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The precious jewels had been scattered to the farthest reaches of the globe. How would the king recover that which was most dear to him?

The Palace and the Pigeons

The Palace and the Pigeons

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Once there was a king whose palace had been ransacked by the wild hordes. For the wood and stone of the palace he had no tears, but for the crown jewels, passed down for many generations, for this there was no consolation.

The king gathered his wise men, but none could give counsel. The jewels had been spread by those barbarian hordes throughout the land and throughout many other lands, the most precious of them taken across the seas to the farthest reaches of the globe. But the King had a daughter very dear to him, and in her wisdom she saw what needed to be done.

So the king and his daughter trained many pigeons to return to the palace, to recognize the crown jewels and carry them back on their journey. Each day they would release the pigeons in the pastures about the palace and some would discover the jewels scattered about and return them to their home. And the king was glad and smiled to his daughter.

Then the king's daughter sent them further away, and again they returned, carrying a few more of the jewels her father had lost. As far away as they were sent, they hastily returned.

But the most valuable jewels, those in the most distant lands and most hidden places, those jewels had not yet been recovered. The pigeons did not venture far enough to find them — they were too eager to return home.

The king's daughter knew what must be done, but she could not tell her father, for it was too hard, too dangerous, too awful. But he looked in her eyes and he knew. And so he destroyed his palace once again, razing it to the ground, removing its every trace. When the pigeons attempted to return, they found nothing, no more than an empty pasture with scattered stones and smoldering wood. They were hungry for their food and sick for their home.

Until the most adventurous of the pigeons traveled far abroad and found other palaces, and in those palaces they found hidden the king's most precious jewels, and gathered them and polished them and kept them in their wings. And at night they cried, for they knew this was not their home.

And now has come the time for them to all return.


I can't explain to you everything meant by this story. If I could, what would I need a story for? I would just explain it to you without the story. But I can tell you some of the teachings that form its basis.

For one, you need to know what the great Kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, known as Ari Hakadosh ("The Holy Lion"), taught about our world. He taught that there is not a thing in this world that does not contain a holy spark. Even the greatest evil, even the harshest darkness that does everything it can to oppose its Creator and deny any purpose or goodness in the world, even that contains a Divine spark. And it needs that spark, because without it, it would not be able to exist for even a moment. Why then is it evil? Because the spark it contains is so dim, so concealed, its only way of expression is to be the opposite of what it truly is.

So you might think that if that spark is so dim, it couldn't be a very important spark. Maybe G‑d could do without it. But the Maggid of Mezritch taught just the opposite, that it is the highest sparks that fall furthest from their source. So in places that are warm and friendly to holiness, there are going to be some warm and friendly sparks. But if you want the most powerful sparks, the sparks that talk about the real essence of G‑d, then you need to deal with the places that are furthest from their source.

As long as all these sparks are held hostage in things and places that don't know the real meaning of what they hold inside, the world is not fulfilled. That is how the Ari describes Torah and Jews — they are the way those sparks become reconnected to their source.

In our history, the pattern of destruction and exile has repeated itself many times. We began in exile, in the land of Egypt. Then there was the destruction of the first Holy Temple and exile to Babylonia, and then the second destruction and a very lengthy exile which we still endure. There is no other nation that has been spread so far apart, yet retained identity a single whole, always with hope to return. And all of it was part of His Divine plan, to retrieve all the sparks of holiness.

But now has come the time for us to all return home.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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Robert Mykoff Louisiana, US January 1, 2015

Sparks & abilities Thanks for another great story and article/lesson... If we as society would teach more kids the meaningfulness of their inner Spark, their abilities, their great potential to transform & grow, they would be more emboldened to utilize education, questions and honest journeys to find destinations & paths of infinitely good intent that would then inspire them and their peers for healing/Tikkun that would bring them the light of good will and teamwork necessary to lift all struggles to unending levels of peace and healthy prosperity.

Keep up the great work. Reply

Janis Hammons Mississippi, USA November 1, 2014

An absolutely insightful article. Thank you. Reply

Anonymous Kanata October 29, 2014

Beautiful Jewels For each ger, my truest thanks for your beautiful story. May every newchild , whether gers or of any origin, be blessed to become enchanted by life, and may they all live long together in a state of joy, and also in peace. Reply

Yosef Y Israel December 13, 2013

Dim Sparks? "Because the spark it contains is so dim, so concealed, that its only way of expression is to be the opposite of what it truly is."

