R' Yehuda, R' Yosi and R' Shimon [bar
Yochai] once sat together,
and Yehuda ben Gairim sat with them. R' Yehuda spoke first.
"How pleasant are the ways of this
nation [Rome]; they
set up markets, build bridges, construct bathhouses," said R' Yehuda.
Yosi kept silent.
"All they do," R' Shimon argued,
"they do for
themselves. They set up markets, for prostitution. They constructed
for their own pleasure. They built bridges, to collect taxes."
Yehuda ben Gairim repeated these
words, and they reached the
ears of the Roman authorities.
"Yehuda who praised us, shall be
decreed, "Yosi who was quiet, shall be exiled to Tzipori. Shimon was
scorned us, shall die."
R' Shimon and his son [R' Elazar] hid
themselves in a shul.
Every day his wife would bring them bread and a flask of water, which
When the decree against them tightened, R' Shimon commented to his son,
"Women are easily swayed. Maybe they will torture her, and she will
our whereabouts." They left the shul, and hid in a cave.
A miracle happened, a carob tree
sprung up there, and a
spring of water appeared. They stripped of their clothes, and buried
up to their necks in sand. The entire day, they learned Torah. When it
to pray, they dressed, prayed, and again removed their clothes that
shouldn't wear out. Thus, they remained for twelve years.
At the end of this time, Eliyahu
HaNavi appeared to them.
"Who will tell Bar Yochai that Caesar has died, and the decree against
has been lifted," he said. They left the cave.
As they walked, they saw people
plowing and sowing. "Is
it right that they abandon eternal life, and busy themselves with
riches?" they asked in amazement. Thereafter, wherever they turned the
eyes, fires broke out and burned all they saw.
"Do you want to destroy My world?" a
voice called out. "Go back to your cave!" They returned for another
"The punishment of the wicked in
Gehinom is twelve months,
[surely then for us it cannot be longer than this]," they said. At
heavenly voice called to them, "Leave your cave."
Wherever R' Elazar's eyes struck
[doing damage to people's
properties], R' Shimon's eyes then healed.
"[Don't be so angry with them]," R'
Shimon told R'
Elazar, "it's enough for the world that there are the two such as us."
[This however, did not appease R' Elazar.]
On Erev Shabbos, towards evening,
they saw a man running
with two bunches of myrtle branches in his hands.
"What are those for?" they asked him.
"To honor the Shabbos," he answered.
"But why two?" they asked him.
"One corresponding to "zachor" and
"shamor", he answered, [the two mitzvos to remember and observe the
"See how the Jewish people cherish
Shimon said to his son, and R' Elazar was appeased.
R' Pinchus ben Yair, R' Shimon's
son-in-law, came out to
greet R' Shimon. He took him to the bathhouse to bathe him. When he saw
cracks in R' Shimon's skin, tears rolled from his face falling on the
and burning them.
"Woe, that I see you like this," R'
"Woe, were you not to see me like
this," R' Shimon
answered. "On the contrary, be happy that you see me like this. For,
you not to see me so -- you would not find me so." [Through my trials
I have reached new spiritual heights.] At first when R' Shimon would
question, R' Pinchus would answer him in twelve different ways. Now,
Pinchus would ask a question, R' Shimon would answer him with
"Since a miracle was done for me,"
said R' Shimon,
"I must do something special for the benefit of others..."
Once a woman died, and left her
husband with a baby to
nurse. He was so poor he could not afford to hire a nurse. He cried to
and a miracle happened. He grew two breasts like a woman, and nursed
"How great is this person," said Rav
"that such a miracle was done for him."
"On the contrary," said Abaye," how
lowly he is.
He caused the order of creation to be corrupted, [but cannot earn the
that they should send him a little money to pay the wages for a nurse.]
"We should note from this," Rav
on this story, "how difficult it can be to find food. Creation needs to
change just that we can eat."
"The proof for what you say," Rav
"is what we see here. It can be easier to perform miracles than to
A man once married a woman who had
only one hand. Yet, he
did not notice this until the day of her death.
"See how modest this woman was," said
"that her husband failed to see her disability."
"It is normal for a woman," R' Chiya
"especially a woman like this, to be modest. Rather, how modest was
man that he lived with her all those years, and never saw her
Rav Chisda and Raba bar Rav Huna
once, took a trip on a
small boat. A woman known to be a witch, wished to join them on the
they would not allow her. She uttered a spell, and the boat would not
They in turn, murmured a holy name, and released the boat from her
"What can I do," she shouted after
"since you do not clean yourselves with clay shards,
do not kill lice
within your garments, and do not eat vegetables that are still tied in
Yosef Mokir Shavi [Yosef who honored
the Shabbos] had a very
wealthy neighbor. Stargazers told this man that all his property would
into the hands of Yosef Mokir Shavi. To prevent this happening, this
his property, and bought a precious jewel. He then had a felt hat made
him, adorned with pearls, with this jewel in its center. "Now he'll
get it," he thought to himself.
Once, as this man crossed a bridge, a
strong wind blew his
hat into the water. A large fish then swallowed it. On Erev Shabbos,
caught this fish.
"Who will buy this fish now?" they
themselves. "Surely, no one wants such a large fish, and such a late
"Go to Yosef Mokir Shavi,"
people told the
fishermen, "he is accustomed to buying special items to honor the
They took to him. Yosef Mokir Shavi
cut open the fish, found
the jewel, and sold it for 13 rooms of gold coins.
"When one lends to the Shabbos," an
old man met
him and told him, "Shabbos repays him."
R' Chiya bar Aba was a guest at a
house in Ludkia. They
brought before him a golden table so heavy, it took 16 men to carry it.
it, sixteen silver chains hung. Bowls, cups, jugs and bottles, with all
of foods, delicacies and spices covered it.
As they put the table down, they
declared, "The earth
and all it contains is Hashem's." (Tehillim 24)
When they removed the table, they
heavens belong to Hashem, but the earth He gave to men." (Tehillim 115)
"My son," R' Chiya by Aba asked the
"how did you merit such wealth?"
"I was a butcher," the man answered,
whenever I saw a beautiful animal, I would say, with this I will honor
"With your conduct, you merited all
Chiya said. "Blessed is Hashem who so honors you."
"How is it," the Caesar asked R'
Chananya, "that Shabbos food has such a wonderful fragrance?"
"We have," said R' Yehoshua, "a
spice, "Shabbos", that we add to all our food."
"Give some of it to me," said the
"For one who keeps Shabbos," said R'
"it adds flavor. But for one who doesn't keep Shabbos, it does nothing
One Shabbos, a fire fell on the
property of Yosef ben Simai of
Shichin. Since Yosef served as the King's treasurer, the king's
to put out the fire. However, Yosef would not allow them to extinguish
"Today is Shabbos" he told them, "and fires may not be ignited
A miracle then happened, rain fell
and the fire died. After
Shabbos, he sent each of these workers, two coins, and to their
When the rabbis heard this story,
they commented that his
piety had been unnecessary. If a non-Jew comes to put out a fire on
we may not ask him to extinguish it, we need not tell him not to
A man once came from the upper Galil
to work for a
householder in the South. At the end of three years, on Erev Yom
asked for his wages that he may return to his wife and children, and
"I have no money," his boss told him.
