A Ukrainian Folk Tale


In the perilous days of Lenin and Trotsky, a grandfather told this story to his family to give them faith during the purges and famines of the time.

There was in Berdichev a middle-aged peasant named Zeidl the Faithful. He worked so hard on his few acres of farm that often he would go to bed exhausted. One night Zeidl woke suddenly to find his room filled with light. HaShem’s angel appeared to him saying that God had a work for him to do. The angel took Zeidl the Faithful outside his hovel and showed him a large rock a short distance away. God’s messenger explained that Zeidl was to push against this rock with all his might.

Zeidl, afraid of offending an angel, much less HaShem, agreed. Next day he went to the rock and began to push. This he did day after day and for many years thereafter. He set his shoulders squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all of his might. But it would not move.

Each night Zeidl returned to his hovel sore and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain. Zeidl was becoming discouraged. One day an ugly visitor dressed in a black veil saw Zeidl pushing at the rock.

“You have been pushing against this rock for years, Zeidl. Why bother? It isn’t going to budge. You are an old man now, and a failure.”

“No, no,” said Zeidl. “ I must not give up. I promised an angel of God I would push against this rock with all my might.”

“Foolish Zeidl,” said the man in black. “Just do the minimum, then. What is the point of wearing yourself out? How can you possibly succeed?”

This advice sounded good to weary Zeidl but he decided to take the problem to HaShem.

“Lord,” he said, “I have labored long and hard in your service, putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock. What is wrong? Why am I failing?”

HaShem responded with compassion for Zeidl.

“My dear son, when I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all of your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push. And now you come to Me with your strength spent, thinking that you have failed. But, is that really so?

“Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back sinewy and brown; your hands are callused from constant pressure, your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much, and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have.

“True, you haven’t moved the rock, Zeidl. But your calling was only to be obedient; to push and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom. That you have done. Now, my friend, step back, for I will move the rock.”

”Little ones,” said Grandpa. “Let us exercise the faith that moves mountains, but know that God is the Mover.”

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