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The Wisdom of Israel, by Edwin Collins, [1910], at


Rabbi Levi spoke this parable in the name of Rabbi Johanan.

A certain traveller went forth, and for days he wandered through the desert and found no town, no village, no oasis, no tree and no water, and no living thing. And he went on, day after day, for ten days. And after he had gone on for ten days, he espied one tree in the distance. And he said to himself, "Perhaps beneath that tree there may be water." When he came up to it he found that it stood by a living spring. And when he saw that it was a beautiful tree, with ripe fruit upon it, and beautiful leafage, he rested and cooled himself beneath its shade and ate of its fruits, and drank of the water from the fountain. And it was very pleasant to him, and his soul was refreshed.

When he arose to go on his way, he said:

"Oh tree, how can I bless thee, and what can I say unto thee? If I say, may thy wood be finely grown, it is so already; if I pray that thy shade may be pleasant, it is so already; that thy foliage may be beautiful, it is already beautiful; that thy

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fruit may be sweet, behold it is already sweet; if I would pray for thee that a spring may bubble up beneath thy roots to water thee, behold the spring is already there, beneath thy roots. If I would say, mayest thou stand in a lovely place, behold thou dost already stand in a lovely place. What blessing, then, is there left for me to wish thee? Only that every tree that is planted from thee may be like thee."

Thus, when the Holy One, blessed be He, created the world, ten generations came and went and none of them was good, and none of them produced a perfectly righteous man, and in the tenth generation, God saw Abraham and tried him, and it was found that his righteousness had deep roots, watered by a perennial spring of faith. He withstood temptation and persecution for the sanctification of the name of the One true God. He fed and sustained passers-by, and helped the penitent. He brought some of his fellow-creatures under the wings of the Divine Presence, and made known the glory of God in the world.

Then said the Holy One, "What blessing is there left that I can give thee, Abraham? If I would say, thou shalt be a righteous man before Me, or that Sarah thy wife shall be a righteous woman before Me, or that all the children of thine house shall be righteous in My sight, behold all this is so already! I will bless thee in that all those destined to be of thy seed shall be like thee, a blessing to all the world, and as the stars of heaven spread light for all, so shall thy seed, who shall be like the stars for multitude.

Barmidbar Rabbah, Chap. II.

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