"Give me produce then," he asked.
"I have no produce," his boss
"Give me a field then for my wages,"
"I have no fields."
"Give me livestock."
"I have none."
"Let me take bedding then."
"I have none."
What could he do? He swung his
knapsack on his shoulder, and
After the holiday, the householder
came looking for his
worker, bringing his wages, and three donkey loads of food, drink and
gifts. After they had eaten a meal together, the householder gave him
"Tell me," he asked the worker, "when
asked for money, and I told you I have no money, what did
you think of me?"
"I thought a good business
transaction had come your
way, and you had given all your money for that."
"And when you asked for livestock,
and I told you I had
"I thought it must be rented to
"And when you asked for land, and I
told you I had no
"I thought it must be contracted out
"And when you asked for produce, and
I told you I had
"I thought it must that you still
need to tithe
"And when you asked for bedding, and
I told you I had
"I thought it must be you dedicated
all your worldly
goods to the heavens."
"This is the exact truth!" the
exclaimed, "I had sworn away all my property on account of Horkenos, my
son, who would not learn Torah -- but since then, I have been released
Moreover -- as you judged me as being
worthy, so may Hashem
judge you as being worthy."
A pious man
once redeemed a young woman from captivity. At the inn where they
lay her to sleep at his feet. The next morning, he immersed himself in
mikveh, and then sat down to learn with his students.
"Tell me," he asked them, "when you
laying that young woman at my feet, what did you think of me?"
"We thought that there was amongst us
a student that
Rebbi didn't know and couldn't trust."
"And when you saw me immerse in the
mikveh, what did
you then think?"
"We thought," once students, "that
the fatigue of travelling, Rebbi had had an accident."
"It was just so!" he exclaimed.
you judged me as being worthy, so may Hashem judge you as being worthy."
Once, the scholars of Eretz Yisrael
needed a favor from a
brothel-keeper that the important Romans would visit.
"Who will go to her?" they asked.
"I will go," said R' Yehoshua. He
accompanied him to the house. When he got there, he removed his
entered the house, and closed the door before their faces. When he left
house, he immersed himself in a mikveh, and then returned to his
"When I removed my tefillin," he
"what did you think of me?"
"We thought," they answered, "that
doesn't want items of holiness in an unclean place."
"And when I closed the door, what did
"We thought that Rebbi needed to
"When you saw that I immersed in the
mikveh, would you
"We thought some of her spit had
sprayed on Rebbi's
"It was just so!" he exclaimed.
you judged me worthy, so may Hashem judge you as being worthy."
Once, the Roman government decreed
that any Jew wearing
tefillin, would have his brain chopped out. A pious Jew by name of
continued to wear tefillin. Moreover, he wore them even in the streets.
Roman soldier spotted him, and wished to arrest him. He tried to
the soldier pursued him. In the meantime, Elisha removed them from his
and held them in his hands.
"What do you have in your hands?" the
"Doves' wings," Elisha answered. He
hands, and there were doves' wings. From then people would call him
Kenafaim (Master of wings).
Why did he mention doves, and not
some other bird? For, the
Jewish people are like doves ... just as a dove fights with its wings
with its beak, so the Jewish people fight their enemies with prayers.
R' Nosson once came to the islands of
the sea. A woman there
came to him with an infant in her arms, and told him that she had
her first son, and he had died, and her second son, and he had died.
do I do now?" she cried
to him. He saw that the child was red -- his system had not
"Wait until his flesh absorbs his
blood," he told
her. She did so, circumcised him, and he lived. She called him Nosson
for R' Nosson.
R' Nosson once came to [the state of]
Kaputkia. The woman
came to him with an infant in her arms, and told him that she had
her first son, and he had died, and her second son, and he had died.
"What do I do now?" she cried to him.
He saw that
the child had jaundice and was anemic.
"Wait for his blood to rise," he told
her. She did
so, then circumcised him, and he lived. She called him Nosson HaBavli
One Shabbos, a pious man noticed a
hole in the fence that
surrounded his field. In his mind, he planned how he would repair this
Then he caught himself. "Today is Shabbos," he rebuked himself,
"how can I think such thoughts on this holiest of days. Now, as a
for my behavior, I will never repair this hole."
However, a miracle happened. A caper
bush grew in that very place,
sealing the hole in the fence. Moreover, this bush provided ample
the pious man and his family.
Rav Nachman had workers dig his
field. Without realizing it,
their spades uncovered a grave. "Don't dig here," a voice shouted out
The workers, in terror, realized that
the voice came from
the grave itself. They ran to report their find to Rav Nachman. Rav
himself, came to the spot, and asked of the corpse, "Who are you,
"Achai bar Yoshia," the corpse
"I learned from Rav Mari that the
righteous will turn
to dust," said Rav Nachman, "yet I see, sir, you have much substance
to you. You even speak."
"I don't know your Mari," said Rav
"and his teachings don't bother me."
"Surely the verse says, "The dust
shall return to the earth
where it was" (Koheles
12)?" Rav Nachman asked.
"You may have learned Koheles, but
you have not learned
Mishle," said Rav Achai, "there it teaches, "Jealousy causes
bones to rot," (Mishle 14) -- if a person is jealous, his bones rot; if
is not jealous, his bones do not rot."
Rav Nachman examined him, realizing
he was perfectly intact.
"Why not get up and go home, sir?" he said to him.
"I see even the Prophets you have not
Rav Achai told him. "Only Hashem can release me from here, as the verse
says, "And you shall know that I am Hashem when I open your graves
"But what of the verse, "The dust
shall return to
the earth where it was"?" Rav Nachman asked.
"This refers to an hour before the
resurrection of the
dead," said Rav Achai.
Shmuel once sat with Avlat, a
non-Jewish stargazer. Men on
their way to the fields passed before them.
"That man," said Avlat, pointing to a
person, "leaves for to the fields, but will not return. A snake will
"If he is a Jew," said Shmuel, "he
will both go
and come back. Yisrael are not affected by the stars, and their prayers
Later, the workers returned home,
this person alive and well
with them. Avlat and Shmuel seeing him, approached him. Avlat pulled
from his back, and shook it. From it fell a snake, cut in two.
"Tell us, what good deed you did
today?" Shmuel asked
"Each day," the man answered, "we all
food to a common pot, and eat together. Someone today, had no food and
embarrassed. Noticing this, I volunteered to collect the food, and when
to this man, I acted as though he had put food into the pot as well,
saving him any embarrassment."
"You performed a great mitzva and
this saved you,"
Shmuel told him. Shmuel, then at
his next class told over this story, together with its message --
Stargazers told R' Akiva, "On the day
marries, a snake will bite her, and she will die." Still, the heavens
On the day of her wedding, she
removed an ornamental pin
from her dress and, looking for a
convenient place to
leave it, stuck it in the wall. The next morning when she
removed the pin
from the wall, she saw it had pierced the eye of a snake and killed it.
