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Thursday, March 05, 2009

"This too shall pass"

WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 21:  Life size bronze sta...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I was doing some research tonight for this week's Career Opportunities column and podcast, and found the story below. I wanted to share it with you because I think it has a near perfect resonance for today's situation.

I often have used the hopeful sounding "This too shall pass" when faced with adversity, but I had never thought about the melancholy meaning that might be applied to it when you are in the midst of good times. Bad things pass away, but so do the good -- a very important message to remember.

That said, I think this is a perfect time for using the phrase, "This too shall pass." Times may be tough now, but they will get better. Even the Great Depression came to an end eventually -- and this rough period will, too.

You can read my entire column, and listen to the podcast, Time to turn of the news and get something done, on Career Opportunities sometime tomorrow, Friday, March 6, 2009.

Now, the story...
One day Solomon decided to humble Benaiah Ben Yehoyada, his most trusted minister. He said to him,

"Benaiah, there is a certain ring that I want you to bring to me. I wish to wear it for Sukkot which gives you six months to find it."

"If it exists anywhere on earth, your majesty," replied Benaiah, "I will find it and bring it to you, but what makes the ring so special?"

"It has magic powers," answered the king. "If a happy man looks at it, he becomes sad, and if a sad man looks at it, he becomes happy."

Solomon knew that no such ring existed in the world, but he wished to give his minister a little taste of humility. Spring passed and then summer, and still Benaiah had no idea where he could find the ring. On the night before Sukkot, he decided to take a walk in one of the poorest quarters of Jerusalem. He passed by a merchant who had begun to set out the day's wares on a shabby carpet.

"Have you by any chance heard of a magic ring that makes the happy wearer forget his joy and the broken-hearted wearer forget his sorrows?" asked Benaiah.

He watched the grandfather take a plain gold ring from his carpet and engrave something on it. When Benaiah read the words on the ring, his face broke out in a wide smile.

That night the entire city welcomed in the holiday of Sukkot with great festivity.

"Well, my friend," said Solomon, "have you found what I sent you after?" All the ministers laughed and Solomon himself smiled. To everyone's surprise, Benaiah held up a small gold ring and declared,

"Here it is, your majesty!"

As soon as Solomon read the inscription, the smile vanished from his face. The jeweler had written three Hebrew letters on the gold band: gimel, zayin, yud, which began the words "Gam zeh ya'avor" -- "This too shall pass." At that moment Solomon realized that all his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things, for one day he would be nothing but dust.

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