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Anthony de Mello

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A woman once came to Rabbi Israel and told him her secret sorrow; she had been married twenty years and had still not borne a son. “What a coincidence!” said the Rabbi. “It was exactly thus with my mother.” And this is the story he told her: For twenty years his mother had no child. One day she heard that the holy Bal Shem Tov was in town so she hurried to the house he was in and begged him to pray that she might have a son. “What are you willing to do about it?” the holy man asked. “What can I do?” she replied. “My husband is a poor librarian but I do have something I can offer the Rabbi.” With that she rushed home, pulled a katinka out of the chest where it had been carefully stored away and ran back again lo offer it to the Rabbi, Now the katinka, as everyone knows, was the cape worn by the bride on her wedding day-a precious heirloom handed down from one generation to another. By the time the woman got back, the Rabbi had left for another town, so that is where she went. Being poor, however, she had to walk the distance; by the time she got there the Rabbi had left for another destination. Six weeks she followed after him from town to town till she finally caught up with him. The Rabbi took the katinka and gave it to the local synagogue. The Rabbi Israel concluded, “My mother walked all the way back home. A year later I was born.” “What a coincidence, indeed!” cried the woman. “I too have a katinka at home. I shall bring it to you at once and if you offer it to the local synagogue God will give me a son.” “Ah, no, my dear,” said the Rabbi sadly, “that will not work. The difference between my mother and you is this: you heard her story; she had no story to go by.” After a saint uses a ladder it is thrown away and may never be used again. 🙂