"Tell us what good deed you did at
your wedding, yesterday,"
R' Akiva asked her.
"Towards evening," she related, "a
called from the gate for food. Everyone was involved in the feasting
merrymaking, and only I heard him. So, I took my plate of food and gave
"You performed a great mitzva and
this saved you," R' Akiva told her. R' Akiva, then at his
told over this story, together with its message -- charity saves from
Stargazers told the mother of Rav
Nachman bar Yitzchak,
"Your son will be a thief." Thereafter, she would not allow him to go
with his head uncovered.
"Cover your head," she would say to
that the fear of Heaven should be on you, and pray for mercy."
He did not know why she always said
this to him. One day
though, he was sitting, learning under a date palm. His tallis fell
head; he raised his eyes, and saw a bunch of dates at the top of the
this moment, his evil inclination took hold of him -- he clambered to
of the tree and bit off the bunch with his teeth.
Yehoshua HaGarsi served R' Akiva
when he was in jail. Every day he would bring him a set measure of
day, the prison guard at the gate, looked into bucket and told him,
you have more water than usual. Are you planning to dig a tunnel?" He
poured out half of it, leaving him only half of his daily ration.
When R' Yehoshua finally came before
R' Akiva, R' Akiva exclaimed,
"Yehoshua, you know I am old, and my life depends on your life -- tell
what they did to you!"
He told him of the incident with the
"Give me what you have then," said R'
"and I will wash my hands."
"There isn't even enough drinking
water here," R'
Yehoshua said, "and you want to wash your hands with it?"
"What can I do?" said R' Akiva, "the
decreed [we must wash our hands before eating,] and to ignore the words
rabbis is to die a heavenly death. Better that I die of thirst, than
R' Yehoshua tried to argue with R'
Akiva, but he refused to taste
anything, until he first washed his hands.
When the rabbis heard this story,
they commented, "If
in the weakness of old age, he demands such of himself, how much the
more so in
his youth -- and if in jail, he requires such self-sacrifice, how much
so if he were free!
"No one ever got the better of me,"
Yehoshua ben Chananya, "except a woman, a small boy, and a small girl.
"A woman -- Once I was a guest in and
inn, and the
woman there cooked me beans. On the first day, I ate it, leaving
On the second day, likewise I left nothing over. On the third day, it
salty, and I couldn't eat it. I placed it aside.
"Rebbi," she asked me, "why aren't
"I already ate today," I answered.
"If so," she said, "you shouldn't
the bread. Moreover, on the first two days, you didn't leave a corner
in the dish. Don't our rabbis teach, do not leave a corner in the pot
waiter should not reserve food for himself,] but leave a corner in the
person eating should leave food for the waiter]?"
A small girl -- Once, I took a
shortcut through a field.
"Rebbi," a small girl said to me,
seed grow in this field? Why do you trample through it?"
"I am walking on an existing path," I
"That's right, still, it's thieves
like you that made
this path," she exclaimed.
A small boy -- Once, as I was
traveling I came to a
crossroads. A small boy was sitting there and I asked him which path I
take to get to the town.
"This path is short and long," he
"this one is long and short." I took the short path, but soon
discovered that gardens and orchards blocked my way, and I couldn't go
went back to the crossroads.
"Didn't you tell me that this is the
I asked him.
"I said that it is the short and long
answered the boy, "while the other is the long and short path."
I kissed him on the head. "Good for
you, people of Yisrael,"
I said, "that all of you are wise, from your greatest to your
Once, R' Yosi HaGalili was traveling
and crossed paths with
[a woman named] Bruria.
"Which is the road I may take to [the
I asked her.
"Foolish Galilean," she said to me,
rabbis not teach, do not speak too much with a woman,
you should have
said, "Which way, Lod?"
R' Preida had a student that he
needed to teach 400 times before
he would absorb his lesson. Once, R' Preida needed to go out to fulfill
special mitzva. He first though, sat with his student. After learning
400 times as usual, he saw that the student had still not absorbed the
"What's wrong?" he asked him.
"From when I heard that Rebbi needs
to go and fulfill the
mitzva, I couldn't concentrate. I kept thinking, now Rebbi is leaving
Rebbi is leaving."
"Pay attention now," said R' Preida,
will teach you." He taught him another 400 times, and the student
"What would you prefer," a heavenly
to R' Preida, "to live an extra 400 years, all that your entire
should merit the world to come?"
"Let my generation all merit the
world to come,"
said R' Preida.
"Give him both," said Hashem.
Rabban Gamliel once travelled from
Acco to Cziv, riding a
donkey. R' Ilai walked behind him. He saw a loaf of bread on the road.
"Ilai, pick up that loaf," Rabban
Gamliel said. A
little later, they passed a non-Jew along the road.
"Mivgui [his name]," Rabban Gamliel
said to him,
"take the loaf from Ilai."
R' Ilai approached the man, and asked
him, "Where are
"From a district of hovels and huts,"
"What is your name?" R' Ilai asked
"Mivgui is my name," he answered.
"Does Rabban Gamliel know you that he
spoke to you
so?" R' Ilai asked.
"No," said Mivgui.
From this story, we see that Rabban
Gamliel was divinely
inspired. Also we learn three ideas:
1 -- Do not pass by foods that are
lying in the road.
2 -- When deciding whether food is
kosher or not, we follow
the majority, and if the majority are non-Jewish, we rule that the food
3 -- We may derive benefit from chametz
a non-Jew that was from before Pesach, for Rabban Gamliel gave the
bread to the
non-Jewish knowing that the man would show him gratitude in return.
A certain non-Jew who would deceive
the people in
Yerushalayim into thinking he was Jewish, that he might eat from the
"It says in your Torah," this man
boasted to R'
Yehuda ben Beseira of Netzivin, "that a stranger [i.e. a non-Jew] may
eat from the Pesach sacrifice, but I ate from the best of it!"
"Did they allow you to eat from the
tail?" R' Yehuda asked him.
"No," said the non-Jew in surprise.
"The next time you're there," R'
Yehuda told him,
"ask for the fat tail." R' Yehuda however, had said this to trick him
-- the fat tail is never eaten but rather, burnt on the altar.
The following Pesach, this man put
in a special request for
"The fat tail is burnt on the altar,"
him, "who told you to ask for it?"
"R' Yehuda ben Beseira," he answered.
"What's going on here?" they asked.
out the matter, found that he was a non-Jew, and executed him.
"Shalom alecha -- peace to you, R'
Yehuda ben Beseira,"
they wrote to him, "you may live in Netzivin, but your net spreads as
Rav Kahana was sick. The rabbis sent
Rebbi Yehoshua son of
Rav Idi to visit him. He went, and found that he had passed away. He
garments, as required for a great scholar. Then he reversed his
the tear should not be immediately obvious, and upset others too
He returned to the rabbis, crying.
"Has he died?" they asked.
"You said it, not me," he answered,
verse says, "One who spreads [bad] news, is a fool."
Rav Yosef son of Rebbi Yehoshua ben
Levi, died -- but then,
came back to life.
