The law and the fruit

By Paulo Coelho

Fruit was very scarce in the desert. God summoned one of his prophets and said:

‘Each person should be allowed to eat only one piece of fruit a day.’

The custom was obeyed for generations, and the ecology of the area was preserved. Since the uneaten fruit bore seeds, other trees grew up. Soon that whole region became very fertile, the envy of other cities.

However, faithful to the order an ancient prophet had passed on to their ancestors, the people continued to eat only one piece of fruit a day. Moreover, they would not allow the inhabitants of other towns to enjoy each year’s abundant crop of fruit. The result: the fruit rotted on the ground.

God summoned a new prophet and said:

‘Let them eat as much fruit as they like, and ask them to share out the surplus with their neighbours.’

The prophet arrived in the city with this new message, but so deeply rooted was the custom in their hearts and minds, that the city’s inhabitants stoned him.

As time passed, the young people began to question this barbarous custom, but since the traditions of the elders were untouchable, they decided instead to abandon their religion. That way they could eat as much fruit as they liked and give the rest to those who needed it.

The only people who continued to attend the local church believed themselves to be most holy. In fact, they were merely incapable of seeing that the world changes and that we must change with it.

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  1. aditya says:

    AVC Nice to ‘see’ u. sound advise friend. ! question all and keep an open mind !!

    Yagna – U did the right thing, did not react, gave yourself time. ‘Other’ relegions don’t become funny by someone trying to make fun of them, all ( or rather most ) priests ( so called ! ) are not men of God. The real preiests ! men of God are identified by their actions not their speeches !!

  2. marie says:

    Thank you Paulo for writting this :D

  3. Yajna says:

    Dearest Paulo,

    This is a powerful story. Sometimes people forget that God sends his messages in many ways. And many people are so bent on their own beliefs that they forget the world is changing, new prophets will come, and God is always sending us messages through anything and everything. Some of my close friends and i were discussing the very issue today.. How some religions are “written in stone,” and how one can not apply it sufficiently, or rather one doesn’t find understanding in it, so instead they abandon it. Personally, i believe that religion is a very personal thing, because its your individual way to find God inside of you. Whether it means you going to a temple, church or mosque or where ever. Its personal. But the way some religions are based today, they tend to be indoctrinating, and in some cases the people who lead via their own interpretations, can cause people doubt the original religion.. And inevitably cause others to lose faith in it.. Which is really sad. Allow me to share a story..
    I’m a hindu, but i always love to learn and explore other religions. I often go to this one church, because i just love it.. The atmosphere, the sense of God and a particular priest. One evening, a different priest was doing the mass, and he was a man convincing people to be true to Jesus. He went to extent of saying that Jesus is only way, not other ways like going to mountain and saying “Aum..” and he started laughing and mocking other religions. I found this to be extremely disrespectful, and i was honestly raging mad. Because in that statement he basically said that its perfectly fine to mock other religions and disrespect others. I seriously did not want to go back there. But i sat myself down and thought about it. I love that church. Just going there, and sitting there, gives me so much peace inside. And i love Jesus and his teachings, and i think that it would be rather silly of me to give up something so important to me because of one man’s interpretation and speech. When i did go back, the other priest told us, to love thy neighbour, regardless of who they are or what they believe. And that is the true way to heaven. It was in that moment, i thanked God i didn’t give up on going back there.

    Thank you for being.

  4. Ivona says:

    Most people follow traditions because they feel safe within their narrow minded view of the world. Everyone likes to feel safe and secure.
    It is difficult to be the one to stand out and say I shall eat as much fruit as I desire. And even if you do that, it’s not enough. To just oppose a tradition and not do anything constructive to change it is same waste of time just like following wrong customs is.

    After we realize that things are wrong, we should do everything in our power to change then, for the sake of the world. We need to make everything new.

    Revelation 21:
    5He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

  5. A.V.C. says:

    Is it recommendable for anyone to follow (or indeed to condemn) any tradition before one have figured out its meaning?

    Perhaps not. Perhaps it is even dangerous. On the other hand, I think that one could try to be brave a bit more often and dare to preliminarily assume that a certain tradition has got a certain meaning, well aware that one may be wrong and thus with the mindset of being prepared to rethink at any time.

    In that way it is possible, in my experience, to gradually unfold the mysteries within the many ancient and beautiful traditions that quite often seem totally obsolete at a first glance.

    Explore and question all. Think for yourself.

  6. Nowadays I am reading a stunning biography of the Prophet Muhammed by Barnaby Rogerson. Your little yet enormous anecdote is an execllent introduction and ending of the earthly life of Muhammed (pbuh)… if not every Prophet / sage / divine trouble maker past, present and future! Good stuff!

  7. aditya says:

    Mya common sence take precedence over all customs & traditions.

    it’s easy to be a sheep, easy as in a less troubled life, it’s difficult journey to follow your own common sence merely because by doing so one one is travelling a ‘path less travelled’
    it’s foolish to change things merely for the sake of change.

    the golden question is what do i do when i don’t understand the logic behind some trdaition, I cann’t make sense out of it – my response always has been – if it’s a harmless tradition, it does not cause any problems to anyone, maybe follow it ( e.g Paulo’s pilgrimage to santiago, he was follwing a tradition ), even if it causes some discomfort to me. But, if the tradition creats waste and harms people, I may not participate.


  8. Angel Morsi says:

    Dear Paulo! Thanks for writing so beautiful and faithful words. It’s a pleasure to read you and feel God’s wish through your stories.
    Paulo, I didn’t forget your birthday on August 24th but you, better than anyone else, knows that sometimes things go in their own way; it doesn’t matter what we want to do because the Way is strong enough to make us follow itself. Well, Happy Birthday my friend! Please, keep going on this great Way. Because only good things are gonna happen to you.
    Kisses for you and Christina.
    Sweet cariocas’ kisses :)
    Angel Morsi “Actress”

  9. Quennie says:

    So true. Very few question sumptuary laws because they are almost always righteous. And it is difficult to repeal them once we grow accustomed to things even when common sense tells us that they’re no longer applicable.

  10. Ione says:

    I also love this story. Isn’t that the reason Jesus was crucified. Now most of the churches are full of the same narrow minded zealots who opposed him.

  11. Kathleen says:

    You know I often have this “discussion” with my mother who is a stickler for tradition. Ever since I was a young girl I would want to know “but why is it done this way” and would find it very frustrating if I didn’t get a proper answer. We still lock heads on this subject, so many years later.

    I don’t believe all things are better with change but if it doesn’t make sense, why blindly do it? People need to ask more questions, not just be one of the sheep.

  12. Leaf says:

    This is the most beautiful and brave piece you have ever written; me thinks.

    I see so much yet all beyond words…you said it all.

    I have read Revelation more than any other book in the bible…and after only the other day recognizing it is to be rewritten, this is pretty scarey – but in a beautiful, cute, kinda ironic way, of course.

    Beyond a dream come true.
    Beautiful you.
    anti = antè
    I’ll shut up now.
    Ps, the third is a collage
    but there’s a limit to my multi-tasking! hehe
    Peace and Love
    I’m in love with life
    I want all to share that feeling
    and I owe it to you
    but I no worship, angel, hehe

  13. B.L. says:

    Oh, my God .. So true, so true.