This Too Shall Pass: Tracing an Ancient Jewish Folktale

Avi Solomon
Apr 25, 2013 · 2 min read

What do Abraham Lincoln, The Ben Ish Chai from Baghdad, Fariduddin Attar, and Anton Chekhov have in common?

It turns out to be a special fondness for an ancient Jewish folktale, which goes like this:

"King Solomon once searched for a cure against depression. He assembled his wise men together. They meditated for a long time and gave him the following advice: Make yourself a ring and have thereon engraved the words 'This too will pass.' The King carried out the advice. He had the ring made and wore it constantly. Every time he felt sad and depressed, he looked at the ring, whereon his mood would change and he would feel cheerful"
-Israel Folklore Archive # 126

While the phrase This, Too, Shall Pass is common in Persian In Niz Bogzarad and Turkish Bu da Geçer Yahu, tracing its association with the ring tale proves more elusive. How the tale originated and spread across the world remains a mystery shrouded in time but what is even more astounding is the existence of actual rings, amulets and even tattoos engraved with the philosophical words This, too, shall pass or Gam Zeh Yaavor in Hebrew.

While the phrase seems to have it's philosophical roots in Maimonides (Regimen of Health, III), wearing the ring itself has a powerful emotionally therapeutic effect and acts as a perpetual 'memento vita', reminding one to appreciate and celebrate every passing moment.

While pointing to the fleetingness of time, the phrase itself is timeless, being literally true at any given moment when it is uttered since that moment of remembering too will pass!

It is easy to have recourse to the consolatory phrase 'This, too, shall pass' in times of trouble and distress, but the trick lies in remembering the phrase during the good and happy times, when it is a potent reminder to value and live life to the full.

Look to the ring and you will become wise as Solomon or Lincoln!

It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!’
-An Address by Abraham Lincoln Before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, September 30, 1859

Learning for Life

Musings on being a perpetual autodidact

Learning for Life

Musings on being a perpetual autodidact

Avi Solomon

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Learning for Life

Musings on being a perpetual autodidact