Goose Eggs, Feathers and Prayers
It is difficult for me to understand why people behave the way they do. Sometimes you see people getting very angry and sometimes you see people doing something over and over again hoping it will be perfect. My Bubie says that anger can be dangerous because it can cause us to do and say things that are very hurtful to others and often, we cannot take back what we did or said. Also, she says that it is not important to be perfect, just to do the best we can. However, sometimes, in a person’s head they feel that by doing something over and over again they will eventually be perfect and that makes them calm. The problem is that if we do that, we never move on to do all of the many things that we want to accomplish in our lives.
This story is about a very kind person who needed help to move forward in his life. He finds the help in the most interesting of objects, goose eggs and feathers.
There was once a young man who was broken. He didn’t have a broken arm or leg or any other bone for that matter. There was something broken in his head, in his heart and in his spirit. His family had searched all over the world to find the proper tools to fix this break. They spoke with doctors and men of learning and religious holy people, but no one had the words or the object that would heal him.
Finally, one day a man appeared at the door of this young man’s home. “Hello”, he said. “My name is Yechezkel.”
“Hello”, answered the young man. “My name is Yaakov. Won’t you come in and have a drink and something to eat.”
“Thank you,” answered Yechezkel. He entered Yaakov’s home and sat down at the small table in the tiny kitchen. Yaakov brought him some water and some crackers.
“What can I do for you?” asked Yaakov after his guest had eaten and drunk.
“I am here to help you,” responded Yechezkel. “I travel to many places around the world fixing things. I am known as “The Fixer”.
“Oh, wonderful”, said Yaakov. “We have so many things around our house that need fixing and it is not something that I am very good at.”
“No?”, said Yechezkel. “Most people are not very good at fixing the things that are closest to themselves. I find that often, people are not even aware of what needs to be fixed.”
“What is your profession or work?” asked Yechezkel. Yaakov did not understand why Yechezkel had asked him that question. He thought to himself, “What is the connection between what I do and what he does?" Yechezkel waited patiently for Yaakov to answer his question.
“I have an idea,” Yechezkel said. “I will return tomorrow morning and you and I can spend the day together. I can experience your day with you.”
Yaakov was not too happy about this idea, but before he could respond, Yechezkel was getting up, walking to the door, opening it and waving goodbye. “Until tomorrow,” he added, as he gently closed the front door.
“What a strange man,” thought Yaakov. “Why does he want to follow me around tomorrow? What does this have to do with fixing all of the broken things in our house?” Then Yaakov returned to his prayers.
The next morning, early in the morning, around 8:00, there was a knock on the door. One of Yaakov’s children answered. Yechezkel said that he was there to see the boy’s father.
“I’m sorry,” answered the child. “My father is asleep. Do you want to return later?”
“No”, responded Yechezkel. “I will wait until he wakes up”.
“That may be many hours”, answered the boy.
“That is okay”, said Yechezkel. “I will sit on this chair with my book and wait”.
“Around 1:00 in the afternoon, Yaakov awoke. He had forgotten that Yechezkel was coming to follow him around that day. When he came out of his room and found him there, he looked shocked.
“What are you doing here and how long have you been waiting?” he asked.
“I have been here since 8:00 this morning”, said Yechezkel. “Please, do what you have to. I am fine sitting here and learning from my book.”
When Yaakov was finished with all of his daily rituals, including his prayers, it was 8:00 at night. Yechezkel was still waiting patiently for him.
All of the children had been fed, gone to school, finished their homework and were ready for bed. They said good night to their father and mother and went to sleep.
Yechezkel looked at Yaakov and said, “There are many things that are broken in your house, as you said. Perhaps I could help if you could tell me what some of those things are.”
Yaakov began, “Well the sink upstairs leaks, the light in the kitchen flickers, the rail on the step is loose and the heater often shuts off when it’s cold instead of turning on.”
“Oh, I see,” responded Yechezkel. “Who supports your children? Who learns with your children? Who reads to your children? Who helps your wife take care of your children?”
“What are you asking?” Yaakov said in a voice that sounded a little angry.
“Just some simple questions”, answered Yechezkel. “These are things in your house that may also need fixing? I have been here all day and I have noticed that your wife is working very hard, your children are doing their work and going to school and I have not seen that you are part of all of the things that happen in your house. So, I am asking you these questions again, who supports your children, who learns with your children, who reads to your children and who helps your wife take care of your children?”
