Life Lessons: Humbled by Simple Words

by Sara on April 15, 2010

photo by sara b. healy

The fable of King Solomon and the ring

When I took this picture of a hawk sitting on the fence as rain poured down on him, I couldn’t help but think of the phrase, “This too shall pass.” It is one of my favorite phrases when I’m struggling with something.

When I say these simple words, I find that calmness comes to me like a nice warm hug. Yet, when I thought about this phrase, I realized I didn’t know the story behind it.

So, I did some research, which led me to Wikipedia. It turns out these words are part of a parable about King Solomon.

I loved the parable so much I decided to share it with you.

One day Solomon decided to humble Benaiah Ben Yehoyada, his most trusted minister.

He said to him, “Benaiah, there is a certain ring that I want you to bring to me. I wish to wear it for Sukkot, so this gives you six months to find it.”

“If it exists anywhere on earth, your majesty,” replied Benaiah, “I will find it and bring it to you, but what makes the ring so special?”

“It has magic powers,” answered the king. “If a happy man looks at it, he becomes sad, and if a sad man looks at it, he becomes happy.”

Solomon knew that no such ring existed in the world, but he wished to give his minister a little taste of humility.

Spring passed and then summer and still Benaiah had no idea where he could find the ring. On the night before Sukkot, he decided to take a walk in one of the poorest quarters of Jerusalem.

He passed by a merchant who had begun to set out the day’s wares on a shabby carpet. “Have you by any chance heard of a magic ring that makes the happy wearer forget his joy and the broken-hearted wearer forget his sorrows?” asked Benaiah.

He watched the grandfather take a plain gold ring from his carpet and engrave something on it. When Benaiah read the words on the ring, his face broke out in a wide smile.

That night, as the entire city welcomed in the holiday of Sukkot with great festivity, Benaiah met with Solomon. “Well, my friend,” said Solomon, “have you found what I sent you after?”

All the ministers laughed and Solomon himself smiled. To everyone’s surprise, Benaiah held up a small gold ring and declared, “Here it is, your majesty!”

As soon as Solomon read the inscription, the smile vanished from his face. The jeweler had written three Hebrew letters on the gold band: gimel, zayin, yud, which began the words “Gam zeh ya’avor” or “This too shall pass.”

At that moment Solomon realized that all his wisdom, fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things, for one day he would be nothing but dust.

This too shall pass

Now, you could see this as a depressing tale, but then again, parables aren’t always the happiest of stories, are they? They are meant as life lessons or morality stories.

I choose to see this parable as comforting. To me, it says that it is foolish to believe whatever happens in our lives will last forever. It will not. It is temporary, just like life.

I don’t interpret this to mean that we shouldn’t celebrate our joys and happiness or cry about our sorrows and losses, but it does remind me that we must do this with the understanding that BOTH will eventually pass. We can’t hold on to them or them to us.

There’s a beauty to these words. I think they are about the wisdom of fully appreciating and experiencing our lives, both the good and bad.

So, how’s your day?

If it’s absolutely wonderful, rejoice in it! Stand up and dance. Feel the thrill of a great day. You have this day for right now – appreciate it.

If, on the other hand, your day is not going so well, don’t let it cling to you or believe it will haunt you – it cannot.

You see, we all wear the ring that Benaiah gave to Solomon and it is engraved with the words, “Gam zeh ya’avor” or “This too shall pass.”

p.s. I’ve put up a new puzzle for the Puzzle Game, but must issue a warning. This one is not so easy to do and it will challenge you puzzle crazy people out there. I hope you have fun with it and feel free to put up your times in the comment box:~)

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Chania Girl April 15, 2010 at 9:31 am

I enjoyed this post today, Sara, because it touched on the other side of this very famous saying. It has occurred to me quite a bit recently that “this too shall pass” also applies to the happy, joyous seasons of our lives, as well. And for this reason, we should treasure those moments, shore them up in the event of damp, dreary, sodden days when we do want them to pass. Thank you for sharing the story you found.
.-= Chania Girl´s last blog ..Living With a Thief =-.

