|A hungry Jew, whose family was starving, stole a loaf of bread from the market. But as soon as he slipped the loaf into the waistband of his trousers, the stall owner began to shriek, “Thief! Thief!” |
The man began to run, but he was no better at running than he was at stealing. Within three or four steps he felt the heavy hands of the sultan’s guards on his shoulder.
They marched him off to prison, where in the near dark of his cell he found a single pomegranate seed on the dirt floor.
“Why is the Lord plaguing me?” he thought. “Here I am about to be executed for stealing a loaf of bread so that my children would not starve, and He sends me a pomegranate seed.”
But, since the rabbis always said, “The Lord does not toy with us,” he gave that seed much thought.
When the guards brought him out to the open courtyard for his execution, the Jew was ready. He turned his face up to the executioner and spoke so loudly, everyone — including the sultan, himself — could hear, “Kill me as you must, but do not throw away my magic pomegranate seed.”
“What nonsense is this?” growled the executioner.
“Not nonsense at all. If you plant it, it will grow instantly into a great pomegranate tree, laden with ripe fruit. But …” the Jew shrugged.
“But what?” The executioner lowered his axe and leaned forward.
“The seed will only grow if you have never stolen anything. So you see, it is useless to me now.”
The executioner trembled. “I have taken things from the pockets of those I have executed, instead of giving it to their heirs. I cannot plant the seed.”
The Jew held up the seed to the guards. “Is there one among you who can plant the seed?”
The guards conferred amongst themselves. Finally, one came forward. “We have each taken golden spoons from the sultan’s table. We cannot plant the seed.”
The thief turned to the sultan’s vizier. “And you, mighty sir?”
The vizier trembled. “I have … um … occasionally pocketed coins from the sultan’s treasury. Ummmm … coins owed to me.” He looked quickly down at the ground.
“Then, magnificent sultan, it is up to you to plant the seed,” the Jew said.
The sultan smiled. “And haven’t I taken entire countries from other sultans? I doubt I could plant that seed.”
“Oh mighty and powerful people, you have taken trinkets, coins, golden spoons, entire countries, and still retain your high status and wealth. And here am I, a poor Jew, who only wanted to feed his starving children. Yet you will live and I will die.”
The sultan laughed. “What a clever man you are. I need someone like you around to remind me how a life can be saved by a simple pomegranate seed.” He made the Jew a royal gardener and moved his family into the palace, where they never went hungry again.