The Parable of The Chofetz Chaim: Jewels Lying in the Street

The Chofetz Chaim, zt”l once offered a beautiful parable that brings out this concept:


There was once a very impoverished Jew, who heard about a far off land where there were jewels lying in the street for the taking. It was a treacherous journey and not everyone made it. Nevertheless, all one had to do was reach this far off land and where the jewels were lying in the street.


After consulting with his family, he decided to take this treacherous journey. He went on the long and dangerous sea voyage. He finally arrived at the far off land and as he walked off the boat the captain told him that the ship would not return for a year.


The Jew got off the boat and, sure enough, there were jewels everywhere. He couldn’t believe it. The first day he lined his pockets with jewels. The second day he did likewise. After a while, however, he realized, that he could not eat jewels. In this land, jewels were worthless so he could not even trade the jewels for food.


In this strange place, the commodity that was scarce was animal fat — schmaltz! The old law of Adam Smith (Economics 101) — supply and demand. Schmaltz was very valuable in this land of abundant jewels.


He became a fat dealer. He started out small and became bigger and bigger until he became quite a successful schmaltz merchant. He made a fortune in animal fat.

A year passed, the time came to return to his family and show them all the riches he acquired in this land. So what did he do? He went and took all this animal fat and packed it on the boat and sailed for home. It was a terrible journey, going through cold and through hot, but finally he made it.


The boat came to the dock, the family was anxiously waiting to see if he had been successful. He began unloading his bags and all of a sudden there was a terrible odor. We know what happens to schmatlz when it is not refrigerated. The longshoremen kept bringing out these boxes that reeked with the terrible smell. The family looked at each other in bewilderment, wondering why he would bring back schmaltz.


They came to him and asked “Were you successful? Did you find the jewels?” And he responded, “But I brought back all this schmaltz…”


The family figured that he was disoriented from the journey so they took him home and let him rest up. He kept repeating “But I have all this schmaltz!”

They yelled at him, “Schmaltz! What about the jewels?” He was so broken up that he went to bed and cried himself to sleep.

His wife and children threw out the schmaltz and went searching through his clothing. They found a couple of jewels that he had inadvertently left in his pocket. With those jewels the family was able to live happily ever after.


This, says the Chofetz Chaim, is Olam HaZeh, our world. G-d sends us to This World and tells us that there are jewels lying in the street. He tells us to grab the jewels while we are in This World, and show Him, when we return how many jewels we’ve accumulated. But here in this crazy world, instead of grabbing jewels, people grab schmaltz! They grab this thing called money. They grab materialism.


We get so involved in grabbing these non-essentials, that we forget why we were sent here. We were sent here for those precious stones. When we leave this world, after 120 years, woe to us if all we have to show for our years in This World are those reeking packages of schmaltz, which we inadvertently became involved in grabbing — rather than grabbing mitzvos.

About this it is written “The wise person takes Mitzvos.” “And Moshe took the bones of Yosef with him.” What did Moshe take “with him?” Moshe took the Mitzvah of taking the bones of Yosef. In the final analysis Mitzvos are the only thing that ever last.