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Sara April 15, 2010 at 10:12 am

@ Chania Girl — Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this post. It is funny how the phrase is most often used in times of struggle, but it does apply to both the good and the bad.

I agree with you that it’s very important to treasure the happy moments in our lives. I also liked what you said about remembering them for those days we want to pass on by:~)

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talon April 15, 2010 at 10:01 am

That photo of the hawk is priceless, Sara! I’d want to run out and give him an umbrella!

It’s true – all the good things, all the bad things, will be as nothing. That’s why it’s so important to appreciate the moments as they come and knowing they won’t last is truly helpful when a moment isn’t of the great variety.

So far, I’ve been having some fine moments today :)
.-= talon´s last blog ..A Murder (An Unkindness) =-.

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Patty - Why Not Start Now? April 15, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Beautiful, Sara. The story gently speaks deep wisdom to me, reminding me, again, that life truly is a paradox. And that “this too shall pass” is a recipe for both good times and bad, a way not to get too attached. Perfect timing, as I look back on a sometimes challenging year and see that for each dark moment there was always a corresponding moment of light. Many, in fact. Thank you.
.-= Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s last blog ..What Did You Love As a Child? =-.

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Sara April 16, 2010 at 11:54 am

@ Patty — It is a great story! Wow, even in the comment box, you say things I want to keep as quotes — “…as I look back on a sometimes challenging year and see that for each dark moment there was always a corresponding moment of light.” I love these words:~)

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Linda April 15, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Sara, as always a wonderful, thought-provoking post. I, too, felt sorry for the hawk sitting there in the pouring rain. I would guess, though, that it bothers us more than it did him.

“This too shall pass.” It is comforting in times of stress and trouble to know our woes aren’t forever. Neither, however, is life. And while I wouldn’t want to live forever (unless my friends and family did as well), it would sadden me to look upon the good times thinking “this too shall pass”.

As I type this, I am sitting in my back yard under a crystal clear blue sky enjoying a warm spring breeze. I happened to see a chipmunk run across the driveway. I guess this goes down as a good moment in my day.

I enjoyed the puzzle this morning. My time was 18:50. It might not have been so poor had I been using my desktop PC.

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Sara April 16, 2010 at 12:01 pm

@ Linda — He did look pretty miserable, didn’t he. The rained so hard that day, I felt for him, too.

I don’t think you should look back on the good times thinking “this too shall pass.” That’s already putting the good times into the past. What I wanted to convey is that when you have good times, fully appreciate and acknowledge them because they will pass eventually. Enjoy them NOW while they’re with you.

I love your good moment…what a great idea for a post. Get people to share their good moments or keep a good moment widget up at your site. Love this. RE: the puzzle, you beat my first time by miles:~)

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Chris Edgar April 15, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Wow, that is a candid shot of a hawk — perhaps surveying the field “like a hawk” for mice dug into the ground to hide away from the rain.

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Sara April 16, 2010 at 12:02 pm

@ Chris — Thanks about the photo of the hawk:~)To be honest, however, I don’t think this guy was even considering looking for mice. He was pretty unhappy and really WET. The mice were the smart ones in this case…they know where to hide from the rain:~)

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Robert Hruzek April 15, 2010 at 3:39 pm

I’ve never heard that story before either, but it certainly has a great message we all need to hear. Thanks for sharing it – and the photo of that poor hawk. I’ve had days like that, I can tell ya!
.-= Robert Hruzek´s last blog ..Signs of Life =-.

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Sara April 16, 2010 at 12:05 pm

@ Robert — Thanks for your nice comments. The parable of the ring or “this too shall pass” is a good life lesson for everyone.

I appreciate you visiting and sharing your thoughts:~)

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Tony Single April 15, 2010 at 8:13 pm

“This too shall pass.”

I want to remember that one, for I too choose to take it as a comfort. I’ll put it alongside another phrase that I’m sure I’ve typed here before:

“All is lost but hope.”

