I love to read folktales, especially Jewish folktales. I have been reading a book this past week and came upon a favorite story, which holds a message we can all use. Like most folktales, passed on from generation to generation by storytellers, this tale has different variations. Here is a variation of the tale entitled "Solomon's Ring of Wisdom".
Late one night King Solomon was sitting on his throne in the darkness, head in his hands. His most trusted servant, Benaiah, saw him sitting there, and knew that something troubled his king.
Solomon raised his head, and saw Benaiah in the doorway. "I am not worthy," the king said.
"Why not?" asked Benaiah.
"Sometimes when I fail, I feel beaten down by uncertainty, and I become afraid. Then I need to be comforted. Sometimes when I succeed, I feel puffed up with pride, and I become reckless. At those times, I need to be warned."
Benaiah wanted to offer to stick by the king's side, comforting him when he felt down, and warning him when he got too sure of himself, but knew that this would not suffice. "Let me go and find the greatest words of wisdom that will help you."
"Go, Benaiah," King Solomon answered. "It is what you want, and what I need."
Benaiah bowed, and left the palace that day. He journeyed throughout the land, seeking out and questioning the wisest of men and women. He asked "When the king feels down and unsure of himself, what words would comfort him?" and, "When the king feels puffed up and careless from success, what words would warn him?" He got different answers from each person, each wise and good. Benaiah wrote down every word.
When he had traveled the entire land, Benaiah sat down under a tree, and looked at the words he had collected. The words filled many pages, the pages filled many books, and the books filled many boxes. "Too many words," he thought. "How can the king read all this every time he needs comfort or warning?" Feeling dejected, Benaiah left it all behind, and headed back towards the palace empty-handed.
He sank down to the ground in the shadow of the gates of Jerusalem. "I have failed my king," he thought. "I have failed, I have failed." As he sat there, feeling worse with each passing moment, he heard the wind in the trees. It seemed to be saying "This...too...shall...pass."
Benaiah nodded his head. "It is true. This is an awful time for me, but this, too, shall pass, and I will feel better." He did, indeed, feel better.
Suddenly, Benaiah jumped to his feet. "That's it! That is what I will say to King Solomon! These words of wisdom will help him, just as they helped me!" Benaiah felt proud of himself. His head held high, he ran toward the palace. "I asked all the wisest men and women, and none of them had the perfect words, but I found them myself! Me, Benaiah the servant! Solomon will praise me, and everyone will admire me!"
The wind once again whispered through the trees, "This...too...shall...pass."
Benaiah stopped. "It is true. Today I am a great success, but tomorrow I may fail again. This, too, shall pass." Slowly, he walked into the palace, saying nothing until he stood before the king. "Great King, I have spoken to all the wisest men and women in the land. They all had words of wisdom, but none was wise enough. The wisest words of all I heard from the wind. It whispered, "This, too, shall pass."
King Solomon smiled. He descended from his throne, and embraced Benaiah. "You have brought me wise words indeed. This is the wisdom that I needed. He had a ring made, and on it were engraved the words, "This, too, shall pass." Now, anytime he felt down, he could look at his ring and be comforted. Anytime he got too confident he could look at the ring, and be warned that "This, too, shall pass."
Sometimes, when my pain is getting to me, I feel like it will never end. It seems like I have always been, and will always be, miserable. Intellectually, I know that my misery is temporary, and I will, once again, be able to cope effectively. My next art project will be a design with the words "This, too, shall pass."