"What did you see in the upper
world?" his father
"And upside-down world," he answered,
wealthy, important people were low down, while insignificant paupers
"It was not and upside-down world you
saw," his father told them, "it was the real world."
"And what of the Torah scholars?" his
"As we are important in this world,"
answered, "so we are important in next. In addition, I heard a voice
calling, "Fortunate is he who comes here with his Torah learning in his
hand." In addition, I heard, "Fortunate are those who were killed by
the [Roman] government -- no person may rank with him."
"Who are these martyrs?" the scholars
can't be R' Akiva and his colleagues, for surely they are great
scholars, this is
not what makes them so special. Rather it must means those who the
executed in Lod; two brothers who "confessed" to killing the Caesar's
daughter, that they might prevent a mass slaughter of the Jewish people.
The Beis HaMikdash
itself cried out in protest
against Yissacher of Kfar Barkai, the Cohen Gadol of his time. Why?
For, he would
put his own dignity first by performing the Temple service wearing
his hands. This not only rendered the offerings unfit, but made a
them as well.
How did the heavens punish him?
Once, the king and queen argued at
the dining table.
"Goat meat is better," said the king.
not at all," said the queen, "lamb is softer and tastier."
"Come," they decided, once they tired
quarreling. "Let's call in the Kohen Gadol to judge. Surely, he knows
After all, he offers animal sacrifices every day." They summoned
of Kfar Barkai.
"If goat meat was better," laughed
his right hand, "it should be used for the daily offering and not a
fact that we sacrifice lambs proves that they rank higher."
His arrogance angered the king. "Not
only does he
disagree with me," he fumed, "but he makes fun of me with his right
as well. Let it be cut off then."
Stupidly, Yissacher tried to outwit
the king. He bribed the
soldier to cut off his left hand instead. When the king heard of this,
that the right hand also be cut off.
"Blessed is Hashem," said Rav Yosef
this story, "that He punished Yissacher of Kfar Barkai while he was yet
Simlai came once before R' Yochanan.
Rebbi," he asked, "Sefer
"Where are you from?" R' Yochanan
"From Lod," he answered.
"And where do you live now?" he asked.
"In Neharda'a," he answered.
"We don't teach these teachings to
anyone from Lod, nor
from Neharda'a," said R' Yochanan, "and all the more so, that you are
from both of them.
R' Simlai pleaded with him, until
finally R' Yochanan
"Teach me this in three months," R'
added. R' Yochanan picked up a clod of dirt and threw it at him.
"Berurya," said R' Yochanan, "R' Meir's wife, daughter of R'
Chanina ben Tradyon, who would learn 300 laws from 300 rabbis on a
winter's day, needed three years to complete this learning -- and you
learn it in three months!"
King Agrippas wanted once, to count
the Jewish people.
"Keep a count of the Pesach offerings
year," he told the Kohen Gadol.
They removed one kidney from each of
the sacrifices. Altogether,
they came to 600,000 pairs, twice the number of those who left Egypt.
those who were ritually impure, as well as those who could not reach
HaMikdash, did not bring sacrifices -- and since every animal
offered had at
least ten people sharing it -- the number of Jewish people was very
year they called the Massive Pesach.
One year Erev Pesach, the day the
Jewish people slaughter
the Pesach lamb,
came out on Shabbos. B'nei Beseira, the leaders of the Jewish people,
remember whether bringing the Pesach overrode Shabbos or not.
"A great man has come from Bavel,"
students told B'nei
Beseira. "His name is Hillel, and he studied under the two great
of the generation, Shemaya and Avtalyon. He will know the answer." They
"You don't know whether Pesach
overrides Shabbos or not?!"
he asked them. "Surely, there is not just one Pesach offering per year
push off Shabbos, but more than two hundred such offerings!" (The
people offer at least four lambs each Shabbos, two for the Tamid, the
offering, and two for the Mussaf, the additional Shabbos offering.)
"But what is your source for Pesach
pushing off Shabbos?"
they asked him.
"The verse says "in its time" by the
and it says "in its time" by the daily offerings. Just as "in
its time" by the daily offering means
that it overrides
Shabbos, so too "in its time" by the Pesach offering means it overrides
Shabbos. Moreover, if the daily offering, which does not carry the kareis punishment,
Shabbos, all the more so, the Pesach offering, which does carry the kareis
punishment, should override Shabbos."
Immediately, they stepped down from
their position, appointing
him instead, as head of the Sanhedrin, and leader of the Jewish people.
sat the entire day teaching the laws of Pesach. Later, he began to
"What was it," he asked them, "that
this on you? How is it I could come up from Bavel, and take over your
leadership? Surely, only your laziness in not learning from Shemaya and
Avtalyon, brought this on you?"
"Rebbi," they then asked, "what if
forgets to bring a knife to the Beis HaMikdash
before Shabbos -- what could
"This law," Hillel answered, "I
Still, we can leave the Jewish people to solve this problem themselves.
they are not prophets, they are children of prophets."
The next day, anyone who forgot his
knife, stuck it in the wool
of his lamb, or between the horns of his goat. When Hillel saw this, he
remembered the law. "This is just what Shemaya and Avtalyon told me to
in such a situation," he said.
One evening R' Tarfon did not appear
at the beis
"Where were you last night?" Rabban
him in the morning.
"I was involved in Beis
said R' Tarfon, who was a kohen.
"What are you saying?" said Rabban
"is there Beis HaMikdash service in our day?"
"The verse says "the service of
[eating My] gift
is the Kehuna, the priesthood" (BaMidbar 18),"
Tarfon," the Torah equates the eating of teruma to the service of the Beis
Ulla visited Pumpedisa in Bavel. They
brought him a basket
of dates, which were cheap and plentiful there.
"How many of these can you buy for a coin?" he asked.
"Three baskets," they told him.
"Three baskets of such honey for one small coin," he exclaimed, "why
then don't they
learn more Torah in Bavel? If good food is so cheap, surely they can
time working and more time learning Torah! "
That night however, he suffered
stomachache from all the
dates he had eaten.
"Oy," he moaned, "baskets of poison
more than a zuz, and yet they continue to learn so much Torah in Bavel?
say I admire them!"
The royal kitchens prepared an
elaborate feast for the king
and his guests. Everything accorded with the strict rules of ritual
a servant found a dead lizard in the food, something that would make
food ritually impure. The staff came to ask the king, but he had no
"Go ask the queen," he told them.
They came to ask
the queen; she also didn't know what they should do.
"Go ask Raban Gamliel," she told
them. They came
to Raban Gamliel.
"Did you find the lizard in hot food
food?" he asked them.
"In hot food," they answered.
"If so, pour cold water over it," he
They did so. The lizard revived and
wriggled away. Since a
living lizard does not cause impurity, Raban Gamliel ruled that the
feast was fit
to serve. Thus, it comes out that the king depends on the queen, the
depends on Raban Gamliel, and all depends on Raban Gamliel.
A man, by name of Tuvia, committed a
certain sin. Another
man, Zigud, saw him. He reported this before Rav Papa, that the court
punish Tuvia. Rav Papa ruled that Zigud should receive lashes!
