Posted on כ״ז בשבט ה׳תשע״ג (7 February 2013) by Rabbi
The daughter of the sultan of Turkey had fallen ill. The finest doctors of the empire could not heal her. The sultan brought them together and asked them when she would recover. Sadly, the doctors admitted they could not help the sick princess. The oldest of the doctors told the sultan, “If an apple from the Tree of Life could be brought to you daughter, she would most definitely recover.”
“Where can this wonderous apple be found?” the sultan demanded to know.
The old doctor said, “I heard many many years ago that the apple can be found in the Garden of Eden. Two trees are said to grow in the center of the garden. The Tree of Life is one of them, and the Tree of Knowledge is the other. It is said that whoever tastes an apple from the Tree of Life, no matter how sick they may be, will recover their health.”
The eyes of the sultan grew wide. “I must have one of those healing apples, who knows where this garden can be found?” asked the sultan.
The old doctor stroked his beard and answered:
“If I remember right, the elders of the Jewish community know best about the garden. What we know about the garden is told told about in their holy books of wisdom.,”
The face of the sultan grew red. “Bring in the leaders of the Jewish community at once!” he shouted.
Before an hour had passed, three of the most respected rabbis of the capital city stood before the sultan, wondering why they had been summoned on such short notice. They were quickly taken to the sultan’s Chamber of Government as soon as they arrived. The sultan was seated on his throne looking very grim and he began.
“As you know my daughter is sick and death will take her soon. Her only hope is something that is in your power to provide, and provide it you must. For if you fail, my anger will fall upon you and your community.” “Your Majesty,” one of the rabbis said, “you know that we will gladly do whatever we can. Tell us what do you want us to do?”
“Know then,” the sultan said seriuosly, “that I need an apple from the Tree of Life delivered to me within three days. If I don’t have it by then, you and all of your people will be banished!” With that, the sultan dismissed the three rabbis with a wave of his hand.
The three rabbis discussed the matter among themselves, and they all agreed that what the sultan was asking for was extremely difficult if not possible. No one knew where the Garden of Eden could be found. And even if they did, how could anyone go there and come back within three days?
So the leaders gathered all the people into the synagogue and they went from one synagogue to another, telling them the terrible news. A great sadness spread through the Jewish community, for no one believed it would be possible to get an apple from the Tree of Life in such a short time.
Now one of the three rabbis who had met with the sultan had a daughter named Leah. How she wished that such a wondrous apple could be found, so that the sultan’s daughter could recover, and the danger to all the Jewish people in Turkey would disappear.
Leah saw that her father was deeply worried by the sultan’s demands, so she said, “Surely, father, we must not give up hope. Miracles have happened before. Let us pray for one to happen for us. Tell me, is there anyone who knows the way to the Garden of Eden?”
“Only one of the thirty-six hidden saints,” her father replied. “It is said that there are thirty-six righteous ones upon whose shoulders that fate of the world rests. But no one knows where they can be found.”
“But, Father,” Leah said, “I have heard of an old Jewish mystic who lives alone in the forest. It is whispered that he might be one of the thirty-six.”
Now the rabbi remembered that he, too, had heard such things said about this old hermit. So he and his daughter set out at once to look for him.
It was not easy to find their way through that dark forest, but everyone did their best to assist the rabbi and his daughter, and finally they reached the old hermit’s house. They knocked on his door, and when he opened it, Leah was astonished to see a light surrounding his face.
The old hermit listened carefully as the rabbi explained what the sultan had demanded of them. Then he went to a shelf, took down an ancient book, and opened it. There, pressed between its pages, was a green leaf, perfectly preserved.
The old hermit took the leaf in his hand.
“This leaf has been pressed between the pages of this book for many centuries. It is said to have been picked from one of the trees in the Garden of Eden. Let your daughter place this leaf on her pillow and she will dream of that glorious garden.”