are something we are not, and therefore pursue things that aren't going to give us satisfaction. I had been very involved in academic thought and when I first heard the Lubavitcher Rebbe's teachings. I realized for the first time that there could be someone who completely transcends me. Coming to that point was shattering to my intellect. Until then I knew there could be a person who was like me but more intelligent, or like me but more sensitive. But when I was exposed to the Rebbe's teachings, it was the first time that I encountered someone on a completely different level. I remember sitting in classes in which the Rebbe's discourses were taught and walking out not being able to drive my car home. The Rebbe shattered my axioms about the world. Nothing else did that. This was a changing of one's whole consciousness; changing one's action was just the beginning.

Even though I didn't know what was going on inside, somehow I realized that this tree that can be planted on my own soil, that this will work with my own inner functioning. That was on an intuitive level. On more of an intellectual level, what was important was having access to the Rebbe's teachings, and seeing that his questions began where all my answers had left off.

I believe that throughout our life there are always these essence-questions that we don't even realize we are asking. There are root questions, but we are only aware of the branches. We ask a question and the words that come out are the branches. If we don't know that there's a root, we can be deluded into thinking that we can address the branch. And we will never be happy because there will always be another branch growing out from the root. We need spiritual mentors to make us aware of what our root questions are...

Excerpted from an article which appeared in Wellsprings: a journal of Jewish thought
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Discussion (4)
October 14, 2013
you
You are wonderful.
Thank you so much for this great story. It puts into words something quite wonderful.
Anonymous
ws
March 13, 2009
thanks
- I like that even more.
suzanne
Minneapolis, MN
March 13, 2009
social hierarchy and spiritual discontent
Hi Anonymous,

I found your post to be really interesting. I think the notion of a "princess" and "peasant" - or "royalty" (those perceived as socially elite) and "gardeners" (the proletariat) - applies in different ways, both in the socio-political and spiritual realms, which might even seem contradictory. On the one hand, there is a notion of a "Jewish Royal Family." Mashiach is the acme of that theme. And yet, our sages perceive the "gardeners" to be of superior stature in many ways to the educated, culturally or socially elite. They embody a purity of purpose in Jewish thought and more importantly the notion of absence of ego.

Apropos the relationship between body and soul we find two contrasting ideas as well. From one perspective, the soul is higher. it is not bound by time or space, is receptive to Gdliness and is devoid of personal agenda. The body is gross, pleasure driven and selfish. On the other hand, the soul cannot accomplish Gd's ultimate intention. Only the body can transform matter into Gdliness.

The article you are commenting on is actually a transcript of an interview that was much more subtle in its treatment of the subject. The focus here is that our soul cannot be satisfied by the pleasures of the body - just as the body could eat soil all day but not be nourished by it even though the soil causes all our food to grow.

Just some thoughts in an ongoing exploration.

Best to you,
Shimona
March 9, 2009
princess and peasant
That is one take, but I disagree. (But what do I know?) I have a boss who constantly requires ordinary workers to come up with ideas that would challenge professional efficiency experts or corporate services providers who get paid a lot of money. In his elitist mind, we would be the gardener.
Or, it is a metaphor for those marriages where the husband doesn't meet the expectations, delusional or vain though they may be.
It is the perceptual chasm between 2 different people with opposite experiences and social realities.
Anonymous
Minneapolis, MN
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