In 2009 I found myself wondering what Abraham Lincoln, Ben Bernanke & Bernanke have in common. As we prepare to enter 2017 the following story called to me once again.
One day, the wise King Solomon decided to test his most trusted minister, Benaiah ben Yehoyada.
Solomon: “Benaiah, there is a certain ring that I want you to bring to me. I wish to wear it for Pesach, which gives you six months to find it.”
Benaiah: “If it exists anywhere on earth, your majesty, I will find it and bring it to you, but what makes the ring so special?”
Solomon: “It has magic powers that can make a happy man sad and a sad man happy.”
Solomon knew no such ring existed in the world, but he wished to give his minister a little taste of humility. So he set about to find the ring. The seasons passed, fall and then winter… No ring.
On the day of erev Pesach, Benaiah was walking in one of poorest quarters of Jerusalem. He passed by a merchant who had begun to set out the day’s wares – rings and earrings and bracelets – on a shabby carpet.
Benaiah: “Do you know of a magic ring that makes a happy man sad and a sad man happy?”
Suddenly, as if by magic, the merchant’s father appeared. With an old knarled finger, Grandfather beckoned to Benaiah. As Benaiah watched, the grandfather took a plain gold ring from the carpet and engraved something on it.
Benaiah read the words on ring and smiled. Then he returned to Solomon.
King Solomon: “Well, have you found what I sent you after?”
All the ministers laughed. Solomon smiled. Then Benaiah held up small gold ring and exclaimed: “Here it is your majesty!”
When Solomon read the inscription, his smile vanished. The jeweler had inscribed three Hebrew letters on gold band: gimel, zayin, yud, for “Gam zeh ya’avor” — “This too shall pass.”
In 1859, Abraham Lincoln said these same words. In 2009, Ben Bernanke repeated them. And, standing on the edge of 2017, we find ourselves hoping and praying that, Gam Zeh Ya’avor – this too shall pass!”
There will be no immediate relief. Yet, despite our fears that the entire world as we know it seems to be collapsing, remember that we have survived other times of destruction and loss.
Saying Gam Zeh Ya’avor in the midst of calamity gives us needed perspective, humility and strength to galvanize our communities and care for one another. Oddly enough, one does not only say, “this too shall pass,” during the bad times. We are taught to say it during the good times as well.
Gam Zeh Ya’avor is something that makes the sad man happy and the happy man sad.
Using the magic ring, Beniah taught Solomon that all his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things, for one day he would be nothing but dust.
Saying Gam Zeh Ya’avor acknowledges the risks we take each day, which come with their intended or unintended consequences. It requires us to accept responsibility for our actions despite the many other factors that may impact positively or negatively on our lives. It reminds us that we need one another – in the good times and the not-so-good times.
Wishing you and yours a year of insight, hope, and the strength to persevere.
Nina J. Mizrahi, Community Rabbi