One day, King Solomon decided to humble Benaiah ben Yehoyada, his most trusted minister. He said to him: “Benaiah, there is a certain ring that I want you to bring to me. I wish to wear it for the Passover festival, which gives you six months to find it.”
“If it exists anywhere on earth, your majesty,” replied Benaiah, “I will find it and bring it to you, but what makes the ring so special?”
“It has special powers,” answered the king. “If a happy man looks at it, he becomes sad, and if a sad man looks at it, he becomes happy.” Solomon knew that no such ring existed in the world, but he wished to give his minister some added humility.
Autumn passed and then winter, and still Benaiah had no idea where he could find the ring. On the day before Passover, he decided to take a walk in one of the poorest quarters of Jerusalem. He passed by a merchant who had begun to set out the day’s wares on a shabby carpet. “Have you by any chance heard of a special ring that makes the happy wearer forget his joy and the broken-hearted wearer forget his sorrows?” asked Benaiah.
He watched the elderly man take a plain gold ring from his carpet and engrave something on it. When Benaiah read the words on the ring, his face broke out in a wide smile.
That night the entire city welcomed the holiday of Passover with great festivity. “Well, my friend,” said King Solomon, “have you found what I sent you after?” All the ministers laughed, and Solomon himself smiled.
To everyone’s surprise, Benaiah held up a small gold ring and declared, “Here it is, your majesty!” As soon as Solomon read the inscription, the smile vanished from his face. The jeweler had written three Hebrew letters on the gold band: Gimel, Zayin, Yud, which begin the words “Gam zeh ya’avor – This too shall pass.”
As we face a crisis of unprecedented proportions, it may be good to think of the special ring and its inscription. This too shall pass. In the meantime, we can help ourselves by helping others, calling them, picking up groceries for them, extending love and caring. We call it “chesed,” Hebrew for lovingkindness.
Rabbi David Grossman is spiritual leader of Temple Beth Sholom in Hull.