Yaakov looked at Yechezkel and said, “I think that you do not belong in my house. These questions are not your business and I do not know who sent you here to ask them!”
“I told you yesterday, Yaakov, that I am a fixer. I fix things that are broken. I work for someone very special and very holy. I am here to make things better, to fix what is broken.”
“Well,”, said Yaakov, “Are you saying that I am broken, that I need to be fixed? I am here to bring the broken pieces of God’s world together. To help create His holy Kingdom here on earth!”
“Ah, I see,” said Yechezkel. “And who supports your children? Who learns with your children? Who reads to your children? Who helps your wife take care of your children?”
“Stop asking me those questions!”, yelled Yaakov. “God takes care of my children. Do they look as if they are not taken care of? Do they look like they are wanting for something?”
Yechezkel answered Yaakov, “I have a story to tell you and then maybe you will understand my questions.
“There was a young boy who went on a trip on a boat with his parents. There was a big storm while they were on the water and the boat began to fill up with water. All of the people on the boat began to pray that someone would come to save them, but there was no one near them and the situation seemed hopeless.
The small boy looked at all of the people and he said, ‘We must find some buckets and begin to take the water out of this boat or surely we shall all drown!’
The people looked at the boy as if he were crazy. ‘We can’t possibly take all of the water out of this boat’, they said. ‘We must pray for a miracle!’
The people prayed and as they prayed, they saw the small boy filling bucket after bucket with water and throwing the water over the boat. When he became exhausted, one of the people said, ‘we must help him. It is possible that his efforts will save us if we help.’
Soon everyone on the boat had grabbed a bucket, filled it with the water in the boat and threw it overboard. What do you think happened?
Soon, another boat came by. A bigger boat that had weathered the storm without any damage. They pulled up beside the smaller boat and rescued all of the people. The people were so grateful! They realized that their prayers had been answered!
When they were all settled on the larger boat, the captain of the small boat looked at all of the passengers and said the following, ‘I will not deny that our prayers helped to save us; however, if it had not been for the efforts of the small boy, who worked tirelessly trying to remove the water from inside our boat, we would not have survived to be rescued by this large boat. We must all give thanks to this child who taught us a very important lesson; it is not by prayer alone that we are saved. It is our hard work, our continuous effort to fix what is broken that can make the difference between life death.”
Yaakov listened to the story that Yechezkel told him and said, “I do not have an answer for your questions except to say, “I am not supporting my children, I am not learning with my children, I am not reading to my children and I am rarely helping my wife with my children. I am praying.”
Then, Yechezkel turned toward Yaakov and said, “This is what needs to be fixed in your house. This is what I am here to help you do. We will go on a mission and that will begin the fixing. We will go to find the goose eggs and the feathers and then you will begin to heal. It is a mission that will take effort, patience and self-sacrifice.”
The next day Yaakov and Yechezkel left on their mission to find the goose eggs and goose feathers that would enable Yaakov to heal.
Yaakov and Yechezkel traveled every day for many weeks to many farms. They met farmers who worked very hard taking care of all of their animals. A farmer wakes up early in the morning and must feed his animals, clean out their shelters and take care of all of their needs. Most of the farms they visited had chickens, but they had yet to find a farm that had geese and then when they arrived at one, there were no eggs for them to take.
Finally, they came upon a farm very far from where Yaakov lived. The farmer and his wife invited them to stay with them for a few days. They said it was the season for their goose to lay her eggs and if they were patient, they might be able to bring some home.
Each day they woke-up early, helped the family do their chores around the farm and then said their daily prayers. It was good for Yaakov to be outside, working on the farm and taking care of the animals. He didn’t realize how much he would enjoy this type of work.
After three days, the farmer came in for breakfast with four giant goose eggs in his hands and a number of geese feathers he had collected around the area where he had found the eggs.
“Thank God,” he sighed. “We have four beautiful eggs for you and six long and strong feathers! Even I didn’t expect to have so many eggs at once!”
“This is amazing!” exclaimed Yaakov. “We have them! I can now return home!”
Yechezkel examined the eggs and the feathers and he said the following, “Yes, we now have the eggs and we now have the feathers, but now comes the important part.”
As he spoke, he carefully collected up the eggs and feathers and gently put them inside his bag.
