The honest disciple

The following Jewish folktale can be found in “The Children’s Book of Virtues,” which we used to read from to our kids. It was edited by William J. Bennett, the former Secretary of Education under President Ronald Reagan.

“Once a rabbi decided to test the honesty of his disciples, so he called them together and posed a question.
‘What would you do if you were walking along and found a purse full of money lying in the road?’ he asked.
‘I’d return it to its owner,’ said one disciple.
‘His answer comes to quickly, I must wonder if he really means it,’ the rabbi thought.
‘I’d keep the money if nobody saw me find it,’ said another.
‘He has a frank tongue, but a wicked heart,’ the rabbi told himself.
‘Well Rabbi,’ said a third disciple, ‘to be honest, I believe I’d be tempted to keep it. So I would pray to God that He give me the strength to resist such a temptation and do the right thing.’
‘Aha!’ thought the rabbi. ‘Here is a man I would trust.'”

I came across the book in our attic and remembered reading it to our three children. There is a companion book called “The Children’s Book of Heroes,” which is somewhere in the attic, unless we gave it to a niece with children.

The stories range from brief vignettes to four to five page stories. I have always liked the honesty of this piece. It seems to resonate more today, when people in leadership positions forget the need to be honest with us.

8 thoughts on “The honest disciple

  1. Note to Readers: I will add one of the stories from time to time, likely editing some of the longer ones. This lesson shows we are human, but want to do the right thing. The rabbi has a good sense of our imperfections as he thinks of the three responses.

    There is another one which must be in the other book I cannot find, with a similar construct. It involves helping people when we have the time to help, but walking past them when we don’t. It involves a religious leader as well posing similar questions. Again, it makes one think about “what would you do?”

  2. That’s a very good and teaching story. We all have those first thoughts which may not be reflexively full of virtue. But that is not a bad thing it is to recognize them and shift them towards an action of virtue.

  3. It feels very much these days that honesty in our government has flown the coop, perhaps forever. And, without honest people leading, doesn’t it follow that the citizens, too, will decide to throw honesty aside and go for self interest instead? Many, I think, already have.

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