Shas Stories Archive II

The material here is in need of editing and arranging. Still, if you find something here that can help you for your personal reading or research, I would be privileged to have you use it.

Good Treatment

Some people keep their parents in luxury, and get Gehinom for this. Others send their parents to work, and get Gan Aden.

One person would feed his father fattened chickens.

"Son," his father once asked, "where do you get these chickens from?

"Shut up and eat, old man," his son answered, "that's what dogs do -- they keep quiet and eat what is placed before them."


Another sent his father to work...

The king once -- as was the custom in that country -- conscripted a certain miller to send a worker for a period of service. The miller had no one to send besides his father. This he would not do.

"Father," he said to him, "this service requires being with rough people who will insult and hit you. Therefore, you work the mill, and I will go and serve the king.[1]

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.1)


Kissed his feet

R' Yonasan and R' Yanai were once sitting together. A man came and kissed R' Yonasan's feet.

"What favor is he repaying you," R' Yanai asked, "that he kisses your feet? You must have helped him in some way."

"Once," R' Yonasan answered, "he came crying to me that his son would not feed and support him. I told him to rebuke his son in the study hall, publicly, and shame him into taking care of you. For this reason, he feels so indebted to me.

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.1)


Before the Bride

R' Shmuel bar R' Yitzchak would take a myrtle branch, and dance with it before brides on their wedding day. When R' Zeira would see this, he would hide himself.

"How can this rabbi so embarrass the Torah scholars with his deeds?" he would ask.

When R' Shmuel bar R' Yitzchak passed away, for three hours thunder and lightening filled the skies. A heavenly voice called out, R' Shmuel bar R' Yitzchak has died -- show him kindness [accompany him to his final resting place].

A great crowd assembled to show kindness and follow the procession. A fire then descended from the heavens, in the shape of a myrtle branch, separating between the deceased and the crowd.

"Look," the people shouted, "the rabbi's merit of bringing joy with a myrtle branch, has come now to honor him." (see later 264)

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.1)


Artebon [a wealthy Roman official] once sent an exceptionally precious gem to Rabbeinu HaKadosh[2] -- a stone beyond all pricing. Together with this he sent a message -- you also, send me something as valuable. Rabbeinu HaKadosh sent him a mezuzah.

"What's this?" Artebon asked, "I send you something priceless, and you send me a parchment that costs a few coins?"

"I sent you something," Rabbeinu HaKadosh answered, "that all my wealth and yours together cannot match in value. Moreover, you sent me something that I need to protect [from thieves] -- whereas I sent you something that protects you while you sleep in safety.

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.1)

Stab in the Back

A group of men once worked in a store that sold linen. This group had a fixed time each year when they needed to serve the king. Once, a man in that group, Bar-Chovetz, evaded the call-up.

As they were about to depart, one person in the group asked another, "What are we eating today?"

"Chovetz (a dish made of a type of bean)," he answered.

Hearing the name Chovetz, the commanding officer suddenly remembered that Bar-Chovetz was not there.

"Summon Bar-Chovetz," he ordered.

"This," said R' Yochanan, "is an example of hidden lashon horo. While no one mentioned that Bar Chovetz had not come, they hinted to it.

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.1)

Just Speech

A group of rich men in Tzipori had a special day for serving the king. One man of that group, named Yochanan, on one occasion avoided his duty, and did not come with them.

"Are we going to visit R' Yochanan today?" one man in the group asked another [for the great rabbi, R' Yochanan, was unwell at the time.]

Hearing him mention R' Yochanan, the officer suddenly remembered that Yochanan wasn't there.

"Call Yochanan," he ordered, "tell him to come with us."

"This," said R' Shimon ben Lakish, "is an example of hidden lashon horo."

According to another version though, R' Shimon ben Lakish said, "This is justified lashon horo," for they mentioned doing a mitzva, namely, visiting the sick.

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.1)


Heavenly Protection

The Torah says, "... no person will covet your land, when you come to see Hashem [to Yerushalayim, for the festivals,] three times a year." (Shmos 34) Here are incidents relating to this wondrous promise:

A farmer left grain piled high to go up to Yerushalayim for the festivals. When he came back, he saw lions surrounding his field, protecting his produce from any theft.

Another person left his chicken coop to travel for the festivals. When he came back, he saw torn, dead cats lying before the coop. His chickens had killed them to protect themselves from attack.

Another person left his house to travel up to Yerushalayim for the festivals. When he came back, he saw a snake encircling the door handle.

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.1)

A Blessing

R' Pinchus would tell of two brothers in Ashkelon...

"When these brothers go to Yerushalayim for the festival," their neighbors said to each other, "we'll strip their houses."

But, as soon as the brothers left, Hashem summoned look-alike angels to occupy the property.

When the brothers returned, they sent gifts to their neighbors.

"Where were you?" the neighbors asked.

"In Yerushalayim," they answered.

"Who then did you leave guarding your house?" the neighbors asked.

"We left no one," the brothers answered.

"Blessed is Hashem," said the neighbors, "who has not abandoned the Jewish people to this day -- so may He protect them in the future."

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.1)



When the Beis HaMikdash stood, the Jewish people enjoyed tremendous blessing. After its destruction, its influence remained such that this blessing lingered on, but only for a short while...

A Peach

R' Avahu, R' Yosi bar Chanina and R' Shimon ben Lakish passed through a certain orchard in [a place called] Doron. The sharecropper there brought them a peach. They and their donkey-drivers ate from it, but could not finish it. Much was left over. They calculated the volume of the peach, and it equaled that of the great pot of [the village,] Chananya, which held a se'ah[3] of lentils.

A few days later, they again passed this orchard. The same sharecropper brought them two or three peaches. They were so small, he held them in one hand.

"Give us a peach from the tree we ate from last time," they asked.

"These are from the same tree," he answered.

Immediately they recited the verse: "The fruitful land becomes barren, from the evil of those who live there." (Tehillim 107)

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.7)


Too Wide

R' Chanina related that when he visited Eretz Yisrael, they saw a great carob tree. He wanted to measure its width, so he took his sash, his son's sash, and the belt they tied around the donkey, together, but they could not encircle the trunk. He plucked one carob from the tree, and his hand filled with honey that oozed from the fruit.

A Land of Milk and Honey

There was a person who tied his goat to a fig tree. He came back to see streams of [goat's] milk and [fig] honey running into each other.

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.7)

In Shame

"Will you not show me the bunch of grapes in your vineyard?" Rebbi asked R' Preida.

"I'll show you," he answered.

They went out and while they were still at a distance, Rebbi saw what looked like an ox in the vineyard.

"Surely, that ox will damage the fruits there," Rebbi said.

"That which you think is an ox," R' Preida answered, "is the bunch of grapes you wanted to see."

In response, Rebbi recited the verse: "While the King was still feasting, my flask gave off a [foul] odor."[4] (Shir haShirim 1) The holy Beis HaMikdash has been destroyed -- are you so stubborn that you continue to give your fruit?"

The bunch of grapes suddenly shrank from sight. They searched for it, but could not find it. Rebbi's words had served as a curse.

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.7)


Once, they brought two radishes to Rebbi, in the days between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur. They were the size of a camel-load. This was in the eighth year of the Shmitta cycle.


There was a person who owned a row of fig trees. He came one day to find them surrounded by a wall of honey that had oozed from the figs, and covered the figs he had set on the ground to dry .


Another person planted turnips. As he finished planting, so he was able to pick the freshly grown turnips and take them to the market.


There was a fox who built his den at the top of a turnip -- it was so big.


In a place called Shichin, a root of mustard produced three branches. The laborers who guarded the field cut one of these branches to serve as a roof for their hut. Within this branch they found 3 kavin[5] of mustard.


"I had mustard growing in my yard," said R' Shimon en Chalafta, "and I could climb as high on it, as one climbs a fig tree."

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.7)


Once a person planted a se'ah of peas, and it produced 300 se'ah of peas.

"Hashem has begun to bless you," his friends said.

"Go away from here," he answered, "the dew that fell on my peas was not a good one. For, had it been good, it would have produced twice the amount."


"R' Yehuda lived in [a place called] Sichnin," R' Shimon ben Chalafta related. "Once he asked his son to go up to the loft and bring a dried fig from the barrel there. He went up, put his hand in the barrel, and found it was of honey.

"Father, that's a honey barrel, he said.

"Sink your arm into it, his father told him, and you will find figs."


R' Yosi in Tziporin once told his son to go up to the loft and bring a dried fig. He found the loft swimming in honey.

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.7)


R' Chanina would sell bee honey. He also had honey from his dried figs and raisins. By accident he sold his fruit honey as bees honey. A few days later the same people passed by again.

"I don't want to mislead you," he told them, "the honey I sold you was not from my bees, but from my fruit [an inferior honey that sells at a cheaper rate]."

"If so," they assured him, "it is just such honey that we need -- for it was superior to bees honey."

Even so, R' Chanina did not want to take benefit from the proceeds of that sale. He used it instead to build a shul for the community of Tziporin.


A traveler came to a certain place, and was served cooked cabbage. It tasted like honey.

"How much honey did you put into this dish?" he asked his hosts.

