Tales : The Pot of Lentils

There was, once upon a time, a man who lived far out in the wilderness, near a track along which travellers sometimes journeyed. This man lived very poorly, but it was his custom to give food to those who were passing. He gave whatever he could, but most often he would give them a pot of lentils to eat, and as a result he had become known as the Lentil Baba.

One day, a traveller who had been invited to sit in the shelter of the Baba’s hut and eat something, asked his host a question. “Baba,” he said, “how is it that you are here, serving everyone who passes?”

“Perhaps you will not believe it,” the Baba replied, “but I was once a thief in this same place. I would watch for lonely travellers coming along the road, and then I would ambush them, stealing whatever they had, and sending them on their way. But one day, I miscalculated. I attacked a man I took to be alone and while I was busy emptying his bags, his two companions arrived, and the three of them gave me a terrible beating.

“They left me for dead, more or less, and went on their way. But although I could scarcely see and barely move, there was still a spark of life. I lay there for two or three days, helpless, and I thought that my end was near. But then I heard someone come, and help me to sit up, and in a little wile this man gave me something to eat – a pot of lentils.

“When I tasted the lentils, tears ran down my face. I thought he had put some unknown spice in the pot, they tasted so good. ‘Brother,’ I asked him, ‘why do your lentils taste like food from heaven?’ And he must have known something about me, for he answered, ‘Because you did not steal them.’

“His words went into my heart like an arrow. And in the days that followed, I watched him prepare our food, and it was true, he only cooked lentils like everyone else, but they tasted to me like something from paradise. That is why, when I was well enough, I began to follow his example, and give food to those who are passing. So they can also taste how good food is that is not stolen.”

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