Monday, February 14, 2011

The Lost Jewel

From Tales From Reb Nachman (Artscroll / Mesorah)
Retold for children and illustrated by Dovid Sears

A long time ago, there was a poor clay-digger. Every few days he went to the mountains. There, he dug clay and piled it onto his wagon. When the wagon was full he drove to the village. The potters in the village bought his clay and turned it into jugs, dishes, and urns.

One summer day, while working in the mountains, the clay digger found a beautiful stone. He put it into his pocket and continued filling his wagon. The next morning, he took the stone to a jeweler in the village. The jeweler peered through his magnifying glass, and smiled. He shook his head and said, "This is not an ordinary rock. It is a very rare and valuable diamond. No one around here is rich enough to buy this diamond. If you want to sell it, you must travel to London, the city of the king."

But London was far away, and the man didn't have enough money for the trip. He sold his horse and wagon and everything he owned, but he still didn't have enough money. So he went begging from house to house. Finally he collected enough money to travel as far as the sea-coast.

When he arrived, he found the port city teeming with people. They were buying and selling everything from candlesticks to false teeth. The smells of fish and fresh bread and salty sea-air fought for his attention. The ragged beggars in the marketplace also fought for his attention, but by that time he had no money left.

The man searched until he found a ship going to London. He asked to see the captain. Soon, he was greeted by a giant with a thick moustache. The captain was dressed in a blue velvet coat with brass buttons, and a long sword was swinging from his belt. When the clay-digger went to shake the captain's hand, he noticed that two fingers were missing.

"I don't have any money right now," the clay-digger said. The captain scowled as if was going to throw him down the gang-plank.

"B-But I do have this," the poor man stammered.

When the captain saw the jewel, his eyes lit up. "You can pay me later! " he said, clapping his new passenger on the back. The captain took him aboard with great honor and gave him a special first-class cabin, with all sorts of luxuries.

The cabin had a window that overlooked the sea. The traveler would sit there happily with his diamond near him, watching the sunlight flicker on the waves. One day, he sat down to eat, putting the diamond on the table where he could admire it. Soon he fell asleep. A waiter came along and cleared the table. Then he shook the crumbs - and the diamond - off the tablecloth and into the sea.

When the man awoke, he realized what had happened. He became so upset that he didn't know what to do. "The captain will kill me if I don't pay my fare!" the man thought. Finally, he saw that nothing could be gained by worrying. So he forced himself to be happy, as if nothing had ever happened.

The captain used to speak to the traveler for a few minutes every day. When he came the next morning as usual, the man acted very happy, so the captain wouldn't suspect that anything had changed.

In the course of conversation, the captain asked his passenger for a favor. "I know that you are very wise and honest, " the captain began. " I want to buy a shipment of grain and sell it in London for a great profit. But if the officials discover that I have such a large amount of money, they will think I stole it from the king's treasury. Let me buy the grain in your name, and I will pay you well for helping me."

This sounded good to the traveler and he agreed. When they came to London, the captain bought a warehouse full of grain. He then went straight to the tavern with the other officers. After hours of drinking whiskey and wine, they began to quarrel. The drunken men reached for their swords - and during the fight, the captain was killed.

The grain that the captain had bought was worth many times more than the diamond. And now it belonged to the clay digger. He sold it all to a grain merchant and returned home a rich man.

Hashem never really gave the diamond to the poor man in the first place -the proof is that it didn't stay with him. He was really supposed to get the grain - the proof is that it did stay with him. However, he deserved to receive what Hashem wanted to give him only because he continued to be happy.

© 1987 Mesorah Publications

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