Seductive Banquet

Three people who saved the king’s life were rewarded with permission to enter the royal treasury for one day and take whatever they wanted. The king’s inner circle was jealous of the three rescuers and decided to stop them from enjoying their good fortune. On the appointed day, the courtiers gave a lavish party in honor of the three “heroes.” With tables full of delicacies and wine, they were sure they could divert the attention of the three, if not induce them to drink themselves into a stupor.

On the day of the feast, the conspirators provided food, drink, and endless complements about the heroism of the rescuers. The most intelligent of the three was not impressed. “Who needs their food and their accolades? It won’t make me wealthy.” Not wasting a minute, he left the banquet hall and hurried to the treasury, where he filled his sacks with gold, silver, and other precious items. By nightfall he had enough wealth to last a few lifetimes.

The second rescuer, not as perceptive as the first, was seduced by the great praise of his heroism and the succulent aroma of the feast. Surrounded by the king’s officers and advisers, he enjoyed the royal banquet and forgot why he was in the palace. Suddenly, he remembered the king’s offer! “The day is almost over, and I haven’t taken any of the king’s riches!” Excusing himself from the revelry, he rushed to the treasury. Working frantically, he was able to amass a respectable fortune before nightfall.

The third hero was totally blinded by the overtures of the royal circle. After a long day of eating, drinking, and merriment, he collapsed into a drunken slumber, exactly as the royal advisers had hoped. When he finally awoke, night had fallen and the opportunity had been squandered. He was forced to return home empty-handed.

Similarly, this is a world of opportunity. God gives us carte blanche to collect the most precious items in His treasury - Torah study and mitzvos (good deeds). At the same time, the King’s servant - man’s Evil Inclination - stages a lavish party for him, full of food, drink, and all the other pleasures of this world, in order to make him forget why he is here, and to prevent him from partaking of the royal wealth.

An intelligent person is not blinded by the pleasures of this world; he remembers his purpose, and goes immediately to enrich himself spiritually. He knows the real honor will come in the next world. Others wake up only during mid-life; then, they repent the sins of their youth and make up for lost time, so that by the end of their lives they are able to amass a respectable fortune of spiritual accomplishments.

The unfortunate people in the last category, however, intoxicated by the heady wine of the good life, squander away their years. Excited by a false sense of self-importance, they place their hopes in the wisdom of those who honor them, and believe that the prestige they enjoy is authentic. They indulge mindlessly in the worldly banquet, and do not come to their senses until it is too late. They return to their Maker empty-handed.

Excerpt from: Pirkei Avos 4:21 / Ethics Of The Fathers – Treasury pg. 270

by  Rabbi Pesach Pruskin
Posted in: Jewish Beliefs & Philosophy