"No honey at all," they answered, "it's good taste is only from itself."

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.7)


[Dear Reader. Think carefully about the great blessings our people enjoyed when the Beis HaMikdash still stood. Now, however, that we are without a Beis HaMikdash, and our people are exiled to the four corners of the world, we live in a state of curse -- a curse that comes only from the evil within our deeds -- for we have forgotten our Creator. May Hashem have mercy on us, and redeem us swiftly.]

Public Post

R' Yosi came to [a place called] Kefara. He wanted to appoint the Torah scholars there over the charity funds. Not one of them would accept this authority. They wanted to maintain a low profile, rather than taking on public posts.

"Ben Bavai was appointed over the wicks in the Beis HaMikdash," he told them, "an easy job. Still, in this merit, the Mishna lists him with the leaders of his generation.[6] You then, who have an opportunity to save lives, how much the more so, should accept positions of responsibility.

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.8)

Good Reward

R' Elazar was a community leader. Once, on returning home from a trip, he asked his family, "Did anything happen while I was away?"

"Yes," they answered, "travelers passed by, ate and drank with us, and -- in the merit of you feeding them -- prayed for your welfare."

"This is not a good heavenly reward," he responded. "Had they cursed me instead, my merit would be twice as much."


On another occasion, R' Elazar came home from a trip and asked, "Did anything happen while I was away?"

Yes," they answered, "travelers came by, ate and drank with us, and cursed you."

"Aha," said R' Elazar, "now, this is a good reward."

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.8)

On condition that…

Members of the community once, wanted to appoint R' Akiva over the charity funds.

"Let me discuss this with my wife," he told them.

They followed him home, and from outside, overheard him saying, "On condition that they curse me and shame me, I accept such an appointment."

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.8)

For the Poor

Rebbi had a student to whom he would give maaser oni, the tithe of the poor, once in three years. This student had assets to the total value of 199 dinarim, entitling him to accept this charity.[7]

Other students felt jealous of the special attention this student received. What did they do? They gave him one dinar, thereby bringing up the value of his assets to 200 dinarim, and disqualifying him from receiving charity.

When Rebbi came to give him from the tithe, the student refused.

"I can no longer take this," he told Rebbi. He told him what had happened.

Rebbi then indicated to the other students that they should remedy the situation. They took this student shopping with them, and caused him to squander the extra dinar. Rebbi then gave him his usual gift.

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.8)

Old Habits

Once, a distinguished and wealthy man lost all his property. Thereafter, a charity supported him. They would send him food on earthenware dishes. This he would eat, and promptly vomit. He had always eaten on plates of gold and silver, and could not stomach food on earthenware dishes. His life was in danger.

"Essentially," a doctor told him, "all cooked food comes from a pot that is earthenware. This is healthier than any utensil of silver, lead or other metals. However, since you're used to eating on gold and silver, you should continue to do so, and all will be fine."

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.8)


Shmuel once fled from his father. He went and stood next to two houses belonging to paupers who received financial help from his father.

"Which plates should we use today," he overheard a voice there asking, "the gold plates or silver plates?"

He went and reported this to his father

"We need to be grateful to those who deceive us," his father told him, "For was it not for the cheats amongst them, anytime a person would ask for charity, and we did not help him immediately, we would be punished. However, now that there are cheats, amongst the poor, we need not worry as much.

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.8)

A purse full of money

R' Yochanan and Reish Lakish once went to bathe by the hot springs of Tiveria. A pauper approached them there.

"Merit through me," he said to them. [In other words, give me charity. He called this "merit" for one who gives charity gains merit for himself].

"When we return from bathing we will give you something," they told him.

On their return, they found him dead.

"Since, we did not gain merit through him in his lifetime," they said, "let us gain merit through him in his death."

They took the body to cleanse it, and prepare it for burial. As they were doing so, they found a purse full of money.

"This is what R' Avahu taught in the name of R' Elazar," they said. "We need to be grateful for the cheats amongst them."

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.8)

Aba bar Ba once gave money to his son to share out amongst the poor. He went out and found one pauper eating meat and drinking wine. He came and reported this to his father.

"Give him more than the other paupers," said his father, "he is used to expensive living and needs extra funds.


R' Yakov bar Idai and R' Yitzchak bar Nachman would distribute charity. Amongst those they gave to was R' Chama, father of R' Oshia, who would receive one dinar. After a time, they discovered that he gave this allowance to other paupers.


Some people whispered that R' Zecharya, son-in-law of R' Levi, received charity that he had no need to take. After his death, they inspected his property and found that all he received, he gave away to others.

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.8)


R' Chanina bar Papa would distribute charity monies at night [so as not to embarrass those who received from him]. Once, he met up with the chief of the destructive spirits.

"Did you not teach us," asked the spirit, "that you should not encroach on the boundary of your friend (Devarim 19)? Night is our time to wander the earth. How then can you walk around at night? This is trespass.

"Is it not also written," R' Chanina answered, "that a gift given in secret destroys anger? [This is to say that that destructive angel, Anger, ceases to exist where hidden charity is performed -- and] it is just this that I am performing."

Thereafter, this spirit feared him, and fled from him.

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.8)

No Shame

R' Yona gave charity in the wise way. When he saw a pauper of a good family that lost their property, he would say to him, "I heard you have an inheritance coming to from elsewhere. Therefore, in the meantime take what I lend you. Afterwards when you receive your inheritance, you will pay me.

Later, when he wished to repay him, he would say to him, "Keep it as a gift."

This was his wisdom -- he would give to the poor without embarrassing them.

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.8)


R' Chiya bar Ada would tell over that when he was young there were elders who only accepted charity between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Thereafter they would take nothing. This, they said, was a custom. [Possibly, since our allowance is fixed during the ten days of repentance, they wanted to demonstrate that we need to repent our ways that Hashem would continue to support us. Another reason, they did this to bring merit to the public who would distribute charity especially in those days. And some say, the charity they received then was enough for them to live on for the entire year.

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.8)


Nechemya of Shichin [so-called since he dug wells along the roads people took to go to Yerushalayim for the festivals] once met a man from Yerushalayim.

"Help me," said the man, "give me a chicken to eat." [He was accustomed to luxurious living.]

"Take this coin and buy yourself beef [which was cheaper than chicken]," Nechemya told him.

He took the coin, bought the meat, ate it and died -- because his body was not used to eating beef.

"Come, let us mourn Nechemya's victim," said Nechemya, "for had I given him chicken meat and he was used to eating, he would not have died."

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.8)

Sensitivity and Suffering

Nachum Ish Gamzu[8] was once bringing a gift of food to his in-laws. On his way, a pauper covered in sores approached him, asking for some of his food

"When I return," Nachum told him, "I will give you something."

On his way home, he found the pauper had died.

"These eyes that saw you and ignored you," said Nachum, "should go blind. These hands that did not stretch out to you, should be cut off. These legs that did not run to help you, should be broken."

All this happened to him. A time later, R' Akiva came to visit him.

"Woe to me, that I see you suffering so," R' Akiva declared.

"Woe to me, that I don't see YOU suffering so," Nachum answered.

"Why are you cursing me?" asked R' Akiva.

"And why do you scorn sufferings," retorted Nachum, "saying "woe to me" about them?"

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.8)

Kind to the Blind

R' Hoshaya Raba hired a blind tutor for his son. This tutor would eat by R' Hoshaya every day. Once R' Hoshaya had guests and did not invite the tutor to eat with him as usual. That evening R' Hoshaya went to appease the tutor.

"Don't feel bad that I didn't invite you today," he told him. "I had guests and I thought were you to sit with them, they may embarrass you."

"You comforted one who is seen and does not see," responded the tutor. "Therefore, may the One who sees and is not seen [i.e. Hashem,] accept your kindness and reward you with all that is good."

"How do you know," asked R' Hoshaya, "that to appease a blind person is so great that you give me such a beautiful blessing in return?"

"I learned this from R' Elazar ben Yakov," he answered. "Once a blind person entered the town of R' Elazar ben Yakov. R' Elazar ben Yakov sat himself by the side of the blind man -- but beneath him. Seeing this, people assumed this person must be great and famous -- otherwise, R' Elazar ben Yakov would not have lowered himself so. They then supported the blind person, giving him charity and honor.

"Why are you so kind to me?" asked the blind man.

"We saw R' Elazar ben Yakov seating himself beneath you," they answered. "We therefore, assumed that you are great and important."

On hearing this, the blind person blessed R' Elazar ben Yakov. "You did a kindness for one who is seen but does not see. May He who sees and is not seen accept your good deed, and bestow on you all that is good." (See later 246)

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.8)

Burying Souls

R' Chama b'Rebbi Chanina and R' Hoshaya once visited a shul in Lod.

"Look how much money my fathers invested here," R' Chama b'Rebbi Chanina commented to R' Hoshaya, "they built this entire shul with their own funds, even though it cost a fortune."

"Look how many souls your fathers buried here," R' Hoshaya answered. "They should rather have given their money to Torah scholars. It's impossible that there weren't future Torah scholars here. But -- since they couldn't support their families -- they took jobs and did not learn Torah. It would have been better then for your fathers to give their money to such people, rather than spending it on a handsome shul.

