A man goes through town slandering the rabbi of a small town. One day remorse came over him and he begged the rabbi for forgiveness.

The man offered to undergo any necessary penance to make amends. The rabbi instructed him to take a feather pillow from his house, open it and scatter the feathers to the wind. Then, he could return to see the rabbi.

The man did as he was told and then came to the rabbi asking, “Am I now forgiven?”

“Almost,” the rabbi answered. “You just have to do one more thing – go and gather up all the feathers.”

“That’s impossible,” the man complained. “The wind has already scattered them.”

“Of course,” answered the rabbi. “And though you truly want to correct the wrong you have done, it is as impossible to repair the damage done by your words as it is to gather up those feathers.”