“Thank you,” he said to the farmer as he paid him for the things. “We appreciate your hospitality and kindness over these last few days.”
Yechezkel turned to Yaakov and said, “these eggs are now your responsibility. If you take care of them, keep them warm, keep them safe and when they hatch feed them every day, they will provide you with food and a way to support you and your family. You must teach your children how to guard them, to be gentle with them and to take care of them and when the eggs hatch you will have four little gooselings to care for too.”
“I thought we were going to eat these eggs” said Yaakov, surprisingly. “How do I take care of them. I have no time to take care of goose eggs!”
“Yaakov, remember I am here to help you fix something. Something that is broken. You will see the wonders that will take place when you do as I say and guard these eggs and care for the gooselings. This is your chance!”
Yaakov thought about what Yechezkel said. He wanted to know where Yechezkel came from, who sent him and why he gave him such a strange mission to complete?
When Yaakov returned to his home, (Yechezkel didn’t return with him. He said he had other things to fix and would visit later.) he told his wife and children about his adventures, going from farm to farm, searching for goose eggs and feathers. He told him what Yechezkel had told him to do.
One of the children asked, “What about the feathers, Father? What are you to do with those?”
“I’m not sure,” answered Yaakov. “I didn’t ask Yechezkel. I guess I will save them in a special place and when he comes back to visit, which he said he would, I will ask him then.”
Years passed, almost 30, since Yechezkel returned to visit Yaakov. Yaakov was an old man of 75, but Yechezkel looked exactly the same as when Yaakov first met him. The two sat down together at Yaakov’s table. The children were all grown and in their own homes with their own families.
As they were drinking a cup of tea and eating some crackers, Yechezkel heard the honking of a goose and saw it running in the yard. “Is that one of the geese from one of the eggs we bought from the farmer?” he asked.
“This is the grandchild of one of those eggs,” said Yaakov with a smile.
“Ah”, said Yechezkel, “so you followed my instructions and cared for the eggs and raised the gooselings. Tell me Yaakov, did they help to fix the problems in your home?”
“Well,”, answered Yaakov,” with a wink, I still have a leaky sink in the bathroom and a heater that doesn’t work very well, but I can now answer the questions that you asked me many years ago.”
“Yes”, Yechezkel waited patiently.
“I now support my children and have been for many years. I sell the goose eggs to people and sometimes the geese to farmers. Also, I took the goose feathers and went to learn how to become a scribe. I do all of my scribal work with the quills of the goose feathers. They have a special quality and I have become known for my work throughout the world.”
“Yes, continue”, said Yechezkel.
“As a scribe, I began to read what I was writing to my children. One thing led to another and before long, I was reading bedtime stories and learning with them during the day. I began to learn with and read to my children.”
Yechezkel sat quietly waiting for Yaakov to answer his final question.
“I was so busy with all of my daily rituals that by the time my day was over, usually late into the night, my wife had finished taking care of the children and cleaning the house. I tried to help cook for Shabbat and clean-up afterwards so that my wife could rest. On Shabbat day, I took the children for a walk to a park or the Western Wall (Kotel), if the weather was nice. Mostly, we started to go on family trips in nature and to farms. I had such a wonderful time with you searching for goose eggs and feathers that we always would try to have something to search for on our trips. Now we go with the grandchildren!”
Yechezkel was happy to hear that Yaakov, through his own work, had healed. He told him that he could not stay any longer because he had more places to go and things to fix.
“Who sent you?” Yaakov asked, as Yechezkel was leaving. “You never told me how you got my address.”
“I cannot know for sure, how I came to you,” Yechezkel replied. “I only know that there were prayers that needed answering and fixing to be done, and I came to you to do both. We are all here to mend what is broken, to gather up the shards that the Rabbis teach were scattered in our broken world and to make them whole again.”*
“Go in peace my friend,” Yaakov called after Yechezkel. “Perhaps we will meet again in the place where angels sing.”
* There is an idea in Chasidut that the vessels which contained the light of God’s holiness shattered and were sent flying all over the world and even the universe. Each time that we learn Torah, pray and do good deeds, we, as partners with God, gather those shards up to repair the vessels which hold the holy light and make our world whole again. This is what Yechezkel is referring to when he tells Yaakov that we are all in this world “to mend what is broken”.
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