This Too Shall Pass.
During the festive Passover meal with his ministers, King Solomon teased Benaiah son of Jehoiada, his arrogant Chief of Army.
“Benaiah, I was told that there is a special ring that has a special power. It can change the mood of a person. A sad person becomes happy when watching it and a happy person becomes sad. I know that you of all people in the kingdom can find the ring. Would you be able to find this ring and bring it to me until the eve of Sukkot eve, that is 6 months from now?”
“If it exists anywhere on earth, your majesty, I will find it and bring it to you”replied Benaiah.
King Solomon smiled as he knew that no such ring existed, but he wanted to give his minister a taste of humility.
Time passed and Benaiah sent soldiers and messengers throughout the kingdom, examined records, consult with elders yet he could not find even a hint of the existence of the magic ring. Spring passed so did summer. The last harvest of the year, and with it the Succoth festival, was approaching. Then came eve of Sukkot day. With only a few hours to go before the deadline, Benaiah was wandering in the streets of Jerusalem. The sun was setting casting a golden light on the city which until today all its buildings are made of stone. All the merchants were busy with the last sale and prepared to close their stalls. In desperation, he turned to an old silversmith.
“Have you by any chance heard of a magic ring that makes the happy person forget his joy and the broken-hearted person forget his sorrows?” asked Benaiah. The silversmith listened carefully and smiled. He took a plain silver ring from his old and dusty box and engrave something on it. When Benaiah read the words on the ring, his face lighted up as he knew he had found the right ring. “This is the ring!” he cried and gave the poor jeweler all the money in his purse. “Come to the palace and you shall have more,” he added, “for I cannot thank you enough.”
The sun had set. The time for the holiday dinner arrived. That night the palace was full of guests ready to celebrate with the king.
“Well, my friend,” said Solomon, “Have you found a ring that can make a happy man sad and a sad man happy?” Everyone who knew about the search for the impossible ring laughed and Solomon himself smiled.
But to everyone’s surprise, Benaiah held up a ring and declared, “Here it is your majesty! I found a ring. It has three Hebrew letters engraved on it: Gimel, Zayin, Yod. Then he whispered the meaning of these initials in the king’s ear.
As soon as Solomon heard the meaning of the inscription, the smile vanished from his face. He looked at the guests filling the banquet hall, the tables covered with shining serving pieces, silver goblets, and the finest food one can find. Tears rolled down his eyes. He felt sad. The entire hall was in total silence. A ring that makes the king cry?
Then King Solomon looked at the ring again and started to smile again then laughed so hard infecting the entire palace with giggles and laughter. Everyone wanted to know the meaning of the initials.
The King revealed to his guests what was written on the ring: “The three letters areג,ז,י represented three words: Gam Zeh Ya’avor”. It means in English: “This too shall pass.”
Once upon a time there was Freddie, a wise leader who in spite of his great wisdom often struggled with emotional highs and lows. Freddie was prone to periods of great elation where he would make very poor decisions, and periods of great despair where he would get extremely upset.
One of his associates, Mara was her name, designed and forged a simple ring for Freddie to wear at all times. In her mind this was an ingenious device that would help stop him from getting lost in his high and low moments.
Freddie asked, “How does it work?”
“Wear the ring with you always. In times when you need it most, it will show you the answer and you will know what to do,” replied the Mari.
Almost immediately, another associate showed up saying that the company they both worked for had just lost a lot of money. Everything seemed dark and hopeless, just when at the end of the day, after many phone calls, the tired Freddie looked at his new gift, the ring. Engraved on the ring was an illuminated message – four simple words which he had not seen before: “This too shall pass.”
All of the sudden, Freddie found new hope, courage and a burst of renewed energy. He went home and surrendered to a good night sleep.
The day after, an unexpected phone call led to a couple of meetings and the eventual signing of a new contract that not only brought back the money lost but much more. Elated, Freddie called all his partners and associates, employees and clients and threw a massive celebration for many days. Just when he was losing himself in the midst of the great celebration, Freddie touched the ring and felt the engraving – the four simple words which he had noticed just a few days earlier: “This too shall pass.”
He decided from then on to engage in a daily ritual of intentionally touching gently the ring, feeling the inscription, early in the morning, upon awakening, and at the end of each just before going to sleep. He carried the four words “this too shall pass” like a mantra, repeating them under his breath, in good times and in bad times, in sickness and in health, in winning and in losing, in light and in darkness: “this too shall pass.”
“This too shall pass” can be an uncomfortable phrase if you are enjoying everything that you have in your life and it can be comforting if you are experiencing troubling days, but the most important point here is that it makes us stop and think about enjoying all the good moments of our life and the “small” things like time with our family and friends, a smile, a laugh, our vacation days, our work, everything and be grateful for all things that make us happy. On the other hand we should realize that every time that we face a difficult situation in our life, sooner or later this too shall pass.
This story also reminds me of the concept in Ignatian spiritually about desolation and consolation in which Ignatius says, “In times of desperation remember consolation and in times of consolation remember desperation.”