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Yehuda the Juggler (a parable)

We live in an age abound with mesmerizing performers, whether of musical prodigy, the physically daring or bizarrely inventive. There was a busker I once saw, for instance, who composed impromptu symphonies with only the use of his voice. It was indeed a marvel to behold. I also once had the fortune to be riveted by a third-generation daredevil who walked the high wire between two water towers. And then there were the four contortionist sisters from the Far East who intertwined into never-before-seen shapes, a geometric choreography both freakish and delightful. From lands far and wide such talent ceaselessly bedazzles. But there is one who stands alone. Yehuda the Juggler is the most fantastic performer of them all.

While it is true he is a juggler, he does not belong to any order or guild, nor is he well known amongst his peers. In fact, he would not even call himself a performer. But make no mistake, his skills–and indeed they are skills–are unparalleled by the even the most renowned within the craft.

Unlike other practitioners of the art, whose performances spellbind by increasing the number of objects thrown or who toss death-defying items like torches and swords, Yehuda only juggles three common balls. And Yehuda doesn’t perform for an audience either. Rather, individual passersby might choose to pause just long enough–though few do–to be captivated by his unorthodox style. Unorthodox, so it seems to the untrained eye, but nothing short of physical genius is his juggling in fact.

Lacking all grace and showmanship, Yehuda crudely propels the three balls one after the next to oft dizzying heights and at haphazard distances from his center of gravity–for he has none–the balls flung far from one other in all directions. It looks as if a child merely hurled the spheres in the air without the slightest precision or care. But with desperation and acute intent, Yehuda races back and forth along the ground, his neck bent skyward, panting and sweating as the falling objects accelerate on their descent back to earth. And while appearing totally out of control, lunging and stumbling this way and that, at the final split second he incredibly saves each of the of the balls before they crash down. And then just as hurriedly, he chucks each ball wildly aloft again.

It is the most dizzying and nerve-racking dance. Yet to most of those walking by they take no notice. Yehuda does not feign a street player’s charm or prop a collection tin by his feet. For the fortunately curious eye, however, one has the privilege of bearing witness to one mini-miracle performed upon the next.

Yehuda is always there, day or night it seems, at the same intersection of paths in the city park. I once watched him for 40 minutes during a midday reprieve, and he did not stop to take a drink or rest for breath. He has become a fixture in my life. And in all these years I have never seen him drop a ball.

Once I asked him why he juggles the way he does, for surely it would be easier to employ a more conventional technique. “I do not do this,” he annoyingly barked at me, “to keep, as you say, the balls in the air.” Rushing to and fro and without pause he continued. “I do this, you see, to keep myself from falling down.” And with that not another word.


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