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Diamonds and Fish

Diamonds and Fish

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Once upon a time there was a poor man who heard that in a faraway land, on the other side of the deep and dangerous sea, there is a place where diamonds were as plentiful as dust -- one need only bend down, scoop them up, and fill one's pockets.

After a long and arduous journey, the man arrived in this wondrous land. Everything that had been said about it was true! Diamonds of all sizes were strewn around everywhere -- even the sand was comprised of billions of tiny glittering gems. A group of children gathered to watch the strange stranger kneeling on the ground and stuffing his pockets with stones and pebbles, but our friend was too busy to notice them.

To celebrate the end of his poverty, the traveler ordered a luxurious dinner in the most expensive restaurant in town. Feeling generous, he handed the waiter a small-sized stone and exhorted him to keep the change. Needless to say, he spent that entire night washing dishes in the kitchen to pay for his extravagance.

He quickly learned that these pebbles, each of which would be worth millions back home, were utterly worthless. Here, the currency with which people paid for goods and services was fish. In fact, few people remembered that fish were originally consumed as a food. No one was bothered by the stench which emanated from their wallets, pocketbooks and money closets. Indeed, a reeking establishment exuded the sweet aura of old money.

Once he overcame the disappointment of his lost dream, our traveler was revealed to be a most resourceful and ambitious individual. He worked hard, invested wisely, and before long he was one of the wealthiest people in the land. His businesses were headquartered in the most rancid section of old downtown and his private vaults held thousands of tons of fish.

Finally, it was time to return home. He telegraphed his family: "Am rich. We shall never want for anything in our lives. Prepare triumphant homecoming." He loaded his fortune on a fleet of ships, and set sail for his hometown.

Family and friends, dressed in their best, awaited him eagerly at the seaport. Of course, there was nothing that could be done with his shiploads of rotted fish except sail back a few miles from shore and dump them into the sea.

But later that day, as he was undressing for bed, a few specks of dust were shaken out of his trouser pockets and sparkled on the floor of his home. He and his family never again wanted for anything in their lives.


The soul, in its abode on high, hears wondrous tales of a faraway land. To get there, it must cross a deep and treacherous sea. Great treasures, it is told, are literally free for the taking in this place. A coin given to charity, a prayer uttered, a candle lit to usher in the Shabbat, a kind word extended to a troubled fellow -- the higher realms, lacking physical bodies and a material reality, can only dream of such treasures.

The soul descends into the material world and discovers that everything that had been said about this place is true. Diamonds litter the streets. Wherever one turns, await countless opportunities to do mitzvot, good and G‑dly deeds. One need only bend down to the ground and fill one's pockets.

Yet the value of these "diamonds" are not appreciated in this alien land. "Riches" of an entirely different sort bekon, so that when the time comes to return, many a soul finds itself lugging home shiploads of fetid fish.

But no soul can traverse our world without picking up at least a few mitzvot along the way -- gems which enrich the heavens and make the entire trip more than worth its while...

Yanki Tauber served as editor of Chabad.org
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Leah Lapidus cleveland, oh January 31, 2012

Wow....that's a good story. Never saw that one before. Reply

Anonymous miami, fl July 7, 2011

Thank you so much. Namaste Reply

Cyril Daniel Stone Mountain, GA February 16, 2010

As always, great insights. From time to time one needs just a glimmer of light to help them stay on the path. As always, very insightful. Reply

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