I also like how Solomon’s intent to humble the minister came back to bite him. Even the wise can be taught a thing or two about humility. We’re all the same in that regard. :)
.-= Tony Single´s last blog ..Melancholics Anonymous =-.

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Sara April 16, 2010 at 12:09 pm

@ Tony — Great words…”Even the wise can be taught a thing or two about humility. We’re all the same in that regard.”

I also like your phrase, “All is lost but hope.” That would make an interesting post about the value of “hope.” Thanks for sharing:~)

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Belinda Munoz + The Halfway Point April 15, 2010 at 11:28 pm

Sara, what a beautiful post and the photo equally so and illustrates your message here so well.

The parable is poignant and reminds me that beyond the fleeting moments of sadness and happiness, there is our connection to each other that only passes when we do. And “this too shall pass” is the first phrase that comes to me when I’m having a challenging time. Like you, it calms and soothes me instantly.

Thank you for this wisdom.

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Sara April 16, 2010 at 12:21 pm

@ Belinda — I worried a bit about the picture and whether or not it would illustrate the post. Every time, however, I looked at that poor hawk, I wanted to say “this too shall pass.” He looks so miserable. Fortunately, the rain did eventually stop.

I have always used this phrase when I feeling challenged by life. That’s what I loved about reading the entire parable. At the end, Solomon doesn’t realize that the bad stuff will pass. Instead, he realizes that all his riches and wisdom have, so to speak, an expiration date. To me, this gave the phrase, “this too shall pass” a new purpose. While I still use it to comfort myself in difficult times; I also see it as reminder that I need to really appreciate what’s good in my life and be wise enough to share my riches while I have them.

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Fireblossom32 April 16, 2010 at 6:21 am

Tony Single beat me to it. I was going to say, my favorite part of this story was that Solomon set out to humble someone else, and ended up being humbled himself.

Talon was not your first commenter this time! Perhaps she had run inside to fetch an umbrella! Gosh, I thought there was one thing i could depend on! LOL.
.-= Fireblossom32´s last blog ..Ah! Bright Wings. =-.

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Sara April 16, 2010 at 12:28 pm

@ Shay — Both you and Tony make a good point. Solomon was all ready to laugh at his minister and then got his comeuppance!

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suzen April 16, 2010 at 8:45 am

Hi Sara! Priceless! I LOVE LOVE LOVE that saying and use it all the time in lieu of “reacting emotionally” to a lot of daily dribble. The hawk knew it. He knew the rain would pass. It’s really all very simple isn’t it?
Hugs
SuZen

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Sara April 16, 2010 at 3:18 pm

@ SuZen — I always enjoy your enthusiasm:~) It really is a calming phrase and if we understood “hawk” talk, I have no doubt, this one would be saying the phrase over and over again to himself:~)

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Hilary April 16, 2010 at 10:48 am

Hi Sara .. what a lovely post. The hawk looks too miserable for words – but he knows the sun will be out soon to dry his feathers. Time does heal .. this too shall pass .. linger with the good times – savour them, remember them – record them somewhere … while get on with things the challenging times will pass – we won’t be moping waiting for the time, our mind will be occupied with other things .. leading us to greater wisdom from the lessons we have learnt on the way.

Love the story and post – thank you .. have a good weekend ..
Hilary
.-= Hilary´s last blog ..Fancy a Cornish Cream Tea? In Cornwall, in Tokyo or at home? =-.

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Sara April 16, 2010 at 3:23 pm

@ Hilary — Why thank you ma’am!!! I like your idea of recording good times. We could call it the “Good Time Journal.” Have you affected by the volcano ash? All we hear about is how all the planes in England cannot fly due to the jet stream picking up the Iceland volcano ash and sending it to Europe. Evidently, Iceland is hardly getting any ask at this point. UNFAIR!!

I hope you have a very wonderful and ash-free weekend:~)

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Linda April 16, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Sara, I guess I didn’t articulate that too well. What I was trying to say was that I do want to enjoy the good times fully and completely, knowing they will pass, but not thinking about it. Sometimes it’s hard to get these inner feelings into words that convey them well.

