A parable about a turkey


27 May 2006, 11.35 CET

The king’s son once went mad and decided that he was a turkey. As a turkey, he had a need to sit naked under the table and gobble up crumbs of bread and bones. The doctors all despaired of helping him, and the king was greatly troubled. Then a wise man came and announced that he would take it upon himself to heal the prince. He stripped naked and sat under the table alongside the king’s son, pecking with him at the crumbs and bones. The prince asked him, “Who are you and what are you doing here?” He replied, “What are you doing here?” “I,” said the king’s son, “am a turkey.” “And I,” said the wise man, “am a turkey too.” So the two of them sat there together for some time, until they got used to one another. Then, at the wise man’s signal, a shirt was thrown to them. “Do you think,” said the turkey-sage to the prince, “that a turkey cannot wear a shirt? You can wear a shirt and still be a turkey!” After a time he signalled again, and they were given trousers. He said the same again: “Do you think that with pants on you can’t be a turkey?” Thus they both put on pants and all the rest of their clothing. He signaled again, and regular human food was thrown to them from the table, and he said: “You think that if you eat good food you’re not a turkey? You can eat and still be a turkey!” And so they ate. Then the wise man said: “Do you think that a turkey can only sit under the table? You can be a turkey and sit right at the table.” Thus he went on with him, until he had cured him completely.

—Green, Arthur. Tormented Master: A Life of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav. Alabama: U of Alabama Press, 1979. pp. 172-173.