"How can this be?" Zigud asked in
"Tuvia sins, and Zigud gets flogged!"
"The Torah teaches," Rav Papa
a single person cannot testify against another. This is what you did.
slandered another Jew. For this, you get lashes.
R' Yochanan leaned on R' Chiya bar
Abba as he walked. R'
Elazar, his student, seeing him passing, hid himself. But R' Yochanan
"R' Elazar did two bad things in
joining us in Eretz
said R' Yochanan, "One, he
didn't greet me, as though
this is beneath him. Two, which is worse, it seems he doesn't want to
"In Bavel" said R' Yakov bar Idi to
Elazar, "a lesser scholar does not greet a senior scholar as a sign of
respect. The verse teaches this when it says, "Young people saw me and
hid, while elders rose before me"
"Are we allowed to walk past the
idol, Adora?" R'
Yakov bar Idi then asked, seemingly changing the subject.
"On the contrary," said R' Yochanan,
walk past it. To hide yourself from it is to show that you fear it."
"If so," said R' Yakov bar Idi, "R'
by hiding himself from you, shows that he fears you."
"Another thing R' Elazar does to
upset me," said
R' Yochanan, "is he says laws he heard from me, without quoting my
Rav Ami and Rav Assi came to appease
"In the shul of Tarsiim," they told
rabbis argued about a crossbar. One view ruled we can use it as a
Shabbos. The other rejected this view. In the heat of the dispute, they
tore a Torah scroll.
"Such ugly anger," the elderly R'
Yosi ben Kisma
told them, "can only result in this house becoming a centre for idol
worship." And so it was.
"That story proves nothing," R'
"those were fellow students, and shouldn't have acted so. Elazar,
is my pupil, and deserves my full anger."
Then R' Yakov bar Idi came to appease
"The Torah writes," he said to R'
"As Hashem commanded Moshe his servant, so Moshe commanded Yehoshua."
Now, did Yehoshua keep
saying, "I heard this from Moshe," every time he taught? No, he
taught in a normal way, yet everyone knew that whatever he said he had
"Similarly with you," R' Yakov bar
"R' Elazar teaches, yet all know he is repeating your lessons."
"Aah," said R' Yochanan to the
others, "why can't
you appease me like our friend, bar Idi."
And why did R' Yochanan so insist
that his teachings be
repeated in his name? For, no less than King David had asked, "Let me
dwell in your tents forever..."
This means, he prayed, that Torah scholars repeat his words of Torah.
way, it would be as though he was still alive."
(Yerushalmi, Shekalim ch.2)
R' Yona was unable to drink wine.
After fulfilling the
mitzva of four cups of wine on Pesach, he would suffer headaches until
and needed to bind his head tightly with a cloth.
On a different occasion, a Roman
noblewoman saw that his
"Old man, old man," she said to him,
shines so, for one of three reasons; either you drink a lot of wine, or
lend money with interest, or you breed pigs." Drinking or earning good
causes people's faces to glow with joy.
"May her soul rot," said R' Yona,
these will you find by me. Rather, the Torah I learn causes my face to
the verse says, "A person's wisdom makes his face shine."
(Yerushalmi, Shekalim ch.3)
R' Avahu once came to Tiveria. R'
Yochanan's students saw
him, and noticed that his face was shining.
"R' Avahu must have found a
treasure," they told
R' Yochanan. "Look how his face glows."
"What new thought did you hear," R'
R' Avahu, "that you are so happy?"
"I discovered an old Tosephta I had
before," R' Avahu answered. "It contained many new, fascinating ideas.
Of him R' Yochanan said, "A person's
wisdom makes his
(Yerushalmi, Shekalim ch.3)
on checking the menorah in the Beis
HaMikdash, they found that it weighed one small measure more
menorah. As this is was more than what the Torah prescribes, they would
accept it. Therefore, they melted down the menorah with the hope that
refining it they would arrive at the correct weight. However, it came
same weight as it went in. Eighty times, they repeated this process.
gold remained the same.
"Could this be?" the Torah scholars
"Surely, we know that when a goldsmith melts gold it loses some weight."
"This is true," their rabbi answered,
long as the gold is not completely
pure. But once it
reaches full purity, even melting it a thousand times makes no
(Yerushalmi, Shekalim ch.6)
Who will atone?
Two young Kohanim once raced up the
altar-ramp in the Beis
HaMikdash. The prize was that the winner
would perform the special service of Trumos Hadeshen.
One ran too close
to the other, and the other in anger, pulled out a knife and stabbed
R' Tzadok spoke out strongly against
this crime, condemning
it for happening. "Brothers" he cried out to the people from the
steps of the Beis HaMikdash, "the Torah teaches,
"If a corpse
is found in the fields, murdered ... the elders and judges must come
and they shall bring a calf to atone ... and break its neck."
"Which of our communities then must
bring the calf of atonement
-- the people of the town or the Kohanim?"
Hearing this, all
burst into tears.
man's father came to
take the corpse. "May his death atone for the community," he said.
As he neared the body, he noticed
that young man was fluttering
between life and death. "Look," he said, "if we take the knife
out now, we may yet save it (the knife)."
in his younger years, would
labor each day for a small coin. Half of this, he gave to the beis
guard that he might enter, and the other half he used to feed his
he found no work, and the guard would not let him into the beis
He climbed to the roof, and sat himself by a skylight, that he may hear
of his teachers, Shmaya and Avtalyon.
"That day," the students related,
Shabbos during the coldest time of the year, and a great snow fell on
he remained frozen on the roof the whole night."
"Avtalyon, my brother," said Shmaya
to Avtalyon, when the
dawn rose, "every day at this
time, the room lights up, yet today it's dark; maybe it's a cloudy
They looked up, and saw what looked like a man in the skylight. The
the roof, removed a great pile of snow from him, washed him, massaged
oil, and sat him next to the fire.
"For one like him," they said, "it is
worth violating the Shabbos."
R' Elazar ben Charsom inherited one
thousand towns, and correspondingly, one thousand ships
trading the seas. Still, each day he would take a pouch of flour on his
shoulder, and travel from town to town, and city to city, to learn
his own servants, not recognizing him as their employer, grabbed him,
him to help in the fields.
"Please," he begged them,
"let me go, that I
may go learn Torah."
"We swear by the life of R' Elazar
they answered, "that we will not release you." He then paid them a
large sum of money to let him go.
He never inspected his towns. Rather
he spent day and night
Daily, Potiphar's wife would persuade
the righteous Yosef to
fulfill her lustful wishes. The
clothes she wore in the morning, she would not wear at night. The
wore at night, she would not wear the next morning.
"Listen to me," she said to him.
"No," he answered her.
"I will throw you into jail," she
said to him.
"Hashem releases the imprisoned," he
"I will break your back with
torturous labor," she
said to him.
"Hashem straightens the bent," he
"I will blind your eyes," she said to
"Hashem gives sight to the blind," he
She gave him a gift of a 1000 bars of
silver, and still he
would not listen to her.
