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The baker and the hermit: A moral tale

Contributed by Arab Educational Institute on 27.05.2009:

Once there was a very wealthy baker living in Jerusalem. As a widower, and without relatives, he daily handed out bread for free to a hundred worthy people known to be in need. He did this for many years. With Allah’s blessing, his undertaking went well. One day a holy hermit came from his cave in the mountains and visited the baker. The hermit told him that he had received a vision in which the Archangel Gabriel asked him to tell the baker that his deeds of charity were accepted by the Lord. As a reward the Lord would remove him, before the end of the year, from this world of sin and sorrow to live in Paradise.

After hearing this message, the rich baker humbly thanked God. He made arrangements from that day on for two hundred poor people to be handed out bread, with loaves from his bakery, and without payment. When he died he wanted that all his money would be given to a charity so that the practice would continue. He devoted all the moments of his last year of life to take care that everything would go well after he died.

To his thankful surprise the year came to an end, followed by several more, and he was still alive.

The hermit however, as year after year passed, and he was told that the baker was still alive and well, became very angry because his own predictions turned out not to be true. He became bad-tempered so that people gradually stopped coming to him for advice and comfort. This frustrated him much – until the Angel came once more to him to reprimand him for his evil thoughts.

“Of such saints as you are, who fast, pray and spend sleepless nights longing for heaven, there are many. However, those who remain among their fellow men, and who have patience with their shortcomings, and who do their best to help them – from those there are only a few. The baker is such a man, and in these evil times, God cannot take him from his service. If you had given your message to somebody else, he would have given up his service and spent the rest of his short life in doing pleasant things. The baker, however, never thought of himself. He just lived day by day as if it were his last, and used it for the benefit of others. You did a sin by grieving because God has prolonged his servant’s life. I have been sent to tell you to go to the baker and beg him to allow you to work in his bakery as an unpaid servant. “

The hermit confessed his sin openly and in all humility, and until the end of his life became a faithful assistant to the baker.

Adapted from a story told by his Beatitude Gregory IVth, Orthodox-Greek Patriarch of Antioch, in Damascus. From: J.E. Hanauer, Folklore of the Holy Land. The Sheldon Press, 1907

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