Avraham Tzvi Schwartz

A pious man once prayed along the road. An important [Roman] official passed by, and greeted him. He did not reply. The official waited for him to finish praying. When he did so, the official let loose...

"You, worthless loafer," he lashed out at him, "Doesn't it say in your Torah, "As much as you can, guard your lives" and "Protect yourselves most carefully."[1] Why didn't you greet me back? If I sliced your head off with a sword, could anyone blame me?"

"Please," begged the pious man "give me a chance to appease you.

"Imagine, you were standing before a king of flesh and blood, and a friend of yours came and greeted you, would you greet him back?

"No," said the official.

"And if you were to greet your friend," asked the pious man, "what would they do to you?"

"They would slice off my head with a sword."

"How much the more then is this true for me," said the pious man. "If an important official like you, offends a king of flesh and blood -- one who is here today and in the grave tomorrow -- must die, then a little person like me, who offends the King of all kings, one who lives forever -- must certainly suffer great penalties!"

The official nodded his head to this appeal -- and the pious man went home, in peace.[2]

(Brochos 32b)


[1] Devarim 4.9; 4.15

[2] The name of this pious man is not mentioned. One reason is that since we are not permitted to rely on miracles his behavior is considered reckless, and we should not follow his example. Still, since his sincerity was great, Hashem did save him.

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