Avraham ben Yaakov
Jewish Pathways of Spiritual Growth
Once the king's son went mad. He thought he was a turkey...
Have you ever wished you could live up to your highest ideals, only to look at your shortcomings and failures and conclude that you'll probably never succeed?
The moral of the tale of the Turkey-Prince is that you can succeed, and the story shows you how.
We all have two sides to us, the Prince (or Princess) and the Turkey. The Prince is the higher self, or soul - the child of God, which we all are. The Prince is the potential self, the person we can be if we learn the right way to nurture ourselves and grow. There are practically no limits to the levels of development within our grasp. Every soul is unique, and each one of us has the power to realize our potential in our own unique way.
The Turkey is the lower self, the side that is averse to sacrifice, hard work and effort, preferring easy solutions and instant pleasures. God gives everyone a Turkey self, not because He wants us to follow its demands, but in order to challenge us. The Turkey side makes it harder to be the Prince or Princess we should be - and the reward for succeeding is therefore greater.
The Turkey's main strength is its stubbornness. Day after day it pushes its way into our minds and hearts. How often do we know exactly what we ought or ought not to do, only to find ourselves driven into acting in the most self-defeating and destructive ways! Each time we follow the Turkey it becomes all the more entrenched, while the Prince grows discouraged and goes further and further underground. The resulting depression only makes us give in to the Turkey even more.
There are all manner of "doctors" offering advice about what we should do with our lives. There are innumerable books on self-help and self-improvement. How many programs have all of us started, then abandoned less than half-way along? The real question is: even when you know what you ought to do to take yourself in hand, how do you get yourself to actually do it? How do you carry it through to the end? This is what the Wise Man in the story comes to teach us.
The story of the Turkey-Prince may be amusing, but the madness it depicts is no laughing matter. The Rabbis characterize the madman as someone who loses everything he is given (Chagigah 4a). The madness of the Turkey-Prince is that he is losing the most precious gift he has: his soul. The soul is life, eternal life. This kind of madness is sheer self-destruction.
After death comes the reckoning. What did we spend our life running after? Crumbs and bones? What are we going to be left with? Will we let ourselves get away with being less than we could be? This life is our one chance for self-realization. What are we going to do with it?
"On the day of reckoning," said the famous Chassid, Reb Zusya, "when they ask me, `Why weren't you like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?' I won't be afraid. But when they ask me, `Why weren't you like Zusya?' - that's when I'll be afraid."
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