Can someone elaborate please? (From Chassidic Sources; or provide sources so I may read further) Reply

YW Purnomosidhi April 4, 2013

Thank you for your story, Rabbi. It opens my eyes! Reply

Mercedita Cabagte November 12, 2012

Thank you for the story, rabbi Tzvi Freeman. I am hoping that I can elaborate the message well. G-d bless us all! Reply

cowfy komemiyote, israel July 25, 2012

pigeons i'd venture some places had good pigeon soup for lunch. Reply

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman January 8, 2012

Source You can call it a modern midrash if you like. Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn, NEW YORK January 5, 2012

whats the source of the story , midrash etc ? Reply

Alexandra New York, NY January 4, 2012

the younger sons of Abraham Dear R. Freeman, I can appreciate the depth and the purpose of the last exile you describe. I grew up in the Soviet Union with no religion at all. I believe it is no accident that when my time came to look for spirituality, I came across Yoga and Zen first, several years before lighting my first Shabbat candle. I did come back to the religion of my great-grandparents, but not before picking up some jewels from the wisdom of the younger descendants of Abraham. I believe this enhances my understanding and appreciation of the teachings of Chabad and Jewish philosophy. Thank you for telling the story! Reply

Christina Venter Cape Town, South Africa January 4, 2012

The Palace and the Pigeons Thank you dear Rabbi for this story. All glory to Avinu Malkeinu for loving us so much. For His patience with mankind as a whole and for hastening our return. Blessed be His Holy Name. Blessed be He for healing the nations. There is healing in His wings. Reply

Tzvi Fishman Yerushalayim January 3, 2012

Why not tell the whole story? The story can only be complete when the pearls return to where they originated - in the Land of Israel. Jews who return to the Torah in Melbourne, LA, Paris, or Brooklyn are only half the way home. With prayers for a complete and speedy Redemption. Reply

Helly Nahmad January 2, 2012

BRAVO!!
But the answer lies in one simple word...Love. The ONLY and most simple, wonderful, express route to G-D and to happiness is simply to LOVE each other. The rest is commentary. Reply

shalom el west palm beach, fl/usa January 2, 2012

palace and pigeons I agree. Reply

paolo alazraki milan, italy January 2, 2012

todays conference Very interesting, thanks Reply

Smadar Thornhill, ON/Canada January 2, 2012

The Palace and the Pigeons You say that the greatest destruction happened 70 years ago, and now we must leave the comfort of what we know as home and travel to the farthest reaches of our world to find the brightest of our sparks. Perhaps we will discover that the search for the these brightest of sparks takes us farther than we even imagined ... into ourselves. Reply

K Deepak Kapoor Melbourne, FL USA December 1, 2010

Jewish Faith I am not Jewish but came across these beautiful traditions and stories. So INSPIRING and uplifting.
I bow my head in reverence to all those who despite their own suffering have managed to keep the Faith.
Happy Hanukkah. Reply

Gary Smith Owings Mills, Maryland, USA July 12, 2010

No freedom without observance Thank you for your extraordinarily insightful thoughts. General knowledge teaches that World War II was the end of the Great Depression because everyone was employed fighting evil. While this thinking has it's place, you have shown me another, bigger story taking place.
Instead of seeing the great economic boom of the post WW II era as a wonderful thing for mankind, and as the United States being a sort of fertile garden of Eden where all would flourish and evil be forgotten, you say that "when the communities of Europe were suddenly and brutally destroyed, along with all but a handful of the great tzaddikim, that is when the greatest darkness began." I instantaneously and immediately was taken back to the recent Parshah where the spies sent by Moses returned from the land flowing with milk and honey to say that, and I paraphrase, "the land devours the people!" They saw that the people were working themselves to death to have more and more of what they don't really want or need. Reply

Anonymous Kanata, ON June 29, 2010

One whale of a tale - maybe suggest that a spark means G-ds' light within?
Almost electrifying. Reply

Sunday Arimoro Lagos, Nigeria December 8, 2009

Re- The Palace and the pigeons The story shows that we must let go of our pleasure in order to have it. Reply

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