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Sara April 16, 2010 at 3:29 pm

@ Linda — Sorry if it seemed I sounded off at your comment. It isn’t as much what you said, as my tendency to over emphasize a point I want to make in a post. My boyfriend is always telling me, “I got it already – stop hammering on about it!”

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Keith Davis April 18, 2010 at 3:20 am

Hi Sara
Super story – made me smile and feel a little sad at the same time.

“This too shall pass” could become the bloggers mantra.
When that post is taking forever to write, when that image is floating left and not right when that link is broken…
Pick up a pencil and a piece of paper and write… “Gam zeh ya’avor” or even “This too shall pass”
.-= Keith Davis´s last blog ..Flying in formation =-.

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Sara April 18, 2010 at 11:05 am

@ Keith — I agree with you about the “bloggers mantra.” When the techie gremlins attack, it’s very good to calm yourself with “this too shall pass.”

Thanks for the visit and sharing your thoughts:~)

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Jannie Funster April 18, 2010 at 10:39 am

Yes, the cutest pictures you put up. I bet your little buddy, the fence squirrel tries to stay out of this guy’s way. :)

This intrigues me… “If, on the other hand, your day is not going so well, don’t let it cling to you or believe it will haunt you – it cannot.” So very very true! And I also find I can turn around any perceived “bad day” with just a twist of my attitude. It really is all inside!! Just like J.C Penny, right? Remember their slogan a few years ago? :)

xoxo

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Sara April 18, 2010 at 11:08 am

@ Jannie — You are so right. I have quite a few hawks that try to get a free meal at the bird feeder. You always know when they are around because EVERYONE disappears.

I like the way you think. Actually, I don’t remember the J.C. Penny slogan, but agree that attitude makes a big difference in how you perceive your day:~)

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Tim April 18, 2010 at 10:56 am

Hi Sara:

Just wanted to say this was an awesome post! The lesson here is pretty important and a great reminder for all of us. I also like the way the picture of the hawk really sets this story up. I know I’ve had many instances when life seemed to be going too well and that I should be cautious (or prepared) for what’s next. In any case, great job!
.-= Tim´s last blog ..Improv Resources =-.

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Sara April 18, 2010 at 11:21 am

@ Tim — Thank you. I’m very pleased that you liked this post. I can’t actually take full credit as the parable is older than me. I do think it’s a good reminder for all of us to acknowledge and appreciate our good times; to dance with our happiness while we have it:~)

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Davina April 18, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Sara, I really enjoyed this one and think a lot of others will too… just tweeted. It’s delicious in a way… how you can turn a simple phrase such as this and have a profound experience and shift of perspective. Thanks for sharing this fable.
.-= Davina´s last blog ..Are You With Relationship? =-.

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Sara April 19, 2010 at 10:12 am

@ Davina — Thank you for your kind words and for the “tweet.” I hope people will see this fable as a reminder that both our times of happiness and sadness are temporary. Enjoy the happy moments while they last and know the sad moments will eventually pass:~)

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Catrien Ross April 21, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Sara, thank you so much, especially for the photo of the hawk. I see hawks almost every day here – so magnificently gliding above the rice fields or Lake Kawaguchi.

Actually I am stalling – spending a little time here on your previous post while I think about a “why?” joke. I really enjoyed that post, too, and will return when I am ready. It is early morning here, and raining heavily, and my “why” joke faculties right now feel just like that hawk on the fence.

“This too shall pass” and I will why myself back to your post!

Thank you, Sara. Greetings to you from the mountains of Japan – Catrien Ross.
.-= Catrien Ross´s last blog ..Catrien Ross on Getting Unstuck By Gently Letting Go =-.

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Barbara Swafford April 22, 2010 at 2:50 am

Hi Sara,

Mmmmm. I like that. “This too shall pass”. Although I’ve heard and said that quote before, I never knew the story behind it. Thank you for doing the research and sharing it with us. It’s such a powerful quote.
.-= Barbara Swafford´s last blog ..Comments -Why Some Aren’t Worth Reading =-.

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