The Fox and the Grapes (A Jewish Fable)
Once upon a time, Fox was walking along a lane when he passed a vineyard whose vines were heavy with ripe grapes. Fox’s stomach began to grumble with hunger. “Oh, grapes,” he sighed, “how I love grapes.”
Naturally, he decided he would sneak into the vineyard and eat as many grapes as he could. After all, how often does a fox come upon such a treat? “And all for me!” he cried. “All for me!”
He grinned from ear to ear, but then, as he looked closer, his grin turned to a frown, for the vineyard was surrounded by a tall fence. He ran around to check the gate, but when he tried to open it, he discovered it was locked.
“Well, then, I’ll just slip through the fence,” he said to himself, as he walked around it, searching this time for a hole.
He couldn’t find a single hole.
Now Fox sat down to think. At last, he said to himself, “I’ll just suck in my breath and make myself so thin and narrow, I’ll slip right through this fence. Ah, nothing can stop a sly fox when he has his heart and mind and stomach set on something.”
And so Fox inhaled and pulled in his stomach. He inhaled so deeply and for such a long time, he was nearly blue with the effort. Still, he could not make himself skinny enough to fit through the slits in that fence, for he was a fat fox, having always eaten more than his share.
“I’ll fast for a day,” he said aloud to no one in particular, “and when I’m thinner, I’ll slip through this fence!”
Fox kept his word. He did not eat, or drink, a single thing the whole next day. Finally, on the morning of the following day, with his stomach grumbling louder than it ever had, he tried to slip through the fence.
Alas, he was still too fat.
“Another day of fasting,” he said, and another day passed with him eating and drinking nothing at all. The next day he once again tried to slip through the fence.
He was still too fat!
“Another day of fasting will do the trick,” he told the bluejays who were pecking at the nuts and berries that lay on the ground beside the fence.
Well, sure enough, by the third day he was thin enough to slip right through the fence.
Oh, what a sight! Fox sighed with delight, for that vineyard was full of ripe, juicy grapes. Some of them were black and as big as plums. Some were gleaming red, some purple. Fox feasted and feasted some more. He ate until he could not eat another grape. He slept a while, and then awoke and feasted again.
After several days he had eaten nearly every grape in that vineyard and decided to be on his way.
Naturally, when he tried to crawl back through the fence, he discovered he was far too fat.
“Oh no,” he cried. The birds tittered and shook with laughter. “Well, never mind, I’ll just have to fast again.”
And so Fox fasted one day, but he was too fat to get through the fence. He fasted a second day, and still, he was too fat. He fasted the third day, and by nightfall, he was thin enough to climb through and escape the vineyard.
Exhausted, Fox once again walked along the lane, but now he was nearly starving. “I’ll just eat some nuts and berries,” he said to himself. But he discovered that while he had been gorging himself on grapes, the birds and squirrels and chipmunks had gathered all the nuts and berries.
Faint with hunger, Fox fell asleep and dreamed of ripe grapes.
Suddenly he woke with a start, for the bluejays had landed beside him, and they were twittering in his ear.
“No grapes!” Fox cried. “No more grapes, please!”
And the bluejays promised they would share their nuts and berries if he promised not to take more than his share.
“I promise,” Fox said, for he had learned that greed had made him miserable.