The year was 1492 A.D., and the citizens of Rome wanted to expel the Jews. The Pope, being somewhat more openminded than his followers, decided to give the Jews a chance to be heard on this question, and challenged them to a public debate. The elders of the Jewish community considered the matter carefully.
"We have many learned and erudite men among us," they reasoned, "but the Pope is also learned and erudite. By learning and erudition alone, we may not prevail. Perhaps we may prevail by common sense." So they chose the most commonsense man among them, a crusty old fellow named Moishe, to represent them. Moishe agreed, but on one condition: The debate must be held in silence, without words.
Surprisingly, the Pope agreed. On the appointed day, the Pope and Moishe took the stage and seated themselves before the crowd.
The Pope held up three fingers.
Moishe held up one finger.
The Pope pointed with his three fingers to the four horizons: East, South, West, and North.
Moishe pointed with his one finger to the ground at their feet.
After some moments, the Pope held up the elements of the Eucharist -- the wine and the wafer.
Moishe immediately held up an apple.
Suddenly, the Pope stood up and declared, "The debate is concluded. The Jews have won. The Jews can stay."
Some days later, a cardinal finally got up the nerve to ask the Pope, "Your Holiness, just what exactly did you and Moishe say to each other?"
"First," began the Pope, "I held up three fingers to symbolize the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Then Moishe held up one finger to represent the essential Unity of God. Okay, so he got me on the first round.
"Next, I pointed to all the horizons to indicate that God is all around us. But Moishe pointed to the ground between us to indicate that God is right here with us. Okay, he got me again.
"Finally, I held up the Eucharist to indicate the redemption of humankind through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. But Moishe held up the apple to indicate the original sin of Adam and Eve that made that sacrifice necessary. I realized that he was right - that we are all one in Adam, and announced the Jews' victory."
Not long after that, one of the rabbis asked Moishe the same question.
"The Pope," said Moishe, "held up three fingers to say, 'The Jews must leave Rome in three days.' I held up one finger to say, 'Not one Jew will leave.' Then the Pope pointed to the horizons to say, 'The Jews must disperse into the wide world.' I pointed to the ground between us to say, 'We are staying right here!' Then," Moishe shrugged, "he held up his lunch, I held up mine, and it was all over."