Thus Hillel reproaches the poor, R'
Elazar ben Charsom the
rich, and the righteous Yosef, the desirable [who are tempted to sin].
The mother of Doeg ben Yosef, a
widow, would measure him
each day, to calculate how much weight he had gained, and give his
gold to the Beis HaMikdash.
When the enemy conquered the Jewish
people, she slaughtered
this same son and ate him. Of her, Yirmiyahu cried out, "If a woman can
eat her own fruit, the
babies in her hands."
To the complaint implied in his
words, a heavenly voice
responded, "If they (the Jewish people) can slaughter with the
kohen and a prophet."
"This year I will die," Shimon
Kohen Gadol, announced after one Yom Kippur.
"How do you know this?" they asked
"Every year, on Yom Kippur, and old
man dressed in
white and wrapped in white would accompany me into the Kodesh
This year an old man dressed in black and wrapped in black accompanied
For seven days, he was sick. Then he
died. Thereafter, his
fellow Kohanim no longer recited their blessings using Hashem's
They felt they were no longer worthy of saying it.
When Shimon haTzaddik was dying he
commanded that his son,
Chonyo, the wiser of his two sons, should serve in his place. Shimi,
brother, who was 2½ years older, was jealous.
"Come, let me teach you how to serve
Gadol," Shimi said to Chonyo. He dressed him in a leather garment,
belt, and stood him next to the altar. He then called out, "Look what
one swore he would do for his beloved [wife]. He told her he would wear
and belt on the first day he serves in the Beis HaMikdash,
and he has
When the other Kohanim heard this,
they wished to kill
Chonyo. He then fled to Alexandria in Egypt, built an altar, and
offered on it
sacrifices to idolatry. About this, the rabbis commented, "If one who
not tasted honor showed such a dangerous jealousy for it, how much the
then, we must be careful not to demote one who already enjoys honor,
should not fall to ruin.]
This was the story of Shimi and
Chonyo as told by R' Meir.
R' Yehuda however, tells the story as follows:
When Chonyo heard that he was to be
Kohen Gadol over his
brother, who was 2½ years older, he refused, and passed the
honor on to Shimi.
Even so, he later felt jealous of Shimi.
"Come, let me teach you how to serve
Gadol," Chonyo then said to Shimi. He dressed him in a leather garment,
added a belt, and stood him next to the altar. He then called out,
what this one swore he would do for his beloved. He told her he would
tunic and belt on the first day he serves in the Beis
HaMikdash, and he
has done so."
When the other Kohanim heard this,
they wished to kill Shimi.
Shimi then told them how this had happened. They then wished to kill
ran from them, and they ran after him. He ran to the king's palace, and
chased him there. All who saw him running, shouted, "That's him!" He
then went to Alexandria in Egypt, built an altar, and offered on it
to Hashem. This then fulfilled Yeshayahu's unhappy prophecy, "...on
day there will be an altar to Hashem in the land of Egypt." (Yeshayahu
About this, the rabbis commented, "If
one who fled from
honor showed such a dangerous jealousy for it, how much the more so
must be careful of one who pursues honor.
R' Yishmael ben Kimchis once spoke to
a Roman officer in the
street on Yom Kippur. While speaking, the officer
sprayed R' Yishmael's clothing with saliva from his mouth.
That day, Yosef,
R' Yishmael's brother took his place, and their mother, Kimchis, saw
two of her
sons serving as Kohen Gadol in one day.
Seven sons Kimchis had. All of them
served as Kohen Gadol.
"What good deeds did you do," the
her, "that you merited all this?"
"Not once," she answered them, "did
beams of my house see my hair exposed."
"Many other women also have acted
answered, "without receiving this reward."
(Yoma 47a) see 610
A Kohen Gadol once, on Yom Kippur
spent much time in the Kodesh
HaKodoshim. His fellow Kohanim, sensing that something was
to follow him in. As they were about to enter, he came out.
"Why were you there so long?" they
"Does it upset you," he asked him,
"that I was
praying for your welfare and that the Beis HaMikdash
should not be
"Don't do this again," they told him.
conduct yourself as the Mishna teaches: He would not draw out his
prayer, so as
not to frighten people."
A Kohen, with a light-minded nature,
noticed once that one
of the floor tiles in the Beis HaMikdash,
was higher than the
rest. He realized that it had once been removed. He came to report this
fellow Kohanim, but did not finish speaking before he suddenly died.
understood clearly, that this was where the aron
asked of Alexander of Macedon that
he allow them to
destroy the holy Temple. He granted them permission. This news reached
of Shimon haTzaddik, the
What did he do? He dressed in his
Kohen Gadol's garments,
gathered the leaders of Yerushalayim, and holding flaming torches in
hands, they marched through the night towards Alexander's army.
At first dawn, Alexander saw them
from a distance. "Who
are those people?" he asked.
"They are Jews," his officers told
As they reached Antipatrus, the sun
rose and the two groups
met. When Alexander saw Shimon haTzaddik, he descended from his chariot
himself down before him.
"Mighty King," his generals asked
can someone as great as you bow down before a Jew?"
"Every night, before I go to battle,"
Alexander, "it is this man that I see in my dreams."
"Why have you come here?" Alexander
asked the Jews.
"The same holy Temple where we pray
for your success,"
they answered, "disgusting people have tricked you into coming and
Will you allow this?"
"Who are these people?" Alexander
"These Kutim who stand with you
here," they answered.
"They are yours. Do with them
whatever you want,"
Alexander told them.
Immediately, the Jews bored holes
through their ankles, tied
them to horses' tails, and dragged through thorns and weeds, until they
them to Mount Grizim, where the Kutim served their idols. They then
and planted that area with wild vegetables, and declared that day a
A Kohen Gadol once left the Holy
Temple, having completed
the service of Yom Kippur. A huge procession followed him. However,
path he met with Shemaya and Avtalyon.
The crowd abandoned him for these two teachers.
Shemaya and Avtalyon as they moved on
blessed the Kohen
"Shalom to you, sons of peoples,"
he responded, slyly insulting them for being converts.
"Shalom rests on
those sons of peoples,"
they told him, "who pursue peace like Aaron HaKohen,
and not on the sons of Aaron HaKohen, who do not conduct themselves
71b) see 726
A pregnant woman one Yom Kippur,
smelt a fragrant food, and
very much wanted to eat it. People there came to ask Rebbi what they
"Whisper in her ear," said Rebbi,
is Yom Kippur." They did so, and the fetus in her womb immediately
pressing for his desire.
About this fetus, Rebbi recited the
verse, "Before I
formed you, I already knew you."
This child grew to be the great R' Yochanan.
Another pregnant woman one Yom
Kippur, smelt a fragrant
food, and very much wanted to eat it. People there came to ask Rebbi
"Whisper in her ear," said Rebbi,
is Yom Kippur." They did so, but her craving would not leave her.
About this fetus, Rebbi recited the
verse, "From the
womb the wicked are set apart."
This child grew to be known as Shabsai, who hoards fruits, (controlling
markets for his own profit, at the expense of the poor.)
