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The Flourishing Staff

Once upon a time, long long ago, there lived a boy named David. He grew up in a Jewish family, and his family was very religious. But when David grew up to be a man, he realized he no longer believed in God, and so he left the temple and stopped being Jewish.

David moved far away from the town where he had been born. He married, and settled down and had children. As it happened, the house David's family lived in was right next door to the house of a rabbi, a solid man named Jehuda. Rabbi Jehuda walked with the help of a tall staff, he was the leader of the local Jewish community, and he was very wise.

The two families grew friendly, and David's children played with the Rabbi's grandchildren. Naturally over time David and Rabbi Jehuda became friends.

One spring day when the apple trees were in bloom, David and Rabbi Jehuda were talking. Rabbi Jehuda said, "David, you don't go to either a temple nor to a church. I have long meant to ask you what religion you belong to."

"I was born Jewish," said David, "but then I could not longer believe in God, so I stopped going to synagogue."

"But David," said the rabbi, "if you no longer believe in God, how can you know right from wrong?"

David said that he was still able to tell right from wrong, and the rabbi answered back. Soon they were having a fierce argument. The rabbi said that only religious people knew right from wrong. David said that anyone who believed in God was crazy. At last night fell, and darkness put an end to the argument.

The next morning, David felt bad about the argument. He knew he had said many harsh things, and he went next door to apologize to Rabbi Jehuda. But Rabbi Jehuda was still angry, and did not want to hear his apologies. "You have told me what you think of my religion," said the rabbi, "and now I know what you think of me. It is best we leave each other alone."

"Rabbi Jehuda," said David, "I don't want our friendship to end. Let's put an end to this argument."

"You have said unforgivable things to me," said the rabbi, "You have told me how much you hate religion, but it is religion to which I have devoted my life. I see now that I have very little in common with you, just as this lifeless staff in my hand has very little in common with a living tree."

David left and started walking back to his house. Suddenly, the staff in the rabbi's hand produced buds, and the buds opened into white flowers, and green leaves sprouted forth from it. Within minutes, it had become a young apple tree.

The rabbi wondered at this sight. He called out to David, asking him to come back. "David, I see now that we do have much in common," said the rabbi. "We disagree in some things, but we are both human beings."

David wondered for a moment why the rabbi was leaning against a small blooming apple tree. But he was so glad that he and Rabbi Jehuda were friends again that he didn't think anything of it.