(Yerushalmi, Peah ch.8)


R' Yirmiya once, sent to R' Zeira a basket of figs. He did not tithe them.

"Could it be," R' Yirmiya thought when he sent them, "that R' Zeira would eat anything without tithing it first?"

"Could it be," R' Zeira thought when he received the figs, "R' Yirmiya would send me food that is not ready to eat?" As such, the figs were eaten while still forbidden.

The next day R' Zeira met R' Yirmiya.

"That fruit you sent me yesterday, R' Zeira asked R' Yirmiya, "was it tithed?"

"No'" said R' Yirmiya, "for I said to myself would R' Zeira eat fruit that wasn't tithed?"

"And I to thought to myself," said R' Zeira, "would R' Yirmiya send me food that wasn't tithed!"

Commenting on this incident, R' Abba bar Zevina said in R' Zeira's name, "If earlier generations were like the sons of angels, then we are only people. And if the early generation were like people, we are no more than donkeys. Moreover, we are plain donkeys, and not like the donkey of R' Pinchus ben Yair that refused to eat food that was not tithed.[9]

What is the story behind this special donkey?

(Yerushalmi, Demai ch.1)

Strict on Herself

Once, thieves stole R' Pinchus ben Yair's donkey and held it in their cave for three days. She ate nothing. After three days, they decided to return it. Better this way, than have it die and ruin their hideout with a rotten smell. They freed her and she returned home. She stood by R' Pinchus ben Yair's door and began to bray. R' Pinchus ben Yair recognized her voice.

"Quick, open the door for the poor animal," he told his family, "she hasn't eaten anything for three days." They opened the door.

"Give her something to eat," he told them. They placed barley before her, but she would not eat.

"She won't eat," they complained to R' Pinchus ben Yair.

"Tithe the produce first," he told them, "then she will eat."

"Surely you taught us," they asked R' Pinchus ben Yair, that grain bought for animal feed is exempt from tithing?"[10]

"What can I do," he answered, "this poor animal is strict on herself." They tithed the grain and she ate.[11]

(Yerushalmi, Demai ch.1)


What makes R' Pinchus ben Yair so special? Listen to this...

Look after our barley

Two paupers once, deposited two bags of barley by R' Pinchus ben Yair. R' Pinchus ben Yair took the barley and sowed it in his fields. Later, he harvested full fields of grain.

When the paupers returned to ask for their sacks, he told them, "Bring camels and donkeys and take your barley."[12]

(Yerushalmi, Demai ch.1)


R' Pinchus ben Yair once came to a certain place. People there cried to him that rats were eating their grain.

R' Pinchus ben Yair summoned the rats. They came before him, squeaking loudly

"Do you understand what these rats are saying?" he asked the people.

"No," they answered.

"They are saying," he told them, "you don't separate tithes. Therefore, the heavens grant them permission to eat your grain."

"Be our guarantor that we will mend our ways," they asked R' Pinchus ben Yair. He did so, and the rats no longer ate the grain.

(Yerushalmi, Demai ch.1)

Good Name

Once, an Arab king dropped a diamond. A rat swallowed it. This king came looking for R' Pinchus ben Yair.

"Am I a witch doctor," R' Pinchus ben Yair asked him, "that you come to me?"

"You are neither witch doctor, nor wizard," said the king, "I came because your good name travels far, that you are a complete tzaddik. Whatever you decree, Hashem fulfills."

R' Pinchus ben Yair then ordered the rats to assemble before him. One rat, he saw, had a hump on its back.

"That one swallowed your diamond," R' Pinchus ben Yair told the king. He ordered the rat to spit out the diamond, and this the rat did.

(Yerushalmi, Demai ch.1)


Once R' Pinchus ben Yair came to certain place.

"Our well no longer gives us enough water," the people cried to him.

"Maybe this is because you do not tithe your grain," he told them.

"Be our guarantor that we will mend our ways," they asked him. He did so, and the well gave them water as before.[13]

(Yerushalmi, Demai ch.1)

Crossing Over

R' Pinchus ben Yair once went to the beis hamedresh to study. The river Genai however, blocked his way. It raged strongly, making it impossible to cross over.

"Genai, Genai," said R' Pinchus ben Yair, "will you stop me from learning Torah?"

The river split before him, and he crossed on dry land.

"Can we also cross?" his students asked.

"Anyone who knows that he has never embarrassed any person in his lifetime," R' Pinchus ben Yair told them, "may cross over. No harm will fall upon him."[14]

(Yerushalmi, Demai ch.1)

A Dispute

Once, Rebbi wanted to permit growing produce in the Shmitta year.[15] R' Pinchus ben Yair went to see him.

"Is the produce good this year?" Rebbi asked R' Pinchus ben Yair. [Rebbi had gathered many scholars in order to permit the Shmitta. He realized that R' Pinchus ben Yair may not approve this ruling, and wanted to justify his ruling. He therefore, asked a question that hinted to how little food there was that year.]

"Endives are good," said R' Pinchus ben Yair. [These wild vegetables grow freely -- and can sustain the people.]

"Is the produce good this year?" Rebbi again asked R' Pinchus ben Yair, [refusing to accept his solution.]

"Endives are good," said R' Pinchus ben Yair, [adamant that his position was the correct one].

"Possibly, the Rabbi would join us for a small meal in the shade today?" Rebbi asked R' Pinchus ben Yair, [changing the subject.]

"Certainly," said R' Pinchus ben Yair


When R' Pinchus ben Yair came to Rebbi's house however, he saw that Rebbi kept a breed of white mules, known for attacking people.

"Do the Jews [referring to Rebbi] keep such animals here?" he asked Rebbi's attendants. "I don't think I can stay," he told them, and went home. The attendants reported this to Rebbi.

Rebbi then sent messengers to appease R' Pinchus ben Yair. When R' Pinchus ben Yair saw them coming, he asked the townspeople to surround him, that the messengers would not approach and placate him. However, when the townspeople heard he was trying to keep Rebbi's messengers away, they abandoned him.

"If the people of the town have left me, let my sons surround me" R' Pinchus ben Yair said. At this point, a fire came down from heaven and surrounded him forcing the messengers off. They returned to Rebbi and reported what they had seen.

"We cannot enjoy his presence in this world," said Rebbi. "May we merit then to enjoy it in the next."[16]

(Yerushalmi, Demai ch.1)

The Well-Digger

There was a pious man, R' Chaggi related in R' Shmuel bar Nachman's name, who dug waterholes and ditches as a kindness for travelers. Once, his daughter, on the way to her wedding, fell into a river and was washed away.

People came to comfort him over his loss, but he would not accept consolation, he would not admit that she was dead. Then R' Pinchus ben Yair came to console him. Again, he would not accept consolation.

"You call this man pious?" R' Pinchus ben Yair asked the people there, "Is it correct behavior not to accept consolation?"

"Rebbi," they told him, "this man digs waterholes for the benefit of the public."

"A person who honors his Creator with water," asked R' Pinchus ben Yair in amazement, "is in return, punished with water?"

Immediately, news arrived that this man's daughter had returned. Some say, she took hold of a peg and pulled herself from the river. Others say, an angel with the face of R' Pinchus ben Yair descended from the heavens and saved her.[17]

(Yerushalmi, Demai ch.1)

The Talmud Bavli tells a similar story:

The daughter of Nechunia who dug wells [to benefit the public,] fell into a large waterhole. They reported this to R' Chanina ben Dosa.

In the first hour, he told them, "Shalom, all is well." During the second hour, he told them, "Shalom, all is well." In the third hour, he told them, "She is out of the well."

"My daughter," he asked her, "who saved you?

"It was a ram," she answered, "led by an old man.[18]

"Are you a prophet," the people then asked R' Chanina ben Dosa.

"I am neither prophet nor son of a prophet," he answered, "it's just that it's not possible that something that a righteous person occupies himself with, will in turn, hurt his children.

(Baba Kama 50a)

Messages from Heaven I

R' Chanina ben Dosa was once sitting, eating on Friday night, and his table broke apart.

"Why did this happen to you?" they asked him.

I borrowed spice from my neighbor," he answered, "and did not tithe it."

He mentioned the condition he had made erev Shabbos allowing him to separate tithes on Shabbos,[19] and the table [miraculously] reassembled itself.

Messages from Heaven II

R' Tarfon was once sitting, eating and his bread fell from his hand.

"Why did this happen to you?" they asked.

"I borrowed a regular knife from my neighbor, but used it by mistake for food I keep in ritual purity.[20]

(Yerushalmi, Demai ch.1)

Small Items I

R' Elazar, in his later years, would lean on R' Shimon bar Kahana as he walked. Once, they passed a vineyard.

"Give me a twig from that fence," he said. Then he changed his mind.

"No, don't give me a twig from the fence," he said, "other people will see me, and do the same thing. People are not careful with small items -- each one thinks, what difference does one twig make? But if every person says the same thing, nothing will remain of the fence.

(Yerushalmi, Demai ch.3)

Small Items II

R' Zeira would lean on R' Chagai and walk. Once, a man passed them carrying a bundle of branches.

