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The Chicken Prince

The Chicken Prince

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Rabbi Nachman of Breslov often related the following parable:

There was once a prince who lived with his father and mother, the king and queen, in a splendid fashion. He received the finest education and upbringing.

To his parents' chagrin, one day the prince went through an identity crisis and came to the conclusion that he was really a turkey and not a human being.

Initially, the king and queen thought he was kidding. However, after he stopped joining them at the royal table and instead, moved under the table and sat there naked and pecking at crumbs, they knew that serious trouble was afoot.

Needless to say, the prince's strange behavior caused indescribable angst for his loving parents, and intense embarrassment for the royal family at large. The king was ready to spare no expense for the person who could cure his son. The finest doctors and psychiatrists of the land came and tried to cure the prince, all to no avail.

The king was at a loss until a gentle-looking wise man came to the palace. "I hereby offer to cure the prince free of charge," declared the man. "My only condition is that no one interferes with anything I do."

Intrigued and desperate, the king and queen readily agreed.

The following day, the prince had company under the table. It was the wise man. "What are you doing here?" asked the turkey prince.

"Why are you here?" countered the man.

"I am a turkey," responded the prince emphatically.

"Well, I am also a turkey," the man replied. With that, he began to gobble like a turkey and peck at the crumbs on the floor. The prince was convinced. A few days passed in this fashion.

One morning, the wise man signaled to the king to bring him a shirt. He said to the prince, “I don’t see any reason a turkey can’t wear a shirt.” The prince thought about it and agreed, and soon the two of them were wearing shirts.

Soon the wise man asked to be brought a pair of pants. He said to the prince, “Is it forbidden for turkeys to wear pants? Certainly not!” The prince thought it over and agreed, and soon the two of them were wearing pants.

So the process continued. Shortly thereafter, the wise man convinced the turkey prince that it was not forbidden for turkeys to eat human food, which was surely tastier. Then came sitting at the table and enjoying human conversation. Within a short time, the turkey prince, although still maintaining that he was a turkey, began conducting himself exactly like a regular person.

Fortunately, most of us don't suffer from turkey complexes. But here's a question we can all ask of ourselves: Am I limiting my potential because of my self perception?

Rabbi Yossy Gordon was born in Worcester, Mass., and serves as Executive Vice President of the Chabad on Campus International. Rabbi Gordon makes his home in Miami Beach, Fla., with his wife, Rochel, and their six children.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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Stephanie Japan May 23, 2008

Timely for me, also! I think it's important to note that the Prince could only bear returning to "human life" when someone else was willing to accept him and join him, rather than fight or argue or prod or harangue.

Maybe we could all live more like princes if we accepted each others' feelings of chickenness, but still encouraged one another to try expressing it in another way. Reply

Kelly Rae Sydney, AU December 30, 2007

Timely! Thank you for this article. The message was a timely one for me. Reply

Julie Singer Rocky Hill, CT December 28, 2007

Re: A Life Apart "Anonymous" is most fortunate. There are those of us for whom "chickenhood" comes naturally. We must behave as Jews in the fervent hope of becoming. Reply

agnes forner germany, lower saxony December 28, 2007

chickenhood we are more capable than we sometimes think or expect.
We are able to do plenty- specially then to do it from the heart with love-we can manage plenty of things and specially with the power of G-d. Reply

Anonymous December 26, 2007

A Life Apart It seems that the job of a Jew is to act like a chicken during the week while knowing that that is not the case. We need to work and earn and live but not take "chickenhood" too seriously. Reply

Chabad.org Editorial Team December 26, 2007

Identity of Storyteller Thank you to the commentors who posted the corrections. Indeed it was Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, and we have corrected the article accordingly. Reply

Beverly Forman Nokomis, Fla December 26, 2007

the chicken Prince how does one become so consciousnss that they are aware of illusion????? Reply

Shmuel OKC, USA December 26, 2007

A Life Apart.... I watched the documentary "A Life Apart: Hasidism in America." In it there's a Hasid who states that he only feels like a Hasid on Shabbat, because during the work week he has to earn a living in the secular world.

Obviously he knows he's not a chicken, but what can one do when one is "cooped up" and must live like a chicken 6 days out of the week in order to provide "chicken scratchings" for one's family!?

ho wants to work in a chicken coop? It's depressing, unfulfilling and unrewarding. Reply

Joan Levine Bayonne, NJ/USA December 25, 2007

Wisdom How do we find the right "wiseman" to help our loved ones suffering from misconception about their abilities or identity? As the story relates not all "wiseman, leaders, psychiatrists" identify the problems never mind solutions. This story brings to mind the need for acceptance of our differences... getting to "yes" before we can agree to work together and accomplish something of benefit to our selves and our community. Reply

CatInAHat December 25, 2007

Sign of a great story is how it changes characters and even authors. Traditionally, The Turkey Price is one of R' Nachman of Breslov's 'simple' but kabbalistic Sipporei Maasios (stories) which he gave over (see Rabbi Nachman's Stories by R' Aryeh Kaplan). Reply

Zusha Kalet Avon, CT December 25, 2007

R. Nachman of Horodonka was the paternal grandfather of Rabbi Nachman Reply

Anonymous December 24, 2007

Nahman of Breslov I always thought it was Reb Nachman of Breslov. Reply

Elizabeth via chabadofbakersfield.com December 23, 2007

The beautiful inside out Most of us do live in a fairy land with a chicken complex. Most men have that batman super hero or a life saver complex and someone like me had a cindrella complex like the chicken prince.

There are those who got out of that chicken suit and molded their perception or personality became productive people with great professions.

And, yet there are those who have outwardly worn a suit of a great accomplisher, but inwardly has worn a chicken suit is constantly in an identity crisis or some have called the middle aged suffering from “mid-life crisis.” Such a person is like the still waters running deep or the tsunami wave.

One advice: Do not look at your outward beauty but what is inside of you and soon you will be considered beautiful from inside out. Make up your mind! Reply

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