There is hope!

There is hope!

A heavy travel chest containing dirt sits on the marble floor of a Roman palace

Time for a Talmudic story.


Two thousand years ago, the Judeans prepared a gift to appease the Roman Ceasar and they appointed Nachum Ish Gamzu to deliver.


Nachum, well-known for his miraculous feats and incurable optimism, got his name from his habit of saying, whenever anything bad befell him, "Gam zu le'tovah - this too is for the best."


On his way to Rome, Nachum stopped at an inn. In the night, thieves opened the gift chest, extracted the valuable contents, and filled the chest with dirt to avoid the theft's detection. The next morning, Nachum continued on his way, none the wiser.


When Nachum dutifully presented the gift chest to Caesar, he was thrown in jail to await execution. True to form, Nachum said, "This too is for the best."


His faith proved well-founded, for Elijah the Prophet, disguised as a Roman courtier, rose to Nachum's defense.


"The Judeans' forefather Abraham was a legendary warrior," Elijah told Caesar. "He possessed magic dust, which, when thrown in the air, turned into swords and destroyed his enemies. Might the Judeans' gift be that very same powerful weapon of war?"


Impressed by the story, Caesar ordered his men to test the dust and lo and behold, the dust turned into swords! Caesar released Nachum from prison and took him to Caesar's treasury where he selected his reward.


This story has been used to explain another curious Jewish teaching.


A verse in Psalms reads, "Happy is the nation who knows the call of the ram's horn" (A.K.A, the shofar, which is blown during the prayer services for the Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement.)


The Midrash explains that when the ram's horn is blown, God moves (so to speak) from the Throne of Justice to the Throne of Mercy.


How does the ram's horn have this effect?


The call of the ram's horn, or Teruah in Hebrew, is associated with the word-root RA, which means "evil".


Nachum didn't let the evil in life get him down. He kept on going. When we don't give up in the face of life's disappointments, we open ourselves to new possibilities.


Like the call of the ram's horn, we can use setbacks as wakeup-calls that inspire us to new constructive action. If we do, we might discover that what seemed like a setback was actually a new beginning, and what seemed like harsh judgment might reveal itself to be mercy.


In short, there is hope.


This idea is from a book called "Zahav Shvah" (Gold of Sheba)

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