King Yanai[1] and his wife once sat at a meal. Since Yanai had killed the Rabbis, there was no one to recite the Grace after Meals for them.

"If only we could find a [great] person to recite these blessings," Yanai said. [2]

"Swear to me," said his wife, "that if I bring you someone you won't hurt him." He swore to her.

She then called for R' Shimon ben Shetach, her brother [whom she had hidden at the time of Yanai's decree]. Yanai sat R' Shimon between himself and the queen.

"See how I honor you," said Yanai to R' Shimon.

"It is not you who honors me," said R' Shimon, "but the Torah [that I study] which honors me; as the verse teaches, 'Seek her, [the Torah,] and it will elevate you, and seat you amongst princes."[3]

"See," said Yanai to his queen, "how he rejects my authority."


They poured him a cup of wine over which to recite the blessings.

"What blessing," asked R' Shimon, "should I say [since you give me nothing to eat]? Blessed are You, Hashem, who feeds Yanai and his friends!" He drank that cup.[4]

They then poured him another cup, over which he recited the blessings.

(Brochos 48a)


[1] A descendent of the heroic Hasmonean family. Their ancestors were the great Kohanim who saved and freed the people of Yisrael from the oppressive dictatorship of Ancient Greece. Thereafter unfortunately, the family used their popularity to hold onto the Jewish throne, which by right, belongs only to descendents of King David. This lead to their spiritual decline. Yanai himself was declared unfit as a Kohen by the sages of his day. In his rage, he executed them all, with the exception of the few who escaped him. (see story 337)

[2] Yanai obviously, knew these blessings. Still, he wanted a Torah scholar who would say the blessings, incorporating in them a blessing for the host. (Benayahu)

[3] Mishle 4.8

[4] R' Shimon understood that it was more important to honor the Torah which Yanai had so abused, than secure his own safety and the king's favor.

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