By Rabbi Mordechai Levin
Published by the Omaha World Herald – January 7, 2012
When searching for happiness, joy or meaning in life, we sometimes look too far in the distance, rather than within or around us.
I’m reminded of a story told by the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, about a man who lived several centuries ago with his five daughters in a humble house in Prague. One night, he had a strange dream. He dreamed that far away, in the city of Krakow, was a treasure buried under a bridge. He awoke and dismissed the dream, but the following night the dream visited him again. In it, he saw himself digging under the bridge and uncovering this treasure. He awoke, surprised to have had this same dream, but went about his day.
That night, he dreamed the exact dream yet once more, and when he awoke he could no longer ignore it. That same morning, he set off on the long journey to Krakow. When he arrived some days later, he searched the city until things began to look familiar and he came upon a bridge exactly like the one in his dream. But just as he put his foot on the shovel, a guard came along and said, “What are you doing, digging under a public bridge?”
The man from Krakow told him all about the dream. The guard listened and then began to laugh. “You are a foolish man. Everyone may dream such nonsense. In fact, for three nights, I have dreamed that in Prague there is a man and buried beneath his fireplace is a treasure. The dream is very vivid, but do you think I would waste my time pursuing such a crazy dream?”
The man hurried back home to Prague, went inside his house and immediately began digging under his fireplace. Indeed, buried there was a treasure that was sufficient enough for him to live comfortably for the rest of his life.
Some people spend their lives searching for blessings, meaning, joy and happiness in faraway places, because they do not recognize the treasures they already possess. Often, what is very close to us is the hardest thing to see.
Before we begin to search for faraway treasures, let us be aware of the treasures that may be nearby: the warmth and the joy of family and friends, the beauty of nature; the wisdom and inspirational teachings of Judaism; the love and protecting guidance of God. All of these, and more, may be very close to us. As it is written in the Hebrew Bible (Proverbs 15:6): “In the house of the righteous there is much treasure.”