"Take a twig from his bundle," said R' Zeira. Then he changed his mind.

"Don't bring me anything from that bundle. For if you do so, others will do the same and nothing will remain of his bundle."

"It's not because I am pious," R' Zeira later said, "that I pay attention to such small details. Rather this is something easy for me to do. My evil inclination is not so strong when it comes to a single twig." [But it was from modesty that he said this.]

(Yerushalmi, Demai ch.3)

Rebbi's Death

Rebbi commanded three things before he passed from this world. One, they should not move his widow from the house; two, they should not eulogize him in the towns[21]; and three, those who took care of his needs in his lifetime, should take care of him in his death. Some say, he also commanded that they should not enfold him in too many shrouds and make holes in his coffin.

"Anyone who comes here," said the people of Tzipori, "and tells us Rebbi has died, we will kill" -- so great was there appreciation of their precious leader.

"What should I do?" Bar Kapara who carried this news. He cloaked his head and body like a mourner, tore his garments as one does for the dead, and appeared before the townspeople.

"The righteous [of this world] and the angels," he told them sadly, "both clung to the holy tablets [i.e. Rebbi], but the angels was stronger and snatched the treasure."

"Are you telling us that Rebbi has died?" people asked.

"You said it," he told them, "not me."

All who heard this bad news tore their garments, and the sound of the ripping could be heard in Papasa, some three mil[22] away.

Miracles happen on that day, said R' Nachman in R' Mana's name. It was Erev Shabbos. All the towns accompanied his body, first, to eighteen shuls where they eulogized him, then to his resting place in Beis Shaarim. [This took a very long time, but] the day shone long. The sun did not set that Friday afternoon until the last person reached his home, filled a barrel of water for Shabbos, and lit a lamp. Only then, it set. However, shortly after the sunset, the rooster already crowed; [morning had arrived].

"Could it be," the people worried, "that we profaned the Shabbos?"

"Whoever was not slack to honor Rebbi in his death," a heavenly voice called out, "is assured life in the world-to-come. This means all of you, except for the laundryman who was not there that day.

This same laundryman would come before Rebbi every day -- that one day however, he had not come. This announcement so upset him, he climbed to the loft of his house, threw himself to the ground, and died.

"The laundryman also," said heavenly voice, "is invited to the life of the world-to-come."[23]

(Yerushalmi, Kilaim ch.9)

Rebbi's Pains

Rebbi lived in Tzipori for seventeen years. Of himself he would say, "Yakov lived in Egypt for seventeen years" (Breishis 47), and Yehuda [his own name] lived in Tzipori for seventeen years.

For thirteen of those seventeen years Rebbi suffered agonizing toothache. "During those thirteen years," said R' Yosi b'Rebbi Bon, "no woman in Eretz Yisrael died in childbirth, nor did any woman miscarry."

And why did Rebbi suffer that toothache? He saw a calf being led to the slaughterhouse. "Save me, Rebbi," the calf cried out. "Go," Rebbi told the calf, "it is for this you were created."[24]

How -- after thirteen years -- was Rebbi healed? He saw a cleaner who wanted to destroy a nest of mice.

"Don't kill them," Rebbi said, "His [Hashem's] mercy is on all His deeds" (Tehillim 145)

(see later 362)

(Yerushalmi, Kilaim ch.9)

R' Chiya Raba

Rebbi was exceptionally modest.

"Anything any person tells me to do," he would say, "I would do,[25] except for what the elders of Beseira did for my ancestors. For, they stepped down from heading the Sanhedrin [and thereby the Jewish people], and appointed Hillel in their place. Still, if Rav Huna would come here from Bavel, I would sit below him -- for he is more important than I am. He comes from the tribe of Yehuda [and is descended from King David] on his father's side. I on the other hand, come from Binyamin and [and am descended from King David] on my mother's side.


Once R' Chiya Raba came before Rebbi.

"Rav Huna is outside," he told him.

Rebbi's face turned red. He would now need to set Rav Huna above himself as he had said. When R' Chiya Raba saw this, he told Rebbi, "he is not alive -- it's his coffin that is here.

"Go," Rebbi told him, "someone is calling you." Rebbi's intention was to punish R' Chiya Raba for testing and embarrassing him.

R' Chiya Raba went out and saw that no one had called him. He understood then that Rebbi was angry with him. To penalize himself, he did not appear before Rebbi for the next thirty days

"During these thirty days," said R' Yosi b'Rebbi Bon, "Rav[26] learned from R' Chiya Raba all the principles of the Torah.


At the end of those thirty days, which also ended the thirteen years of Rebbi's toothache, Eliyahu HaNavi came to Rebbi in the guise of R' Chiya Raba.

"What's bothering you?" he asked him.

"My tooth hurts," Rebbi answered.

"Show me the tooth," Eliyahu said. He placed his finger on it and it healed.

The next day R' Chiya Raba came before Rebbi.

"How is your toothache?" He asked Rebbi.

"Since you put your finger on it, is has healed completely," Rebbi answered

"Woe to the mothers of Yisrael," said R' Chiya Raba. He realized that since Rebbi no longer suffered pain, he would no longer atone for and protect those who are vulnerable.

"It wasn't I who put his finger on your tooth," R' Chiya Raba told him.

From then Rebbi honored R' Chiya Raba greatly, Since Eliyahu HaNavi, of blessed memory, had worn R' Chiya Raba's face, this indicated his greatness. When he next entered the study hall he asked that R' Chiya Raba enter before his other students.

"Even before me?" asked R' Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi.

"Chas v'shalom," said Rebbi. "R' Chiya Raba will go in first, but Rebbi Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi will enter before him."


Rebbi would say over the praises of R' Chiya Raba before Rebbi Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi. Once Rebbi Yishmael saw R' Chiya in the bathhouse. R' Chiya did not stand up in his honor.

"You call this a great man?" R' Yishmael asked Rebbi afterwards.

"Yes," said Rebbi, "did he do something wrong?"

"He saw me in the bathhouse and would not humble himself -- he did not rise for me.

"What happened?" Rebbi asked R' Chiya Raba afterwards.

"I assure you," said R' Chiya Raba, "that I didn't even notice him entering -- for I was learning the deeper meanings of the book of Tehillim."[27]

From that moment, Rebbi asked two students to accompany R' Chiya constantly. He was concerned that R' Chiya Raba shouldn't, through his distracting thoughts, come to danger.

(Yerushalmi, Kilaim ch.9)

R' Yosi fasted eighty days (according to other versions thirty days[28]) that he might see R' Chiya Raba in a dream. Finally, he saw him, but he suffered bad after-effects. His limbs began to shake, and his eyes grew dim. Maybe you'll say R' Yosi was not a great person and therefore he was punished. This is not so...

Once, an expert tailor came before R' Yochanan and told him, "I saw in a dream that the sky fell, and one of your students held it up that it shouldn't fall."

"Do you know," R' Yochanan asked him, "which student it was?"

"If I seem him," said the tailor, "I will know him."

R' Yochanan allowed the tailor to look at the students. The tailor spotted R' Yosi, and exclaimed, "That's him -- he was the one that held up the sky!"

From this, you see that Rebbi Yosi was a great person. Still, he was not on the same level as R' Chiya Raba.

(Yerushalmi, Kilaim ch.9)


R' Shimon ben Lakish fasted three hundred fasts that he might see R' Chiya Raba, but he didn't see him. He felt bad.

"Could it be," he asked Torah scholars, "that he learned more Torah than me?"

"He taught more Torah than you did," they told him. "Moreover, he exiled himself."

"Did I not allow exile myself?" asked Reish Lakish.

"You also exiled yourself, but only to learn Torah. Rebbi Chiya Raba exiled himself to teach Torah to others.

(Yerushalmi, Kilaim ch.9)


When Rav Huna, leader of the Jews in exile, passed away, they brought him up to Eretz Yisrael.

"Where should we bury him?" they asked. "Surely a fitting place would be next to Rebbi Chiya Raba for he also came from Bavel?"

"Who is the person that would dare enter that cave?"

"I will go," said R' Chagai, for he was not scared.

"Are you playing a trick?" they asked him, "you are old, and now you want to be buried there."

"What should I do that you shouldn't suspect me," said Rebbi Chagai. "Tie a rope to my foot -- if I'm there too long, pull me out." They did this.

He entered the cave and heard Rebbi Chiya and his two sons judging this issue [should Rav Huna be buried with him].

"My son Yehudah," said Rebbi Chiya of the son and sat on his right, "left no one behind to replace him; my son Chizkiya, [on his left], left no one behind to replace him; [just as the great son of Yakov Avinu,] Yosef ben Yisrael, left no one behind to replace him. [Does Rav Huna then have the merit be buried here?]"

R' Chagai then turned his eyes up to look at them. "Turn your face," a voice told him, "and don't look here."

He then heard R' Chiya Raba say to R' Yehuda, his son, "Make room that Rav Huna may sit between us." However, Rav Huna in his modesty would not accept this offer.

"You did not accept to be buried here," Rebbi Chiya Raba blessed him, "in this merit may your seed never cease from this world."