R' Yehuda and R' Yosi walked once,
through the countryside.
Suddenly, R' Yehuda was struck with bulmus, a
dangerous sickness whose
only cure is to eat immediately.
He approached a shepherd there, and forced him to surrender the food he
"You took away that shepherd's
lunch," R' Yosi rebuked
R' Yehuda and they continued along their way.
When they came to the town, R' Yosi
was suddenly struck with
the same bulmus. The people of the town surrounded
him was pots of honey
and jam, and plates of cooked food until he regained his strength.
"I took away a shepherd's lunch," R'
to R' Yosi as they continued, "but you took a whole town's lunch.
R' Meir, R'
Yehuda and R' Yosi once traveled together. On Erev Shabbos, they
arrived at an inn,
and decided to stay there for Shabbos. "What is your name?" they
asked the innkeeper.
"Kidor," he answered. R' Meir would
names of people he met to understand their character; R' Yehuda and R'
"His name indicates that he is
wicked," R' Meir
said to himself, "as the verse says, "Ki dor ta'hapuchos heima"
-- they are a fickle nation."
R' Yehuda and R' Yosi deposited their
purses with the
innkeeper. R' Meir did not. Instead, he buried by the head of the grave
That night the innkeeper had a dream.
He saw his father who
told him, there is a purse buried at the head of my grave -- take it.
morning, the innkeeper related his dream to the rabbis.
"Dreams you see on Friday night mean
they told him. That Shabbos, R' Meir kept a close watch of the
The next day, R' Yehuda and R' Yosi
asked the innkeeper for
"You never deposited any purses with
"Why didn't you pay attention to his
Meir later asked the other rabbis.
"Why didn't you tell us that he is a
asked R' Meir.
"I can tell you what I know to be
true," said R'
Meir, "but can I express suspicions such as these?"
They drew the innkeeper into a
tavern. While sitting with
him, they noticed lentils in his moustache hairs. They then returned to
"Your husband said you should give us
they told her, "and the sign that what we say is true, is that he ate
lentils for breakfast."
They took their money and left.
Later, when the innkeeper
returned home and found out what his wife had done, he became so angry,
The above story illustrates how
disregarding the Torah rule
of washing mayim achronim, cleaning one's fingers
and mouth at the end
of a meal, killed a woman. The following shows how not washing mayim
rishonim, ritually pouring water on the hands before eating
bread, fed a
A restaurant owner would feed kosher
food to his Jewish
customers, and pork to his non-Jewish customers. Once, a Jew entered
and sat down to eat, without washing first. The owner therefore,
he was a non-Jew, and served him pork.
R' Yochanan had toothache. He went to
a non-Jewish woman who
treated him on Thursday and Erev Shabbos.
"What should I do on Shabbos?" he
"You don't need to do anything," she
"And what if I do need something?" he
"Swear you will not reveal my
secret," she said to
him, "and I will tell you what to do."
"I swear to the G-d of Yisrael I will
this," he said.
That Shabbos, he told the formula to
"But surely he was breaking his
"He swore only "to the G-d of
would not reveal this," their teacher answered, "but he never swore
that he would not reveal this to the people of Yisrael."
"Doesn't such conduct profane
Hashem's name?" they
"Since he told her in advance that he
had tricked her,
and that his oath was no oath," their teacher answered, "he did not
profane Hashem's name."
R' Ilai went during the festivals to
Lod, to spend time with
his rebbi, R' Eliezer.
"Ilai," R' Eliezer gently rebuked
you rest during the holidays?" For, R' Eliezer would praise the lazy,
stay at home over the holiday season, and thereby fulfill the mitzva,
"You shall rejoice, you and your family."
Eliezer spent Shabbos in the
Upper Galil. The students there asked him thirty questions concerning
of Sukkos. Of twelve of them, he said he had heard the answer. Of the
eighteen, he told them, he had not heard an answer. R' Yosi b'Rebbi
reported it the other way round -- eighteen of them, he had heard the
twelve of them, he had not.
"Rebbi," the students asked him in
"all that you teach is only from what you heard?"
"I have revealed to you one of the
attributes I am most
careful about," R' Eliezer said, "namely, never to say over anything
I did not hear from my teachers. Now, I will tell you what else I took
"I never had anyone come to the study
hall before me. I never slept in the study hall -- neither a
nor a light nap. I never left anyone still learning when I left the
I never chatted idly in the study hall. And I never said over
did not hear from my teachers."
Abaye overheard a man telling a
woman, "Let's rise
early tomorrow morning, and walk together to such-and-such place."
"I will follow quietly behind them,"
thought, "that I may stop them from sinning." He followed at a
walking through the fields for a long distance.
"The distance between our two
far," he then overheard them saying to each other; "as pleasant as it
was walking together, we must now go in separate ways." Each one then
a different route.
"If that had been my enemy," Abaye
speaking of himself, "he would not have resisted the temptation to
sin." He leaned against on the crossbar of a door, upset and crying to
"One, who is greater
an old man
told him to appease him, "also has a greater inclination to do evil."
Miriam, daughter of Bilga, the head
of an important family
of Kohanim, rebelled against her people and married a Greek officer.
Greeks entered the Holy Temple to destroy it, she
came along with them.
"Lucus, lucus, [wolf, wolf,]" she
kicking her sandal against the holy altar, "how long will you squander
money of Yisrael, without helping them in their troubles."
The rabbis, when the holy
Temple returned to Jewish
hands, penalized the Bilga family because of Miriam. "She would never
spoken in such a way," they said, "had she not heard such talk from her father or mother."
R' Eliezer gave a
lengthy class on the laws of Yom-Tov. As the lesson went on, one group
students rose and left to enjoy their Yom-Tov meal.
"Those students have drums of wine to
Eliezer commented of those who had left his lesson. After a while, a
"Those students have barrels
of wine to
drink," R' Eliezer commented. Later
"Those students have casks of wine to
Eliezer commented. After a while, a
"Those students have jugs of wine to
Eliezer commented. After a while, a fifth group left.
"Those students have cups of wine to
Eliezer commented. After a while, a sixth group left.
"Those students bring curses on
Eliezer said, for the study session had now emptied in an excessive
raised his eyes that the remaining students. Their faces turned white
thought possibly, R' Eliezer was angry with the sixth group for not
-- and the more so with them for staying on -- and not fulfilling the
eating and drinking on Yom Tov.
"My children," he said to them, "my
is not against you, but at those who abandon eternal life for the
"Go now," he told them as he finished
"enjoy tasty foods, delicious drinks, send food to those who don't
for today is Hashem's day. Don't be sad [that we have paused our
to take pleasure in Hashem is your great strength.
The Roman government decreed that the
Jewish people should
not learn Torah, circumcize their sons, or keep Shabbos. What did
Shamua and his friends do? They visited a Roman lady, whom all the
great man of
Rome would visit, to ask her advice.
"Assemble a large group in the
markets and streets,"
she told them, "and cry out your suffering -- that they hear you, and
mercy on you."
That night, a large group filled the
Hashem's sake," they cried, "Are we not brothers? Do we not have the
same father? Do we not have the same mother?
