Gentle Whisper: The Clever Carver

There is a Talmudic story titled "The Clever Carver". Once upon a time there was a family that was visited unexpectedly by a prince. He had been travelling and lost his way. Coming upon this house off the beaten path he was given shelter and hospitality. They were poor, but as was the custom, they took the one source of meat they still had, the rooster, and prepared it for dinner. They gathered around the table, said the blessing prayers, and all waited hungrily for their portion. The eldest daughter was given the carving tools, and she set about dividing up the bird.

Much to her parents' surprise she carved the bird and handed out the pieces strangely. The head went to her father, the body of the bird to her mother, all the available flesh to the children and herself, and the wings to the visiting prince. Nothing was said, but the parents looked at each other questioningly. The children, however, were delighted and attacked the rare treat on their plates. The prince, used to the lion's share of any meal, was stunned, but said nothing, just watched the girl closely for the rest of the meal.

The children and the prince settled in for the night, and the father and mother at the first opportunity queried their daughter about the way she had carved the rooster. The girl was sure of her allotments and explained: "Father, you were served first, with the head of the bird, because you are the head of this family. And Mother, you were served next the main body of the bird, with its ribs, because you have borne each of us within you and still carry us like a ship on the perilous seas of life. And the children were given the meat of the bird because they are young, hungry, and the real heart of this family. And the prince - he will fly away tomorrow and never think of us again - so, he got the wings of the bird. If he went to bed hungry tonight, perhaps he will know that we go to bed hungry more often than not, and we do not even have our rooster because of his unexpected visit." The parents were impressed with their daughter's common sense.

The prince was listening to the explanation and was fascinated by the girl's simple wisdom and deep understanding, blending the need to practice hospitality with the ongoing needs of her family and aware of others' behaviors and stations in life. In the morning he watched her with eyes open and receptive to her in a new way, and he was not surprised to find that he was in love with her."*