Three pious Jews decided to travel to a distant city to spend a few days with a famous rabbi. They set out on their journey, without food or money, intending to walk the entire way.
They were still very far away from their destination, when they realized that they had made a mistake. They were tired and hungry and ahead of them still a considerable number of miles. So they came out with a plan. They decided that one of them would disguise himself as a rabbi. That way, when they came to the next village, the people would offer them food, honored to have a rabbi visit their town. Being pious they were not happy with the arrangement, but they could not think of any other plot to continue their journey.
The ruse worked. When they drew near to the next village, they were greeted with excited cries of joy, “A rabbi is coming! A rabbi is coming!” They were accompanied with a great pomp to the local tavern and they were treated to a lavish meal. When the meal was done, however, the innkeeper approached the ‘rabbi’ and asked him for special prayers for his son who was dying. “The Holy One, blessed be his name, may respond to your prayers.” The counterfeit rabbi could not do anything but accompany the distressed father to his son’s sick bed. When next day they were to leave the village, the innkeeper sent the party off with the loan of a carriage and a team of horses. Their stay in the big city was an uplifting experience. But too soon, the holy days were at an end and the three companions had to go back home through the same village to return the borrowed carriage and horses. Terrified, the mock rabbi resumed his disguise; his heart was in his throat as they approached the village, especially when he saw the innkeeper running towards them, waving his arms energetically. But to the pretender’s delight and surprise, the innkeeper embraced him with joy, exclaiming, “Thank you, rabbi. Only one hour after you left our village, my son arose from his bed well and strong. The doctors are amazed, but my son lives, and I am grateful for your faithful prayer.” “What did you do at that boy’s death bed?” the two companions asked the ‘rabbi’. He replied that when he stood at the boy’s side, the only prayer that came from his mouth was, “Master of the universe, please, this father and son should not be punished just because they think I’m a rabbi. What am I? I am nothing! A pretender! If this child dies, his father will think a rabbi can do nothing. So, Master of the universe, not because of me, but because of this father and his faith, can it hurt that his son would be healed?”
The Jews tell this story because of its profound insight into all of us. We are all pretenders, hypocrites. None of us is worthy as to merit God’s favor; many times our religion is a mask we hide behind. But God is gracious and redemptive in spite of our pretence. And He is always there beckoning us to come just as we are. There is an opening for the hypocrites also.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.