The Foundation of Good Health: The Scorpion and the Turtle


There is a story about the scorpion and the turtle. They were sitting on the edge of a wide and deep river and both wanted to cross. The turtle was observing the current and calculating the time and effort it will take him to swim to the other side. The scorpion, who is no swimmer, was eyeing the turtle and asked, “May I get on your back for a ride across this river?”

The turtle replied, “No way! You will sting me and I’ll die.”

“But that would be stupid,” replied the scorpion. “If I sting you I would drown and die also. Now, why would I do such a thing?”

The turtle thought for a minute and said, “It makes sense. Of course you would also die; but what about when we reach the other side.”

“I’ll be too busy jumping off to dry land to be concerned about stinging you. Besides, I would be grateful for the favor, so I won’t hurt you; trust me.”

“Okay, get on,” replied the kindhearted turtle.

He swam halfway across the river when the scorpion raised his stinger and pierced it deeply into the turtle’s neck. He instantly became too weak to swim and as he started to sink he uttered, “Why did you do that? Now you are also going to die. It doesn’t make any sense. You said you would never do that to me.”

“I know, I know,” the scorpion retorted, “but I couldn’t help myself; it’s my nature.”

That is the basic difference between the animal and the human. The animal’s genetic programming governs its behavior. The human, on the other hand, has an intellect with which to weigh the probable consequences of any act and therefore can overcome his nature. In the human construct we have both animal and human characteristics within us. We have our instincts for survival and we hopefully make choices to defer instant pleasure to secure a good long-term result. The perpetual fight between the internal animal and the human is the struggle to overcome temptation.

Therefore, every decision answers the question, “Should I or shouldn’t I?” and the animal is constantly at war with the human, with each vying for control.  Thus, the outcome of any disease or any illness prevention program depends on who won the battle for control, the animal or the human.

In conclusion, the key to healing and wellness is overcoming temptation by setting aside instant gratification in favor of long term benefit. This is a process that requires asking G-d for help. Otherwise it would be like trying to stop a herd of stampeding elephants.

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