There is a story in Jewish folklore which was made popular by Abraham Lincoln, strangely enough, in a speech he gave in 1859, which uses this phrase to sum up Solomon’s philosophy of life. In the story Solomon gave his trusted advisor Benaiah the task of finding a legendary ring, which had the power to make a happy man sad if he looked at it and a sad man happy. The man was given six months to search the kingdom for this ring. He searched and searched but could not find such a ring. Then the day before the deadline he was in the marketplace in Jerusalem and saw an old man, a merchant who was laying out his merchandise of jewelry on a carpet on the side of the street. Benaiah asked him if he knew of such a ring. “Have you by any chance heard of a ring that makes the happy wearer forget his joy and the broken-hearted wearer forget his sorrows?” The old man said, “Yes, I can give you such a ring.” He took an ordinary gold ring from his collection and carefully inscribed on it three Hebrew letters. Beniah brought the ring to King Solomon the next day. Solomon asked him, “Well, my friend, have you found the ring?” Benaiah replied, “Yes, your majesty” and handed him the ring. Solomon looked at it carefully and saw the three Hebrew letters engraved on the gold band: gimel, zayin, yod. “What do these letters stand for?” asked Solomon. Benaiah replied in Hebrew “Gam zeh ya’avor.”— “This too shall pass.”


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