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Life is a Banquet: The Allegory of the Long Spoons: Noreen's Kitchen

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Published on Sep 15, 2012

Greetings! I am sharing with you a story that we all should know. The Allegory of the Spoons. It goes like this:


Rabbi Haim of Romshishok was an itinerant preacher. He traveled from town to town delivering religious sermons that stressed the importance of respect for one's fellow man. He often began his talks with the following story:
"I once ascended to the firmaments. I first went to see Hell and the sight was horrifying. Row after row of tables were laden with platters of sumptuous food, yet the people seated around the tables were pale and emaciated, moaning in hunger. As I came closer, I understood their predicament.
"Every person held a full spoon, but both arms were splinted with wooden slats so he could not bend either elbow to bring the food to his mouth. It broke my heart to hear the tortured groans of these poor people as they held their food so near but could not consume it.
"Next I went to visit Heaven. I was surprised to see the same setting I had witnessed in Hell -- row after row of long tables laden with food. But in contrast to Hell, the people here in Heaven were sitting contentedly talking with each other, obviously sated from their sumptuous meal.
"As I came closer, I was amazed to discover that here, too, each person had his arms splinted on wooden slats that prevented him from bending his elbows. How, then, did they manage to eat?
"As I watched, a man picked up his spoon and dug it into the dish before him. Then he stretched across the table and fed the person across from him! The recipient of this kindness thanked him and returned the favor by leaning across the table to feed his benefactor.
I suddenly understood. Heaven and Hell offer the same circumstances and conditions. The critical difference is in the way the people treat each other.
I ran back to Hell to share this solution with the poor souls trapped there. I whispered in the ear of one starving man, "You do not have to go hungry. Use your spoon to feed your neighbor, and he will surely return the favor and feed you."
"'You expect me to feed the detestable man sitting across the table?' said the man angrily. 'I would rather starve than give him the pleasure of eating!'
"I then understood God's wisdom in choosing who is worthy to go to Heaven and who deserves to go to Hell."


]Interpretation

We have the opportunity to use what we are given (the long spoons in this allegory) to help nourish each other, but the problem, as Rabbi Haim astutely points out, lies in how we treat each other.
Given the same level playing field one group of people who treat each other well will create a blissful and pleasant environment. Whereas another group of people, given exactly the same tools to work with, can create a living hell simply by how they treat each other. It's a simple truth, but easy to forget when you're lonely, when you can't see what's in front of you. The way to turn things around is through reaching out to others.
The parable is one of many approaches to communicating the concept of hell. From Dante's inferno to other views on purgatory.

One other example puts this in context, quoting the inscription above the gates at the entrance to hell.

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here
Hope is a knave befools us evermore
Which till I lost no happiness was mine.
I strike from hell's to grave on heaven's door:
All hope abandon ye who enter in.
-- Beckett,

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