For many of you this little tale might be one you’ve heard before. It was first told by Rabbi Haim of Romshishok who traveled from town to town delivering religious sermons that stressed the importance of respect for one another. This morning at my Cornerstone Scripture Study a woman stood up and told us this story in her own words (below is the story as told by Rabbi Haim):
“I once ascended to the firmaments. I first went to see Hell and the sight was horrifying. Row after row of tables were laden with platters of sumptuous food, yet the people seated around the tables were pale and emaciated, moaning in hunger. As I came closer, I understood their predicament.
“Every person held a full spoon, but both arms were splinted with wooden slats so he could not bend either elbow to bring the food to his mouth. It broke my heart to hear the tortured groans of these poor people as they held their food so near but could not consume it.
“Next I went to visit Heaven. I was surprised to see the same setting I had witnessed in Hell – row after row of long tables laden with food. But in contrast to Hell, the people here in Heaven were sitting contentedly talking with each other, obviously sated from their sumptuous meal.
“As I came closer, I was amazed to discover that here, too, each person had his arms splinted on wooden slats that prevented him from bending his elbows. How, then, did they manage to eat?
“As I watched, a man picked up his spoon and dug it into the dish before him. Then he stretched across the table and fed the person across from him! The recipient of this kindness thanked him and returned the favor by leaning across the table to feed his benefactor.
I suddenly understood. Heaven and Hell offer the same circumstances and conditions. The critical difference is in the way the people treat each other.
I ran back to Hell to share this solution with the poor souls trapped there. I whispered in the ear of one starving man, “You do not have to go hungry. Use your spoon to feed your neighbor, and he will surely return the favor and feed you.”
“‘You expect me to feed the detestable man sitting across the table?’ said the man angrily. ‘I would rather starve than give him the pleasure of eating!’
“I then understood God’s wisdom in choosing who is worthy to go to Heaven and who deserves to go to Hell.”
I’ve heard this told countless ways but the point remains the same: We are called to serve one another nourishing mind, body and soul.
Thankfully I have yet to meet one person that hasn’t come from helping another who didn’t feel invigorated, restored and happy. With that said it would make sense to me if we were in need of a pick me up a resolution would be to find an opportunity to serve another however simple the task it is medicine to the soul.
And if you are the one being served/helped, let them serve you. I know this can be difficult to accept. Pride wants to say “I can do it on my own!” But when we turn away helping hand we are depriving that person of joy and happiness.
It’s a matter of heaven and hell…either way don’t deprive another of nourishment giving or receiving.