Stewardship Resource

The Messiah Is One of Us

Story  Story
  • Author: Unknown
  • Updated: 07/31/2008
  • Copyright: Source Unknown

A story from the chassidic tradition. 

When members of a monastery believe that the "messiah is one of us," there is a transformation in the way they view one another.


This story concerns a monastery that had fallen upon hard times. Once a great order, it was now, as a result of waves of anti-monastic persecution in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and the rise of secularism in the nineteenth, much reduced in circumstance. All of its branch houses were lost, and it had become decimated to the extent that there were only five monks left in the decaying mother house: the abbot and four others, all over seventy years of age.

In the deep woods surrounding the monastery there was a little hut to which the rabbi from the nearby town would occasionally retire, using it as a hermitage. Through their many years of prayer and contemplation, the old monks had become a bit psychic; so, they could always sense when the rabbi was in his hermitage. "The rabbi is in the woods. The rabbi is in the woods," they would whisper to one another. At one such time, as he was agonizing over the imminent death of his order, it occurred to the abbot that he might visit the rabbi and see, if by any chance, his colleague had any advice that would help him save the dying monastery.

The rabbi welcomed the abbot into his hut. But when the abbot explained the purpose of his visit, the rabbi could only commiserate. "I know how it is," he exclaimed. "The spirit has gone out of the people. It is the same in my town. Almost no one comes to the synagogue any more."

And so, the old rabbi and the old abbot wept together. Then they read parts of the Torah and quietly spoke of deep things.

The time came for the abbot to leave. They embraced one another. "It has been a wonderful thing that we should meet again," the abbot said, "but still, I have failed in my purpose for coming here. Is there nothing you can tell me, no piece of advice you can give me that would help me save my dying order?"

"No, I am sorry," the rabbi responded. "I have no advice to give. The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you."

When the abbot returned to his monastery, his fellow monks gathered around him. "Well, what did the rabbi say?" they queried.

"He couldn't help," the abbot replied. "We just wept and read Torah together. The only thing he did say, just as I was leaving, was that the Messiah is one of us. I don't know what he meant."

In the days and weeks and months that followed, the old monks pondered this and wondered whether there was any possible significance to the rabbi's words.

The Messiah is one of us? Could he possibly have meant one of us monks here at the monastery? If that's the case, which one? Do you suppose he meant the abbot? Yes, if he meant anyone, undoubtedly he meant the abbot. He has been our leader for over a generation.

On the other hand, he might have meant Brother Thomas ... certainly Brother Thomas is a holy man. Everyone knows that Thomas is a man of light.

Certainly he could not have meant Brother Eldred. Eldred gets crotchety at times. But come to think of it ... even though he is a thorn in people's sides, when you look back on it, Eldred is virtually always right. Maybe the rabbi did mean Brother Eldred.

But he surely didn't mean Brother Phillip. Phillip is so passive, a real nobody. But then, almost mysteriously, he seems always to be there when one needs him. He just magically appears. Maybe Phillip is the Messiah.

Of course, the rabbi didn't mean me. He couldn't possibly have meant me. I'm just an ordinary person. Yet supposing he did ... suppose I am the Messiah...

As they continued to live their lives in this manner, the old monks began to treat one another with extraordinary respect -- on the off chance that one among them might be the Messiah. And, on the off chance that each monk might himself be the Messiah, they began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect.

Then it happened that some of the younger men who came to visit the monastery started to talk more and more with the old monks. After a while, one asked if he might join them. Then another. And another. Until, within a few years, the monastery had once again become a thriving place and, thanks to the rabbi's gift, a vibrant center of light and spirituality in the realm.

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