He held up the instrument and started his sales talk.
“What am I offered?” he asked. “Who’ll start the bidding for me? A dollar? Two dollars? Will someone make it three?”
But there were no bids at all, not one dollar, not two, definitely not three.
The auction room was impatient to get onto the next item. Most people thought it was a big joke.
But then someone came up from the back of the room. It was a little grey-haired man walking rather hesitantly.
He picked up the old violin and wiped the dust off the instrument and the bow. Tightening the loose strings, he began to play.
A melody came out as pure and sweet as the songs the angels sing.
The music came to an end.
In a quiet voice the auctioneer said once more, “Now what am I offered? What am I bid for the old violin? A thousand dollars? Two thousand? Will someone make it three?”
This time there were bids. There was energy in the room. The auctioneer responded. “Three thousand dollars, four thousand, five thousand – going, going, gone!” The audience cheered.
Somebody called out, “How come the price suddenly went up so much?”
The reply was almost only a whisper, “What changed it? It was the touch of the master’s hand…”
There is many a violin that is so battered and dusty that no-one wants to be bothered with it. There is many an old person whose life also looks ended, wasted and worthless.
But everything changes when the world sees what difference is made by the touch of the master’s hand.
This happens with old religions and old festivals too.
It is so easy – so natural, almost – to say they are done, finished, worth nothing any more.
On a day like Sh’mini Atzeret, the end of a long cycle of calendrical events, we want to say, “Aren’t I glad it’s all over!”
But if the spark has been kindled, we see the touch of the Master’s hand. And nothing is ever the same again.