Why are we different to other people that you make such harsh decrees
The officers nullified their decrees,
and the Jewish people
declared a Yom-Tov. This happened on the 28th
(Rosh HaShana 19b)
"Woe, that such beautiful wisdom must
sit in such an
ugly container," Caesar's daughter said to R' Yehoshua ben Chananya,
that he might be wise, but definitely not handsome.
"Tell me," he answered her, "doesn't
father keep wine in the earthenware
"What other vessels should he use?"
she asked him.
"Surely, everyone keeps wine in earthenware vessels?"
"Important people like you," he
"should use nothing less than gold and silver."
She told this to her father, and he
transferred his wine to
gold and silver vessels. The wine soured.
"Who advised you to do this?" the
king asked her.
"Rebbi Yehoshua ben Chananya," she
summoned R' Yehoshua.
"Why did you tell my daughter this?"
"I only spoke to her," said R'
she spoke to me. She should have realized that just as wine keeps best
earthenware vessels, so wisdom only keeps in plain people."
"But surely, there are also
good-looking people that
are wise?" the king asked.
"If people did not admire them for
their good looks,"
R' Yehoshua answered, "they would be much more learned. To remember
wisdom, a person needs great humility, and for people that others
is very difficult.
In the days of R' Shmuel bar
Nachmani, a plague as well as a
famine raged through the land.
"How should we act?" the rabbis
pray that Hashem nullify them both is impossible. We cannot pray
for two things at once. Let us then pray that the plague should come to
and we will suffer through the famine."
"Not so," R' Shmuel bar Nachmani may
"rather, we should pray for the end of the famine, and Hashem will
the plague as well. For, Hashem does not send His abundance to those
die, only to those who will live. This the Torah teaches when it says,
open your hand, and satisfy the living with their
Roman general, Turyanus, wished to
kill two brothers, Lulyanus and Papus of Ludkia. These brothers were
"You are the people of Chananya,
Mishael and Azarya,
who Hashem miraculously saved when Nebuchadnezer threw them into a
he told them. "So if you are innocent, let Hashem save you from me as
saved Chananya, Mishael and Azarya from the hands of Nebuchadnezer."
"Chananya, Mishael and Azarya were
they answered, "and they deserved a miracle. Moreover, Nebuchadnezer
fitting king, and merited that a miracle be done through him. You
a common sinner, and unfit for any miracle, and we anyway
are liable a
heavenly death penalty. If you don't
kill us, Hashem has other agents. Bears and lions can do the job as
well as you
can. Why Hashem chose you, is that He wishes to punish you for spilling
Despite these powerful words,
Turyanus still killed them. People
later reported, that he had not yet moved from that spot when he was
rival Roman officers smashed his head open with heavy sticks.
[These brothers, some say, are the
famous martyrs of Lod.
Others explain that they "confessed" to killing Caesar's daughter, to
protect the Jewish people from a mass slaughter …see 143]
The entire Jewish people were in
Yerushalayim for the
festival, but there was no water to drink. A Jewish leader, Nakdimon
approached a Roman nobleman who lived there.
"Lend me twelve wells of water for
the people," he
told him, "and I will replace it with another twelve wells of water
Hashem will replenish them for you;] and if not, I will pay you twelve
The nobleman agreed, and they set a
date by which time the
water must be returned. That day came, and still no rain had fallen.
morning the nobleman sent a messenger to Nakdimon ben Gurion.
"Send me my water or my silver," he
"I still have time. The whole day is
Nakdimon ben Gurion sent back.
At noontime, he again sent a
messenger. "Give me my
water or my money," he ordered.
"I still have time," Nakdimon ben
In the late afternoon, he again sent
a messenger. "Give
me my water or my money," he ordered.
"I still have time," Nakdimon ben
The nobleman had a good laugh on
hearing this. "Could it
be," he chuckled, "that the whole year no rain falls, and now enough
rain to fill my wells will fall?" He went to the local bathhouse
his hands at the thought of twelve bars of silver.
At the same time, Nakdimon ben Gurion
entered the Beis
HaMikdash anxiously. He wrapped himself in his tallis
and stood in
"Ribono shel Olam,
You know that neither for my
honor, nor the honor of my father's house did I do this. I did it all
for Your honor
alone, that the Jewish people may have water for the festival."
Immediately, the skies filled with
clouds and a great rain
fell, until the twelve wells overflowed with water. The nobleman
the bathhouse, bumping into Nakdimon ben Gurion as he left the Beis
"Give me my change for the additional
received," Nakdimon ben Gurion said to the nobleman.
"I know that Hashem turned the world
over only for
you," the nobleman answered, "but it won't help you. You still owe me
those twelve bars of silver, for that rain fell after sunset, and it's
Hearing this, Nakdimon ben Gurion
quickly returned to the Beis
HaMikdash, rewrapped himself in his tallis
and stood in prayer.
"Ribono shel Olam,
let them know that we are
Your friends in this world," he begged. The clouds then scattered, and
"Were it not for that sun shining
nobleman groaned, "that money would have been mine."
"Buni was his real name and not
rabbis taught. "He was called Nakdimon since the sun pierced ["nikdera"]
through the clouds for him.
(Taanis 18b) See later 731
R' Elazar b'Rebbi Shimon rode his
donkey along the
riverbanks, traveling from his yeshiva to Migdal G'dor, his hometown.
extremely happy, and self-assured having learned so much Torah.
Suddenly, he met
an exceptionally ugly man.
"Shalom alecha, Rebbi," the
man greeted R' Elazar
b'Rebbi Shimon. R' Elazar b'Rebbi Shimon however, instead of greeting
return, scolded him.
"You -- good for nothing -- how ugly
you are! Are all
the people in your town as ugly as you?"
"I don't know," answered the man,
you'd like to tell the Craftsmen who made me, how ugly is Your work!
R' Elazar b'Rebbi Shimon immediately
realized that he had made
a bad mistake. He got down from his donkey, and bowed down before the
"Please, forgive me," he begged.
"First," answered the man, "tell the
Craftsmen who made me, how ugly is Your work. Then I will forgive you!"
The man walked off, with R' Elazar
b'Rebbi Shimon tailing humbly after him. They came to Migdal
Elazar b'Rebbi Shimon's hometown. There, many people came out to greet
great scholar. "Shalom alecha, Rebbi, Rebbi, Mori, Mori,"
"Whom are you calling Rebbi, Rebbi,"
the ugly man
"The person who walks behind you,"
"If this is a rabbi," he exclaimed,
there not be too many of them in Yisrael."
"Why do you say this?" they asked.
"Do you know how he treats people?"
and told them the story.
"Even so, forgive him, for he is a
the people requested.
"For the sake of this town I will
the man responded, "as long as he promises never to act like this
R' Elazar b'Rebbi Shimon then entered
the shul and the
people assembled there. "A person needs always to be as flexible as a
reed," he taught them, "and not hard like a cedar." This, says
the Gemara, is the reason, the common reed is used as a quill to write
Torah, tefillin, and mezuzos.