One day, a young man stood in a town square proclaiming that he had the most beautiful heart in the whole country. A large crowd gathered around him, and all admired his heart, for it was perfect. There was not a mark on or a flaw in it. Yes, they agreed it truly was the most beautiful heart they had ever seen.
It was an ideal heart. As beautiful as a Greek stature of an ideal youth. The young man said that his perfect, beautiful heart, was due to his philosophy of following a path of meditation, self realization, calmness and detachment.
Then a rabbi named after Martin Buber, a great 20th century Jewish philosopher, who proclaimed that, “the purpose of all great religions and religious movements is to engender a life of elation and fervor which no (later negative) experience can dampen and stifle.”; appeared at the front of the crowd and said, “Why your heart is not nearly as beautiful as mine.”
The crowd and the young man looked at the rabbi’s heart. It was beating strongly, but it was full of scars. It had places where pieces had been removed and other pieces put in; but they didn’t fit in quite right, and there were several jagged edges.
In fact, in some places there were deep gouges where whole pieces were missing. The people stared. How could Rabbi Martin Buber say his heart was more beautiful than the perfect heart of the ideal youth?
The young man looked at the older man’s heart and laughed. “You must be joking,” he said. “Compare your heart with mine; my heart is perfect and yours is a mess of scars and tears.”
“Yes,” said Rabbi Buber, “yours is perfect looking; but I would never trade with you. You see, every scar represents a person to whom I have given my love. I tear out a piece of my heart and give it to people, and often they give me a piece of their heart, which fits into an empty place in my heart.
“But because the pieces are never exactly equal, I have some rough edges, which I cherish, because they remind me of the love we shared.
“Sometimes I give pieces of my heart away, and the other person doesn’t return a piece of his or her heart to me. Those are the empty gouges…giving love is taking a chance. And then there are places where my heart is broken, reminding me of the love I have had, and lost. I say Kaddish then to praise God for the pains of living a life of loving and caring; for it is better to love and lose than never to love at all.”
The young man stood silently with tears running down his cheeks. He walked up to the older man, reached into his perfect, young and beautiful heart and ripped a piece out. He offered it to the old man with trembling hands.
Rabbi Buber took the young man’s offering, placed it in his heart and then took a piece from his old scarred heart and placed it in the wound in the young man’s heart. It fit, but not perfectly, as there were some jagged edges.
The young man looked at his heart, not perfect anymore but more beautiful than ever, since love from Rabbi Buber’s heart now flowed into his. They embraced and walked away side by side.