moving stones

There was once a man who lived in a place where the land was very rocky and difficult to farm. In this land there was a law: it is forbidden to move stones from your land onto public land.

This man was clearing one of his fields so that he could plant it with crops, but he kept running into stone after stone. After thinking about it, he shrugged his shoulders and began throwing them from his field onto the public land that was nearby. A neighbor saw this and asked him “Why are you moving stones from land that is not yours onto land that is yours?”

The man laughed, because his neighbor seemed confused. Wasn’t it obvious that his own land was the land he was clearing of stones?

It was not long after this that the man ran into hardship, and needed to sell his land. As he walked through the land in the village that belonged to the public, he stubbed his toe on one of the rocks he had thrown there months before.

“How well my neighbor knew what I was doing!” he said. “I wish I had realized that I was throwing rocks from land that was only mine for a while onto land that belongs to all of us, always.”

Adapted from a traditional Jewish story.