One day a poor man showed up at a local banquet. Everyone of means in the community had been invited, but this man, dressed in rags, had not. The banquet was already underway when the poor man entered and made his way into the grand home of one of the local merchants. The servants gazed upon the man with a look of reproof, not believing that someone dressed so shabbily would dare show up at such an event. They hastily escorted him to the farthest corner of the great room in which the banquet was being held. From that vantage point the poor man watched as great trays of food were passed around, none of which were offered to him.
And so it was that while everyone else ate and drank, the poor man sat, quietly taking in all of the proceedings.
After some time had passed the poor man got up from his seat and exited. He proceeded to borrow a beautiful set of finery - a proper set of clothes - and returned to the banquet, dressed much differently than he had before. The servants welcomed the well dressed man, and shaking his hand vigorously, invited him to take a seat at the head table where the owner of the house sat.
The poor man was immediately offered trays and platters overflowing with delicious food, as well as drink to match. Without hesitation the poor man stood up from his seat, grabbed a handful of food and began stuffing it into his clothes - first a turkey leg into his right pocket, then piles of potatoes into his arm sleeves, and finally apples and pears under his shirt - all the while yelling, “Eat coat, eat!”
The guests were aghast, and watched as the poor man continued on. The master of the house rose from his seat, and in a raised voice shouted, “Excuse me sir, what exactly are you doing?”
The poor man paused, turned to him, and replied, “Well sir, it was clear when I arrived earlier dressed in rags, that I was not welcome here. It was only when I returned dressed as I am now that food and drink were generously offered to me. What is clear is that it is not me that is welcome to this fine banquet, but rather my coat that is welcome. And so, should my coat not eat?”
Story re-crafted by R' Mark Novak & Renée Brachfeld
(Any suggestions as to how the poor man acquired the set of fine clothing?)
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Mark Novak is a "free-range" rabbi who lives in Washington DC and works, well, just about everywhere. In 2012 he founded Minyan Oneg Shabbat, home to MOSH (Minyan Oneg Shabbat), MindfulMOSH (Jewish mindfulness gathering), and