Rebbi Chagai then left the cave in peace. At that time, he was eighty years old. [Since however, he was unjustly suspected,] the heavens doubled the years of his life. [see also 234]

(Yerushalmi, Kilaim ch.9)


Shlomo haMelech had two scribes, Elichoref and Achya. Once, Shlomo saw the Angel of Death looking at them and gritting his teeth, because he couldn't take their souls. To protect them, Shlomo haMelech uttered a special name, and suspended them in the air. However, there the Angel of Death killed them.

He then came before Shlomo who saw that he was laughing.

"Before you were gritting your teeth -- now you're laughing?" Shlomo asked him.

"Hashem told me," the angel said, "that only from the air may I take them, not from the earth [an impossible task]. I thought to myself, how can they be suspended in the air. But then, you went and did this for me. That's why I laugh."

Shlomo then released their bodies from the air, that he might bury them properly.

[This story follows the teaching -- to the place where a person's feet are destined to go, there he will go.]

(Yerushalmi, Kilaim ch.9)


R' Reuven ben Istrobilus had two sons who were students of Rebbi. One day Rebbi noticed that the Angel of Death was looking at them and gritting his teeth -- he wanted to kill them but this was not the place to do so. Rebbi then sent them to South to protect them.

"Surely exile will atone for them that they shouldn't die," he thought to himself. From there however, the Angel of Death killed them -- it was at this place the heavens had decreed that they should die.

(Yerushalmi, Kilaim ch.9)

Non-Kosher Meat

Rebbi Aba bar Zemina was a tailor. Once, he went to sew garments and repair them at the house of a non-Jew living in Rome. The Roman offered Rebbi Aba bar Zemina non-kosher meat and told him to eat it.

"I cannot eat such food," the tailor answered.

"If you don't eat this" said the Roman "I will kill you"

"If you want to kill me, kill me," said Rebbi Aba bar Zemina, "I will not eat food that the Torah forbids us."

"Now let me tell you what I had in mind," said the Roman. "My intention was just the opposite. Had you eaten the meat, I would have killed you, for a person needs to be strong and courageous in his faith. A Jew must be a Jew. Similarly, a Roman must be a Roman. Since you did not eat the meat, you may live."

"Had Rebbi Aba bar Zemina," said Rebbi Mana "listened to the words of the Rabbis, he would have eaten the meat. For, in a case like this, the Torah permits us to sin to protect our lives.[29]

(Yerushalmi, Sheviis ch.4)

The Torah's Crown

R' Tarfon once entered his orchards in the Shmitta year to eat figs. He did not greet the guards there. [One may take fruit from any field in the Shmitta year, but not pay for it in any way. To wish the guard a good day, would have been a form of payment.] The guards then saw him eating figs, and began beating him. R' Tarfon saw he was in danger

"I beg you," he said to them, "go to the house of Tarfon and tell them to prepare shrouds for R' Tarfon. You are hitting him so hard, he is sure to die.

When the guards heard that this was R' Tarfon himself, they fell on the faces before him.

"Rebbi, forgive us," said the guards, "we didn't know that you were R' Tarfon."

"I assure you," said R' Tarfon, "as you struck me, I forgave you -- for every single blow."


"All his life," said Rebbi Avahu in the name of R' Chanina ben Gamliel, "R' Tarfon fasted over this matter -- "Woe to me," he would say, "that that I gained honor from the crown of the Torah.""

(Yerushalmi, Sheviis ch.4)

Undermining his Rebbi

A student once gave the ruling in the presence of R' Eliezer, his teacher.

"The student who gave that ruling before me," he told Imma Shalom, his wife, "will die within the week." And so it was -- within the week the student died.

"Rebbi," his students asked him, "are you a prophet? How did you know this?"

"I am not a prophet, nor a student prophet," he told him, "only this I know -- that when a student rules in the presence of his rebbi, his liability is death."

(Yerushalmi, Sheviis ch.6)

R' Shimon ben Yochai

R' Shimon ben Yochai hid in a cave for thirteen years [to avoid the Roman government that wanted to execute him], until his skin became decayed. Miracles happened to him -- carob and fig trees grew there[30], from which he sustained himself. After thirteen years, he asked himself, "Will I never leave here, and see what is happening in the world?"

He sat at the entrance of the cave. From there he saw a hunter trapping birds. As a bird came close to the trap, a heavenly voice called out, "Compassion." The bird flew off and escaped.

"If even a bird is not caught," said R' Shimon ben Yochai, "if the heavens announce otherwise, how much more so is this true for people. [My fate depends not on me hiding in a cave, but rather on how the heavens judge me -- and if so there is no reason to stay hidden here.]

At this, he went down to Tiveria, where he bathed in the bathhouse there.

"Since I derived benefit from Tiveria," said R' Shimon ben Yochai, "let me return the favor.

"Of our father, Yakov, we learn," he said, "and he camped before the city". (Breishis 33) This teaches that he set up markets where goods are sold cheaply. Let me then purify Tiveria, that the Kohanim no longer need to go around it." Since the graves of Tiveria were not marked, it became necessary to regard the whole city as a giant graveyard, preventing Kohanim from entering it for fear that they might defile themselves.

R' Shimon took lupine beans, ground them into small pieces and scattered them in the streets of Tiveria. Wherever a corpse lay, it floated upwards, and R' Shimon marked that place.


A heretic saw him. "Let's make fun of the old rabbi," he said. What did he do? He brought a corpse to a place that R' Shimon ben Yochai had declared pure, and buried it there. Afterwards he came to R' Shimon ben Yochai and asked, "Did you not purify such-and-such place? Come, I will show you a corpse there."

R' Shimon ben Yochai understood that the heretic himself had buried that corpse.

"I decree that he walks in the upper world [i.e. this heretic]," said R' Shimon ben Yochai, "should fall and die, while he who rests in the lower world [i.e. this corpse] should rise and take his place." And so it was.

Later, as R' Shimon passed a certain building; a schoolteacher there mocked him. "Is this Bar Yochai that purified Tiveria? [Surely, corpses were found in places you declared pure]."

"My teachers passed onto me," said R' Shimon ben Yochai, "that Tiveria one day, will be pure. [I have gone to much trouble to ensure that it is so.] You don't believe it because you don't choose to believe it." Immediately, this teacher collapsed into a heap of bones.

(Yerushalmi, Sheviis ch.9)


A king, by name of Diklit-yanus, much abused the people of Panyas.

"If you continue to afflict us so," they told the king, "we will leave here for another country."

"These people won't leave," the king's adviser told him. "And if they go, they'll come back. They will not last there too long. As an animal that grows in one country is unable to live in another country, so they will not leave the place where they were born.

"Check the truth of what I say," he went on. "Export some deer from here to a distant land. In the end, they will return to where they were born. And how will we know that these are the same deer? We will silver-plate their horns. This will prove that I am right."

The king carried out the experiment and exported deer to Africa. Thirty years later, they came back to the place they were born.[31]

(Yerushalmi, Sheviis ch.9)


Rebbi Chizkia was standing in the markets of Keisarim, and saw a man carrying a bundle of prohibited Shmitta produce. He turned his face from him. Why did he do this? He wanted to show his disapproval of this person, and discourage others from following his example.

(Yerushalmi, Sheviis ch.9)

Not Suspect

A kind, charitable woman once fed a pauper who came to her door. Her husband was not at home at this time. As the man finished eating, she sensed her husband approaching. She feared him -- for he was stingy -- and would shout in anger at her. What did she do? She hid the pauper in the loft, telling him to stay out of sight.

Her husband entered, and she served him a meal. He ate a little, and dozed off. While he napped, a snake crept to his plate and ate from the food there. The husband then woke, and again raised his food to his mouth.

"Don't touch that food," called out the pauper who had seen everything, "a snake ate from it."

On hearing this story, the rabbis commented, that while this woman had acted incorrectly, the law did not suspect her of adultery. For, had the man in the loft slept with her, he would not have exposed himself to her husband -- even to save his life.

(Yerushalmi, Trumos ch.8)

Recovering their Loss

A butcher in Tzipori would deceive the local Jews and sell them non-kosher meat as being kosher. One Shabbos night, he got drunk, climbed to the roof, fell off and died. Dogs surrounded him where he fell and were licking the blood. Neighbors came to ask R' Chanina if they could move him, and save him from the dogs [a corpse on Shabbos normally, may not be moved.]

"The Torah says," R' Chanina answered, "do not eat non-kosher meat -- rather feed it to the dogs (Shmos 22). This butcher stole what belonged to the dogs. Therefore, leave them alone that they may recover their loss.

(Yerushalmi, Trumos ch.8)

Guard Dog

Some shepherds once milked their cows. As they were looking away, a snake came and drank from their bucket. The shepherd's dog who had seen this, tried to inform them.[32] When the shepherds came to drink the milk, he barked loudly to warn them away. However, they didn't understand what he wanted, and drank the milk anyway. They died.

(Yerushalmi, Trumos ch.8)

Guard Snake

Once, a person preparing his meal, ground some garlic at his kitchen table. He then left the garlic unguarded for a few minutes. Within this short time, a mountain snake slid into the room and ate from the garlic. Another snake that lived in the rafters of the house saw this. Later, when the members of the family wanted to eat from the garlic, he threw sand at them to warn them away. But, they ignored him. So he threw his whole self into the garlic.

