Story about the nature of G-d?
February 2, 2010 9:57 PM   Subscribe

I am trying to find a story I heard a year or so ago, can't remember where. The story was a Jewish story about a young man who wanted to know about the nature of G-d. Ideas?

So I heard this story and loved it, but have since forgotten who I heard it from and every possible person I've asked has come up blank, as have my Internet searches and searches through books of folktales.

The story went something like this:

A young man travels far from home to visit a famous rabbi and find out the nature of G-d (possibly it also had something to do with the meaning of life?).

The rabbi first has him build a house, then find a profession, then find a wife, then have a child, then experience death before he gets an answer.

It was a really good story and I wish I remembered more details.
posted by eleanna to Religion & Philosophy (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Could it have been part of "A Canticle for Liebowitz"?
posted by Jinx of the 2nd Law at 12:46 AM on February 3, 2010

The only religion in "Canticle for Liebowitz" was Christianity. (It's a post-apocalyptic novel about a monestary 1000+ years after a nuclear holocaust, who've adopted the writings of a nuclear physicist named Liebowitz as part of their Holy Scriptorium.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:45 AM on February 3, 2010

Best answer: I don't know this particular story, but there are many stories of this general sort in Tales of the Hasidim. I know you said you've looked through some folk tales, but have you looked there? You might also look at stories by SY Agnon, who has a few like the one you related.

I'd point out more generally, that variants of this story are part of many different religious traditions, and I too love them (although I'm not religious.) I know that there are many in Zen Flesh, Zen Bones that I have enjoyed.
posted by OmieWise at 5:16 AM on February 3, 2010

On the other hand, I heard this as a youth:

Someone asked a rabbi if he could see G_d. The rabbi took the man from the dark building out into the blazing sunlight, and told the man to look at the sun. The man couldn't, and the rabbi replied: If you cannot look at G_d's servant, how do you expect to look at Him?
posted by mbarryf at 5:59 AM on February 3, 2010

My favorite variation on the theme:

A young man goes to his rabbi and asks him: "Rebbe, what's the meaning of life?"

"Life," replies the rabbi, "is a fountain."

"Life is a fountain?" the boy replies. "What does that mean? How is life a fountain?"

The rabbi strokes his chin pensively, then shrugs agreeably. "Okay," he says. "so it's not a fountain."
posted by AngerBoy at 8:01 AM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Okay, a more serious answer now:

The structure of the story you describe makes it almost certainly a Hasidic story and not something more ancient. The best place to find something like this would be in one of the many available anthologies of Hasidic stories.
posted by AngerBoy at 8:11 AM on February 3, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the other stories (also good) and tips on where else to look. If anyone's curious, let me know and I'll let you know if/when I find it.
posted by eleanna at 5:23 PM on February 3, 2010

Best answer: I've got some Lubavitch connections, a few from old families, so I'll ask them.
posted by palliser at 5:40 AM on February 4, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you, palliser.
posted by eleanna at 12:05 AM on February 7, 2010

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