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 […]