This story parallels this verse, "When Hashem approves of a person's ways, even his enemies serve him." (Mishle 16) The snake, a natural enemy of people, made a special effort to serve his "hosts".

(Yerushalmi, Trumos ch.8)

Faithful Friend

A certain man invited a rabbi to eat with him. When the rabbi came, he sat him at the table, and sat his dog next to him.

"Do you do this," asked the rabbi, "to embarrass me?"

"No," said the man, "rather, I want to honor my dog, for he did me a great favor. Robbers entered my house and tried to snatch my wife. But this dog attacked them viciously, and saved us. Therefore, I look to honor him.[33]

(Yerushalmi, Trumos ch.8)

Jewish Life

The Roman government came to arrest and execute Ulla ben Koshev. He fled to Lod, the town of R' Yehoshua ben Levi. Soldiers followed on and surrounded the town.

"If you don't hand him over," they announced, "we will kill everyone here."

R' Yehoshua ben Levi came to Ulla ben Koshev to ask forgiveness. "Better they kill you than all these innocent people," he told him. With this, he handed him to the soldiers.

Eliyahu HaNavi would visit R' Yehoshua ben Levi on a regular basis. After this incident, he stopped coming. R' Yehoshua ben Levi fasted a number of fasts[34] that he might see him again. When Eliyahu finally appeared, he asked him, "Why did you stay away from me until now?"

"Do you think," asked Eliyahu, "I appear to one who hands over a Jewish life to foreigners?"

"But," R' Yehoshua objected, "the Mishna rules that if enemies threaten to kill everyone unless we hand over someone specific, we may do so."

"The law is as you say, said Eliyahu, "but a pious person like you should not have acted so.[35]

(Yerushalmi, Trumos ch.8)


R' Immi was kidnapped by bandits in the town Sefsofa.

"Wrap him in shrouds," said R' Yonasan, [in other words, these bandits are dangerous and vicious -- there is little hope of saving him.]

"No," said Reish Lakish, "I will kill or be killed and I will save him." He approached the bandits directly, and successfully persuading them to free R' Immi.

"Come with me to our rabbi," Reish Lakish then told the bandits, "that he may bless you for your kindness [in releasing R' Immi]." They came with him to R' Yochanan.

"What you wished to do to R' Immi," R' Yochanan told them, "May Hashem do to you."

The bandits fearing this "blessing" then fled to the town Afifsirus. Still, before they reached there, other bandits attacked and killed them.

(Yerushalmi, Trumos ch.8)

Miracles for You

Zeira ben Chanina was kidnapped in the town Sefsofa. R' Ammi and R' Shmuel went to appease the bandits. They came before Zenavya, queen of the bandits.

"Since Hashem does miracles for you," she laughed at them, "why come to me? Rely on Him."

Suddenly, an Arab entered the hideout holding a sword. "This is the sword," he told Zenavya," that they killed ben Netzer, your brother." Zenavya became so agitated and distracted by this news that R' Ammi and R' Shmuel were able to free Zeira and escape without her stopping them.

(Yerushalmi, Trumos ch.8)


Bandits from a place called Kanya, stole R' Yochanan's money. With a heavy heart, he came to the study hall where Reish Lakish would question him on Torah law. That day, Reish Lakish asked, but R' Yochanan sat mutely, not answering.

"What's wrong?" Reish Lakish asked him.

"The limbs of the body rely on the heart," said R' Yochanan, "and the heart relies on the purse [to feel cheerful]. Since they stole my money, my mind is not settled."

"Where did they rob you?" Reish Lakish asked.

"Didn't you hear?" R' Yochanan asked him. He then told him how bandits from Kanya had robbed him.

"Point me to their hiding-place," said Reish Lakish. R' Yochanan took him there. Reish Lakish saw the men from a distance and shouted at them to return the money.

"Since it's R' Yochanan's money," said the thieves, "we're prepared to give half of it back."

"By your lives, I swear," said Reish Lakish, "you will return it all." And so they did.

(Yerushalmi, Trumos ch.8)

Revenge for a Shepherd

Diklut was a pig shepherd. Children, students of R' Yehuda Nesia, would make fun of him, even hitting him. Years later, this shepherd became king, and wanted to revenge himself on the Jews. From a place called Panyas, some distance from Tiveria, he summoned the Jewish leaders there to appear before him on Motzei Shabbos.

"Make sure," he told the messenger, "to give this summons to them close to Shabbos, that they will not be able to make the trip before Shabbos. Then, if they travel on Motzei Shabbos, they will arrive after the time I set, and I will have an excuse to punish them."

The messenger delivered the summons to the rabbis late Friday afternoon. Shortly afterwards, R' Yehuda Nesia and R' Shmuel bar Nachman were on the way to the bathhouse. Antigros, a demon, came before them. R' Yehuda Nesia began rebuking him, that he should not appear before people.

"Leave him," said R' Shmuel bar Nachman, "he is here to perform miracles for us."

"What are you rabbis doing [i.e. why do you worry]?" Antigros ask them. They told him of the summons.

"Go, bathe yourselves and don't worry," said Antigros, "for Hashem will perform miracles for you."


That Motzei Shabbos, Antigros appeared again, lifted them onto his shoulders, and flew them to Panyas.

"The Jewish rabbis have arrived," the King's servants told him.

"Tell them not to come before me," said the King," before they bathe themselves in the bathhouse." He had prepared there a bathhouse whose fires had been burning for seven days and seven nights. Antigros however, entered the bathhouse before them and cooled down the fires. They then bathed and came again before the King.


"Because your Creator performs miracles, you make fun of the king?" Diklut asked them.

"We made fun of you when you herded pigs," they answered, "Now that you are king, we do not make fun of you."

"Even so," said Diklut, "you should not disdain even the least Roman."[36]

(Yerushalmi, Trumos ch.8)

R' Elazar b'Rebbi Shimon

R' Elazar b'Rebbi Shimon once visited R' Shimon b'Rebbi Yosi ben Lekunia, his father-in-law. His father-in-law poured him a cup.[37] He drank down the entire cup. His father-in-law then poured him another cup. Again, he drank down the entire cup.

"Did your great father not teach you the proper way to drink?" asked his father-in-law, "How could you swallow two cups so quickly?"

"The rabbis teach that the proper way to act is if the cup is neither hot, nor cold," R' Elazar answered, "one may swallow it in a single gulp. If it is cold, one drinks it in two swallows. If it is hot, one drinks it in three swallows. However, they did not make these rules for your wine which is so delicious, nor for your cup which is so small, nor for my stomach which is so wide."


"Vinegar, son of wine," R' Yehoshua ben Korcha called R' Elazar.

"Why do you call me so?" R' Elazar asked him.

"Before you run away from us to Ludkia, [we wish to voice our disapproval,]" said R' Yehoshua. [R' Elazar would catch thieves for the police, as his livelihood.]?? See later

"Am I not doing a good thing by removing the thorns from the vineyard?" Said R' Elazar, [by removing the Jews who harm our people.]

"For this you travel to the ends of the world?" Said R' Yehoshua, "better that you leave the Owner [Hashem] to weed out His vineyard."

(Yerushalmi, Maasros ch.3)


"I had a dream," a person told R' Yosi ben Chalafta, "where they told me, go to Kapudkia -- there you will find your father's money."

"Was your father ever in Kapudkia?" asked R' Yosi.

"No," answered the man.

"Go home," R' Yosi told him, "count ten roof beams from the door, and there you will find your father's money." ["Kapa d'kadia" in ancient Greek means "the tenth beam".]

(Yerushalmi, Maaser Sheini ch.4)


"I saw in a dream," one person told R' Yosi ben Chalafta, "that I was wearing a crown of olive branch."

"This means that you will rise, be a great person, and wear a crown on your head," R' Yosi told him.

"I saw in a dream," another person told R' Yosi some time later, "that I was wearing a crown of olive branch."

"This means," R' Yosi told him, "you will receive lashes [from a switch of olive branch]."

"How come you told the other man he would rise to greatness," the person asked, "and to me you say, you will receive lashes?"

"The other man asked me at a time when the olive trees are sprouting," said R' Yosi, "while you ask me a time when they are losing their strength."

(Yerushalmi, Maaser Sheini ch.4)


"I dreamed," a nonbeliever told R' Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi, "that I was watering and olive tree with olive oil."

"May your soul rot," he answered, "you had relations with your mother." [The fruit of the olive was nourishing its source.]

(Yerushalmi, Maaser Sheini ch.4)


"I saw in a dream," a person told R' Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi, "one eye kissing [touching] the other eye."

"May your soul rot," he answered, "you had relations with your sister."

(Yerushalmi, Maaser Sheini ch.4)


"I saw in a dream," a person told that R' Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi, "that I had three eyes."

"You are an oven-maker," he told him, "Two of the eyes you saw were yours, the third is the eye -- or opening -- of the oven."[38]

(Yerushalmi, Maaser Sheini ch.4)


"I saw in a dream," person told R' Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi, "that I have four ears."

