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A Tale Of Two Goblets

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The servant was ecstatic. He was racing to the King’s treasure house to retrieve two precious goblets to place on the King’s very table. Why had he been chosen to be the one to bring these royal treasures? Well, he was the one who had suggested the idea. You see, the King had decided to make a special banquet for all his servants and officers. He wanted each one to feel equally important. There was to be no long table where everyone would agonize over how far away from the King he was seated or why someone else was allowed to sit closer. No, the King did not want any feelings of jealousy to mar the festivities. So he ordered that each guest have his own private table and be served on the same dishes. Each guest had the right to sit anywhere he wanted to. Now it occurred to the King that given this liberty, someone might sit at the table that the king favored because of its location. After all, how would anyone know that that was the spot the king would want? The king certainly would not want to mar the festivities by telling the person to sit elsewhere. What to do? And then one servant remarked: “Everyone knows that the king had commissioned two beautiful goblets to be made for his personal use. The goblets were created with the finest of jewels. Certainly if they were placed on a table everyone would instinctively understand that this was to be the King’s table.”

The King was most pleased with this suggestion and he honored the wise servant with the privilege of retrieving the two goblets from the royal treasure house. In fact, the King insisted that the astute servant personally set his table with the two royal goblets!

As he eagerly hurried to the treasure house, the proud servant thought; “What honor the King has given me. Imagine how the others will look at me when I am privileged to place these two exquisite goblets on his table!” With these soaring thoughts, the servant quickened his pace. He carefully opened the heavy door of the treasury with the keys he was entrusted with and headed to the spot where the two goblets were placed. They were so precious and delicate. Both goblets were placed in a special box for protection. Cautiously, the servant opened the box; the beauty of the goblets mesmerized him.

The huge clock in the banquet hall ticked away. Time passed. More time passed and the clever servant had not returned from the treasury house with the two goblets. Those involved in preparing the banquet were moving about at a feverish pitch. But now, preparations were almost finished and still the servant had not returned. The King was puzzled. He turned to another trusted servant and asked him to hurry to the treasury to see what was delaying the first servant. Soon enough the guests would be arriving and would not know which table to avoid. Where was the clever servant and where were the two precious goblets?

The second servant hurried to the treasury house. The heavy door was ajar and from inside he heard profuse weeping. He entered and saw the clever servant shaking and crying with grief. He was kneeling over a broken goblet. The lid of the box that was supposed to protect it had irreparably smashed it. In a broken, sobbing voice, the first servant explained that he had been so mesmerized by the beauty of the goblet that he did not realize the precarious position it was in. The heavy lid had fallen hard on it and now the King’s goblet was broken. How could he who had suggested placing the goblets on the Monarch’s preferred table face him now? The second servant left the first one in his broken state and hurried back to the banquet hall where he knew the King was anxiously awaiting a report. With a bent head and a lowered voice, the second servant described what had happened and how the first servant was weeping profusely, scared of what punishment awaited him. After all it was he who had been so negligent and had caused the precious goblet to be ruined.

All stood with bated breath to see what the King would do.

The King declared: “It’s true I wanted both goblets to be placed at my table so all would recognize which table I prefer. But even the presence of one goblet will proclaim to all that this is the King’s table. Let the first servant return to the banquet hall and place the remaining goblet on my table. I wanted both goblets but even one goblet proclaims to all that I am the King!”

With this act of mercy the King looked away from the damage cause by the clever servant, and even insisted that he who had been negligent with the first goblet, be the very one to place remaining goblet on the King’s table!

This parable is used by the Abudraham, a classic commentary on the siddur, to explain why the passuk with which we proclaim Hashem to be our King begins with the word “Shema”. Originally we, the beloved nation of Hashem, declared our acceptance of His Kingdom with two beautiful words: “Naaseh V’Nishma.” These are the two “goblets” which Hashem preferred on His Table. The Abudraham explains that it was Hashem’s will that we declare His Kingship over us daily using these same two words; one from the root of the word “naaseh” (we will do) and the other from the root of the Hebrew word “nishma” (we will understand). Hashem had wanted these two words to precede our daily declaration of His Sovereignity: “Hashem Elokaynu Hashem Echad.” Thus a reminder of Naaseh V’Nishma would introduce our declaration that Hashem is our personal King and that He is One. Alas, the first goblet was broken. When Bnei Yisrael sinned with the golden calf they declared: “Kum Asei Lanu Elokim come let us make…(Ki Sisa 31:2). They misused naaseh by saying “Asei.” They broke the first royal goblet! Hashem in His great mercy forgave us, but dictated that the personal daily declaration of his Kingship “Hashem Elokaynu Hashem Echad” be proceeded by the root of the word Nishma. Why? Because we have never broken that precious goblet! That is why, explains the Abudraham, Shema, the goblet that was never broken by the taint of sin, is the first word used to declare that Hashem is our King and that He is One.

May it be His Will that we be totally forgiven for the sin of the golden calf and have the opportunity to once again demonstrate to Him that we will do (naaseh) and that we will keep (nishma) all that we know to be His Will. May we be zoche to the coming of Moshiach and a world where we keep all His six hundred and thirteen mitzvos. May we merit presenting our King both goblets.

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