There was once a middle-aged man named Bernie, who lived alone. He had no family—or at least, no family that he was in touch with—and no real friends. He was very, very lonely, and though he tried different things to keep himself busy, he really needed companionship.

One day, Bernie hadHe really needed companionship an idea. Parrots talk. If he bought a parrot, then he’d have “someone” to talk to, “someone” who would listen and talk to him. The more he thought about it, the more he liked the idea.

So, eventually, Bernie went into town to a pet store to buy himself a parrot. As the sales clerk showed him different birds, Bernie explained that more than the size or color or type, what was most important to him was that the parrot would talk.

The salesperson showed him the various parrots that talk, and he picked out a very nice-looking one with green, red and blue feathers.

“You sure he’ll talk?” asked Bernie.

“Yes, I’m absolutely sure. This breed of parrot is a beautiful African parrot that talks. No question about it.”

“OK,” said Bernie. And he counted out $300 and gave it to the man.

“Do you have a cage?” asked the salesperson.

“No, I’ve never had a parrot before. Why should I have a cage?”

“I understand. But now you’re going to have to have a cage. Otherwise, he’ll probably fly away.”

“How much is that?” asked the man.

The salesperson showed him cages of different sizes, and Bernie chose a medium-sized one. “How much is this?” he asked.

“$100,” came the reply.

“OK,” said Bernie, and he counted out and handed over $100. The sales representative carefully took the parrot out of the large cage it was in, together with other parrots, and put it into the new cage. “Here you are,” he said to Bernie. “Enjoy him!”

“Thanks,” said Bernie as he took the cage and looked at the parrot with a smile. Now, at last he would have companionship.

At home, Bernie set the cage with his new parrot down on the living room table. “Hi,” said Bernie. But the parrot didn’t say anything. “Hi,” he said again. No answer. Then he remembered reading that parrots have to be taught to speak—that the person speaking to them has to have patience and repeat what he wants the parrot to learn over and over. So that’s what he did.

“Hello, parrot,” said Bernie. “Hel-lo ... He-e-ello! ... Hello, parrot, Hi ... hello ... ”

But no response.

Maybe he’s not focused, Bernie thought, so he waved at the parrot and said: “Hi, parrot ... hel-lo!” Still, the bird did not respond. He continued doing that for quite a while and then thought to himself, maybe he just has to get used to his new environment and his new owner. I’ll have patience and try again tomorrow.

The next day, bright and early, Bernie went over to the parrot. “Hello Parrot, it’s me, Bernie. Hel-lo ... Hello ... hello ... ,” but no response. This continued for quite a while, and then Bernie thought to himself: This isn’t right, something’s wrong. I’m going back to the store. And so he did.

At the store, Bernie told the sales clerk who had sold him the parrot what was going on: “No matter what I do, he doesn’t talk. You said this is a parrot that talks, but it's not true.”

“It’s absolutely“Hello, parrot,” he said, but no response true,” said the salesperson. “This is a parrot that talks. But maybe his conditions aren’t conducive to talking; maybe he’s traumatized or depressed because his environment was changed. Why don’t you buy him a swing and put it in the cage for him, and then he’ll be happy, and surely start talking.”

And so, Bernie bought a swing, took it home and hung it in the cage, and put the parrot on the swing. “Great,” thought Bernie. “Now, he’ll surely talk.”

“Hello, parrot,” he said, but no response. “He-llo-o,” but no response. “Hi parrot, hello, this is your new friend Bernie speaking. Hello. How are you?” But no response. Bernie continued with this all day and even flapped his arms a bit to make the parrot feel more comfortable, but no response. The next morning was the same, and so once again, Bernie went back to the pet store and complained.

“I can’t imagine what the problem is,” said the salesman as he shook his head in wonder. “These are excellent, very smart parrots.” And then he had an idea. “This will surely help,” he said. “As you saw, your parrot was always with other parrots, and now he’s alone with just you. Why don’t you buy a nice big mirror and hang it in the cage, and then when he looks into the mirror and sees himself, he’ll think it’s another parrot and then he’ll surely start talking!”

And so Bernie bought a mirror, went home, put it in the cage and once again started talking to the parrot. The parrot indeed looked into the mirror, and then Bernie said: “Hello … hello, parrot, this is your new friend, Bernie ... hello ... hi ... hello ... ” But there was no response.

Another day went by, but the only one talking was Bernie, What does our soul need?who then had another idea. He went outside with a pair of scissors and cut off some branches and leaves, and even some flowers from a bush, and put them inside the cage. Maybe they would improve the parrot’s mood and he would finally start talking. “Hello, parrot. It’s me, your good friend Bernie. Look at all the nice things I brought you: a swing and a mirror, branches and leaves and even flowers. Hello, parrot ... hello.” But the parrot didn’t respond.

The next day, Bernie got up early to go to the parrot and see if maybe today he would talk. But then something happened—something terrible! Bernie rushed back to the pet shop, went straight to the salesperson and said: “The parrot you sold me, it died!”

“Are you serious?” asked the salesperson.

“Of course, I’m serious! I wouldn’t joke about something like that!”

“And all that time, it didn’t say anything?” asked the salesperson.

“Well, actually, yes.” said Bernie. “Just before it died, it croaked out weakly two words. And Bernie croaked them for the salesman, just like the parrot had: “Wa-ater ... fo-od.”

We do all kinds of things to make ourselves happy, but if we don’t fulfill our basic needs, then nothing will work and nothing will help.

What are the basics that we need? What does our soul need? All the money, cars, food, vacations, clothes or entertainment in the world cannot satisfy our soul if it doesn’t have what it needs most. A Jewish soul needs to study Torah and perform mitzvot; it needs faith and trust in G‑d. This is its life-giving nutrition.

Other diversions might be exciting, intriguing or even meaningful on other levels. But they won’t provide true joy, satisfaction and meaning in life because they aren’t the right way to feed our holy soul—to help it not only survive, but thrive and soar.