"Your work is to fill wine jugs," he told him, "two of the ears you saw were yours, the other two were jug handles."

(Yerushalmi, Maaser Sheini ch.4)


"I saw in a dream," a person told R' Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi, "people running away from me."

"If you carry thorns," he told him, "people will run away from you."

(Yerushalmi, Maaser Sheini ch.4)


"I saw in a dream," a person told R' Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi, "that I was wearing a notepad was twelve pages in it."

"Your ladder has twelve steps," he told him.

(Yerushalmi, Maaser Sheini ch.4)


"I saw in a dream," a person told R' Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi, "that I was having relations with a star."

"May your soul rot," he answered, " for you killed a Jew [the verse refers to the Jewish people as," Yakov's star" (BaMidbar 24)]."

(Yerushalmi, Maaser Sheini ch.4)


"I saw in a dream," a person told R' Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi, "this person's vineyard [meaning, his own] growing bitter herbs."

"This person's wine," he told him, "will turn to vinegar, and he will take bitter greens, dip them in the vinegar, and eat them.

(Yerushalmi, Maaser Sheini ch.4)


"I saw in a dream," a person told R' Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi, "that they told me, throw your fingers down."

"Pay me my fee, and I will interpret it for you," he answered.[39] The man would not pay, and left.

A while later he returned. "I saw in a dream," he told Rebbi Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi, "that they told me, blow from your mouth."

"Pay me my fee, and I will interpret it for you," he answered. The man would not pay, and left.

A while later he returned. "I saw in a dream," he told Rebbi Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi, "that they told me, raise your fingers upwards."

"Did I not tell you," answered Rebbi Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi, "pay me, then I will help you. Now let me explain all three dreams to you. When they told you, throw your fingers down, this meant that rain was falling on your wheat, [causing it to spoil. Had you paid me, you could have harvested it and saved it]. When they told you, blow from your mouth, this meant the wheat was swelling [and you could still have saved some of it by harvesting then]. When they told you, raise your fingers upwards, this meant the wheat has sprouted [and is lost].

(Yerushalmi, Maaser Sheini ch.4)


"Let's have a good laugh at this old Jew," said a heretic about R' Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi. He came to him, and told him, "I saw in a dream four cedars, four sycamores, a beam, straw, a rod, and myself sitting on them, making his needs."

"May his soul rot, that's no dream," Rebbi Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi said to himself, "still, I won't send him away empty-handed."

"The four cedars," he told him, "are the four sides of a bed, the four sycamores other four legs of the bed, the beam is the foot of the bed, the straw is for lying on, the rod is for the head of the bed, and you lying on the bed, neither alive nor dead, [bedridden and sick]." And so it was.

(Yerushalmi, Maaser Sheini ch.4)


"I saw in a dream," the woman told R' Eliezer, "the doorpost of the house broken."

"You will give birth to a male child," he told her. And so it was.

A while later, again she came to R' Eliezer, but no one was home other than his students. "What do you want of him?" they asked her.

"I saw in a dream," she answered, "the doorpost of the house broken."

"We will give birth to a male child," they told her, "and your husband will die."

Later, when R' Eliezer returned, they told him what had happened.

"You killed a man," he told them, "for the dream follows after the interpretation, is the verse says, "as he interpreted for them, so it was."" (Breishis 41)

(Yerushalmi, Maaser Sheini ch.4)


"I saw in a dream," a man told Rebbi Akiva, "that my leg (regel) became small."

"The holiday (regel) will come," he told him, "but your joy will not be a full one, for you will only have a little meat to eat."

"I saw in a dream," another man told R' Akiva, "that my leg was very fact."

"The holiday will come," he told him, "and you will have a lot of meat to eat."

(Yerushalmi, Maaser Sheini ch.4)


Rebbi Akiva saw one of his students looking very upset. "What's wrong?" he asked him.

"I saw three unpleasant things in a dream," the student told him, "one, that in Adar I would die. Two, in Nisan I would no longer see. Three, that which I sow, I will not reap and gather."

"All three are good," R' Akiva told him, "that you saw in Adar you would die means that you will excel in the Torah's beauty [hadar].[40] What you saw that in Nisan you would go blind indicates you will not need miracles [nissim] for nothing bad will happen to you. And what you saw that you would sow and not reap, means your children will not die in your lifetime.

(Yerushalmi, Maaser Sheini ch.4)

Death of a Tzaddik

R' Yehuda b'Rebbi Chiya would visit R' Yanai, his father-in-law, every erev Shabbos. R' Yanai would sit in a high place that he might see him coming, and fulfill the mitzva of standing up for him.

"Didn't you teach us, Rabbeinu," his students asked him, "we need only stand up for a Torah sage once we are within his four amos?"[41]

"In the presence of mount Sinai," he answered them referring to R' Yehuda b'Rebbi Chiya, "there is no sitting in all. This is why I stand even at such a distance."


Once, R' Yehuda was late.

"Not for nothing is he late," said R' Yanai, "and we can't say he is sick either, for a tzaddik is released from sufferings. It must be then that he has died." And so it was. (See 270)

(Yerushalmi, Bikkurim ch.3)

Bad Mazal

Shimon bar Va was a great Torah scholar, as well as an expert in precious stones and other sciences. His mazal however, was very bad. He was so poor he hardly ever had bread to eat. Torah academies would appoint younger scholars as their heads, while overlooking him completely.

Of him, R' Yochanan would say, "Not to the wise, is there bread." (Koheles 9) He would also say, "If you want to know the ways of Avraham Avinu, study the ways of Shimon bar Va."

R' Avahu sent him a note with a white hair tucked in -- as if to say, your hair is white already, go then to Eretz Yisrael -- there they will appreciate your scholarship -- and appoint you.

This same R' Avahu would comment, "Brush off the dust from your eyes, R' Yochanan, [and see this amazing sight,] they appoint Avahu of Riglusei [referring to himself in a humble way], while R' Shimon bar Va, who is the best of scholars, they do not appoint."

(Yerushalmi, Bikkurim ch.3)


Once, a Torah scholar who had learned much, absorbed much, and sat at the feet of the great rabbis of his time, died young. His wife took his tefillin, and went from Torah centre to Torah centre, asking this question:

"The Torah says, that it is "life, and long days." My husband learned much, absorbed much, and sat at the feet of the great rabbis of his time. Why did he die young?" No one answered her.

Eliyahu HaNavi then came to visit her. She repeated before him her question and her anguish.

"My daughter," he asked her, "when you were in nida, how did he conduct himself?"

"Chas veshalom," she answered, "that he should even touch me with his smallest finger then."

"And in your days of wearing white?" Eliyahu asked her.

"He ate with me, drank with me and slept near me, but no more than that."

"Blessed is Hashem who killed him," said Eliyahu, "that he shows no favoritism to Torah scholars, for the Torah says, "Do not go near a woman in the impurity of her nida," (VaYikra 18) -- until she has immersed herself, she is a nida.

(Shabbos 13a)

David's End

"Lord of the universe," King David said to Hashem, "tell me my end."

"I have a rule," Hashem answered, "that no person may know how long he will live."

"How long then," David asked, "will my last year be?"

"This too, the heavens will not reveal," Hashem answered.

"Tell me then what day of the week I will die?" David asked.

"On Shabbos," Hashem told him.

"Let me then die after Shabbos," David requested, "that they may attend to my body, and eulogize me."

"After Shabbos, your son Shlomo's time to rule will have come," Hashem told him, "and one kingship may not touch another, even by hair's breadth."

"Let me die then on Erev Shabbos," David asked.

"Better one day in your courtyard, than a thousand, (Tehillim 84)," Hashem answered, "better one day that you sit and learn Torah, than the thousand sacrifices Shlomo will offer before Me on the altar."[42]


It was David's way, that every Shabbos of the year, he would sit and learn Torah entire day, so that the Angel of Death would not approach him.[43] On the day he was destined to die, the Angel of Death came, and found David learning Torah. He could not come near him.

"What can I do to stop him learning?" he thought to himself. Behind David's house was a garden. The Angel of Death started shaking the trees, creating a tremendous noise. David went out see what was happening, reciting Torah as he walked. As he climbed down the few steps there, one board cracked under his weight, David stopped learning for a moment, and immediately, he died.

(Shabbos 30a)

Head of the Jewish People

Once, two men wagered each other. "Whoever can get Hillel to lose his temper," the one said to the other, "takes 400 zuz. But, if not, he must pay 400 zuz."

"I will do it," said one of them.

That day was Erev Shabbos and Hillel was washing his hair. This man came to his door and called, "Is Hillel here? Is Hillel here?" Hillel wrapped himself in his cloak and came out to the man.

"Why do people in Bavel have round heads?" he asked Hillel.

"You ask a great question, my son," Hillel answered patiently, "it is because their midwives are not expert at handling them at birth."

He went for a short while and then returned. "Is Hillel here? Is Hillel here?" he called. Hillel again wrapped himself and came out.

"What is it you want, my son?" he asked. "I have a question to ask," said the man.

"Ask, my son," Hillel told him.

"Why do the people of Tarmud have soft eyes?" he asked.

"That is a good question," Hillel told him, "it is because they live in sandy places and the wind blows sand into their eyes."

