A Man and His Gem

A poor Russian man had a job loading and unloading ships at the docks. He complained incessantly about his meager lot in life.

One day, he found a diamond in the sand! He was suddenly filled with happiness at the thought of the fortune that awaited him. At the end of the workday, he visited a diamond dealer, who told him, “I’ll be honest with you. This diamond is worth a small fortune. No one in this country will pay you its true worth. Go to London, where there are diamond dealers who will pay you its true value.”

He didn’t have money to pay for the ship’s journey. But as soon as he showed the captain his precious gem, explaining that he was on the way to sell it, the captain allowed him to sail first class.

The captain allowed him to sail first class

The captain came to visit him in his cabin, and enjoyed conversing with him on many philosophical topics. The rest of the time, the man spent his days learning and enjoying his ride to financial freedom.

One day, he fell asleep over his books. The table was cluttered with the remains of his dinner. Between the napkins and food lay the precious diamond. The loyal waiter, wanting to return the room to order, shook out the tablecloth into the sea. And along with the dirt went the precious gem and the man’s dreams for a more secure future.

When he awoke and saw his misfortune, his first reaction was to cry over the disaster. How could he have been so foolish as to leave the precious gem on the table? But then he decided to view the situation differently. This was obviously a test from G‑d. He could choose to cry over the figurative “spilled milk,” or he could choose to accept his situation as a challenge from the One Above. He chose the latter. Although he had no idea how he would pay for the ship’s voyage now that he had lost his only form of payment, he strengthened his belief that his Creator would not leave him stranded, and that this too was for the best.

When the ship docked, the captain came to his cabin with a huge wad of cash and an offer: “I have a large amount of merchandise that I need to buy from some far-flung place here in England. I don’t have the time and patience to go get it. I have seen during this journey that you are a trustworthy person. Would you be willing to get the merchandise for me, and I will pay you a percentage for your time and effort? Through buying the merchandise, you will also be able to pay off your journey.”

Of course, this man agreed to the request and started to make the journey. He hadn’t gone far when he heard a ruckus from the ship’s direction. It turned out that some enemies of the captain had killed him.

He hadn't gone far when he heard a ruckus from the ship’s direction

Since the captain had left no heirs, the money he had given the poor Russian man now belonged to him. The story goes that the money in the wallet was a lot more than the money he would have received for the diamond.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov explained the story this way: The first time this Russian fellow became wealthy, he hadn’t yet accepted his lot of poverty. He wasn’t meant to become wealthy then, so he lost the money. The second time, however, the fortune came after he had strengthened his faith, so his wealth lasted forever.

Embracing Acceptance

Many of us may identify with the above story. We attempt to change a situation we are unhappy with, but we can’t seem to crawl out of the figurative hole. We keep facing one setback after another.

So, what do we do when our efforts to change our circumstances don’t succeed?

When we see that we are trying and trying without tangible results, the wisest option is to accept the situation with love, and make the best of it. Very often, once we come to terms with our situation, we’ll start to see positive changes.

For example, I know a woman who was single for many years. She put a lot of effort into actively finding “the one,” but somehow, everyone that she dated was wrong for her. Finally she decided to embrace her life as a single person, instead of living with a sense of lack. Soon after, she met her soulmate.

When we are faced with the “lemons” of our lives, we can try to make lemonade. But before we do, let’s first focus on the beauty of a lemon! And then, yes, we may find that we can create lemonade, or perhaps an entirely different substance. Like a fine wine.