The man went away and again returned. "Is Hillel here? Is Hillel here?" he called. Hillel again wrapped himself, and came out.

"What is it you want my son?" he asked.

"I have a question," said the man.

"Ask what you will, my son," Hillel said to him

"Why do Africans have wide feet?" he asked him.

"That is a good question you ask, my son," Hillel answered, "it because they live in swampy places. Their feet are wide, that they shouldn't sink."[44]

"I have many, many questions to ask," said the man, "but, I'm afraid you'll get angry with me."

"Any questions you have to ask, ask." Hillel told him.[45]

"Are you the Hillel," asked the man, "head of the Jewish people."

"That's right," said Hillel.

"Then, too many others shouldn't be like you," said the man.

"Why not?" asked Hillel.

"For, you caused me to lose 400 zuz," the man explained.

"Be careful how you speak," Hillel warned him. "It's better that you should lose 400 zuz, and another 400 zuz, and that Hillel should not become angry."[46]

(Shabbos 31a)

(See later 743)

Hillel's Patience

A non-Jew came before Shamai.

"How many Torahs do you have?" he asked.

"We have two," said Shamai, "a written Torah, and and oral Torah."

"I'm prepared to accept the written Torah," said the man, "but I don't believe in the oral Torah. Convert me, but teach me only the written Torah."

Shamai rebuked him, and sent him away.

The non-Jew then came before Hillel. He converted him.

On the first day of his lessons, Hillel taught him the alphabet, "Aleph, Beis, Gimel, etc." The next day, he again taught him the alphabet, but reversed the names of the letters, "Taf, Shin, Reish, etc."

"But, that's not what you told me yesterday!" the convert protested.

"In the same way that you rely on what I told you yesterday," Hillel answered, "so you need also to rely on the oral Torah."



Another non-Jew came before Shamai. "Convert me, and teach me the entire Torah as I stand on one leg," he said to him. Shamai drove him away with a measuring rod.

He then came before Hillel who converted him.

"Now," Hillel told him, "That which you find hateful, do not do to others. This is the whole Torah -- the rest is commentary. Go now and learn [-- that you may know what is hateful, and what is not]."

(Shabbos 31a)



A non-Jew once passed by the study hall, and heard a children's teacher describing a beautiful set of garments.

"Who are these for?" asked the non-Jew.

"For the Kohen Gadol," the children shouted.

"I will convert and wear those beautiful clothes," the non-Jew thought to himself.

He came before Shamai. "Convert me that I may be the Kohen Gadol," he told him. Shamai drove him away with a measuring rod.

He then came before Hillel, who converted him.

"Surely, a person cannot be a king [i.e. Kohen Gadol],"Hillel then told him, "unless he first learns the rules? Go then and learn."

The convert went to learn. When he came to the verse, "The stranger [i.e. non-Kohen] who enters [into the temple service] shall die," (BaMidbar 3) he asked, "Who is the stranger this verse refers to?"

"Even David, king of Yisrael," they told him.

"If regular Jewish people," the convert thought himself, "who Hashem calls "my beloved firstborn," cannot serve as kohanim, how much the more this does this apply to a newcomer who owns little more than his staff and his knapsack!"

He came before Shamai. "Am I at all fit to be Kohen Gadol?" he asked him. ["Surely you could have explained this to me, instead of sending me away."]

He then came before Hillel. "You have such wonderful humility," he told him. "May Hashem bless you for converting me."




After a while, these three converts met. "Shamai's intolerance almost lost us the world,"[47] they said, "but, Hillel's humility drew us under the wings of the Divine presence."

(Shabbos 31a)


[1] This matches the teaching: One who gives his friend all gifts, but does not smile at him, is as though he gives him nothing. But one who smiles at his friend, even though he gives him nothing, is as though he gives him everything. (Avos d'Rebbi Nosson 13)

[2] R' Yehuda HaNasi, leader of his generation, was one of the wealthiest people of his time. He lived around 150 c.e.

[3] About 12 liters/3.2 gallons

[4] This verse alludes to the Jewish people sinning, and thereby, desecrating the beauty and joy which was the holy Beis HaMikdash.

[5] About 6 liters/1.6 gallons

[6] Shekalim ch.5

[7] Only one who has less than 200 zuz (dinarim) may accept charity. Mishna, Peah 8.5

[8] So named for whatever happened to him he would respond, "This too ["gam zu"] is for the good." He was one of the great scholars of his generation, and rebbi to R' Akiva

[9] Since we didn't merit that the heavens should interfere and stop us eating forbidden foods, this reflects on our unworthiness.

[10] This refers specifically to demai -- food whose obligation to tithe is only Rabbinic.

[11] We may explain, not that this donkey was such a spiritual animal, but rather since she belonged to R' Pinchus ben Yair, she naturally adopted his holy practices.

[12] R' Pinchus ben Yair felt that since they had asked him "to look after their barley," he should do so in the best possible way.

[13] Why here did the lack of tithing result in their water drying up, whereas in the earlier story, it brought on a plague of rats? One idea is that here they decided, even before their grain came in, not to give tithes -- whereas in the story before, they originally had good intentions, which only later they did not keep.

[14] Being with R' Pinchus ben Yair entitled all the students to cross. However, enjoying miracles that one does not deserve, costs a person merits in the world-to-come. What would a person need to cross "for free"? That he had never embarrassed any other in his lifetime. Biurim, HaRav Chaim Kanievski, shlita

[15] The Torah forbids farmers from working their crops every seventh year. After the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash however, this mitzva is of a rabbinic origin, which allowed Rebbi to make certain concessions for the benefit of poor families.

[16] We can understand the dispute between these giants as follows: R' Pinchus ben Yair believed that the Jewish people should lead holy lives, within the line of Torah law. On the other hand, Rebbi, the supreme Torah authority of his day, demanded less of the people, allowing them also to follow the leniencies found upon the line of Torah law.

[17] This indicates that specifically, R' Pinchus ben Yair's judgment of the incident was what released the heavenly help.

[18] The ram was the ram of Yitzchak. The old man leading it was Avraham Avinu. Rashi

[19] We may not separate tithes on Shabbos, but if we recite the prescribed condition, and start the process before Shabbos, we may complete even on Shabbos.

[20] Those who were exacting in their mitzva observance would treat their regular food the same as truma, (the part of our tithes we give to Kohanim), and kodshim, sacrificial foods. R' Tarfon, as with R' Chanina ben Dosa, in the story before, had failed to act as they normally acted only by accident. Still the heavens are stricter with those who are righteous.

[21] Only in the walled cities, that there should be less arguments about who receives this great honor. Biurim, HaRav Chaim Kanievski, shlita

[22] Approximately, 3 kilometers (almost 2 miles)

[23] Why should the heavens have it that yet another Jew should lose his life? This was that we should better appreciate what it means to lose a great Torah scholar from our midst.

[24] He had the sensitivity to understand what the calf was saying, but did not sympathize with the calf's pain. And one, who doesn't show compassion to others, in turn, does not receive heavenly compassion. Biurim, HaRav Chaim Kanievski, shlita

[25] This is a way to apply our rabbis' teaching, that on the day of heavenly judgment, each person must answer the question, did you make your friend a king over yourself. Raishis Chochma, Meseches Chibut HaKever chp 4

[26] He was R' Chiya Raba's nephew, and later a great leader of the Babylonian communities.

[27] He was sitting in the lobby of the bathhouse where one may learn Torah.

[28] Koheles Raba ??

[29] Here, not knowing the halacha, saved his life. Biurim, HaRav Chaim Kanievski, shlita

[30] Some explain that every Erev Shabbos the carob tree would produce figs.

[31] This advisor assumed that people are no more than animals, and cannot break their habits. Still, for people who live intelligently, this need not be the case.

[32] When a snake drinks, its poison drips into the liquid.

[33] Even so, his behavior is not correct. Dogs do not appreciate honor, and would prefer a tasty treat, while humans are sensitive to the smallest slight.

[34] According to the Medresh, thirty fasts.

[35] Someone else could have handed him over. It did not have to be you. Biurim, HaRav Chaim Kanievski, shlita

[36] His messages to them is correct, and they needed to suffer this ordeal to learn it. Even though Hashem did miracles for them, reassuring them that they are still his special people, still was a uncomfortable experience.

[37] Of wine mixed with water, the usual drink of that time.

[39] R' Yishmael b'Rebbi Yosi at this time, was interpreting dreams as his livelihood. Biurim, HaRav Chaim Kanievski, shlita

[40] And your death follows the verse "when a man dies in a tent" (BaMidbar 19) which alludes to the learning of Torah.

[41] About 2.4 metres (8 feet)

[42] On the day Shlomo moved the altar from Givon to Yerushalayim, he sacrificed 100o offerings on it. (Melachim I 3.4)

[43] Torah protects from death. (Sota 21)

[44] Or what Hillel said is, since they walk barefoot, their feet spread out. Were they to wear shoes, this would keep their feet in shape. Rashi

[45] We see here the great humility of Hillel, and his patience with them.

[46] No monetary loss is worth avoiding at the expense of the wrath of a person as great as Hillel.

[47] The eternity of the world-to-come.

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