Never mistreat a person, no matter how lowly he may be, for you can never know what the future holds in store for him, our sages warn us. As an example, the following story is told in the Talmud Yerushalmi.
In the time of Rabi Yehuda HaNasi, there lived a shepherd by the name of Dichlat. Dichlat only raised pigs and as a result people made fun of him. The children of Rabi Yehuda would usually taunt him and many a time beat him up. Finally in desperation he left Eretz Yisrael and wandered to Rome.
As fate would have it, Dichlat gained employment in the king’s household and soon worked his way in the king’s confidence. When the king died he made sure in advance that Dichlat be crowned in his place.
Throughout the empire couriers sped notifying the populace of this news. Soon honor and homage came his way from the four corners of the realm.
King Seeks Revenge
But the king never forgot the beatings and terrible torments he suffered at the hands of the Jews and so he plotted his revenge. He dispatched a courier with an order for Rabi Yehudah to appear before him Saturday night. He warned the courier not to deliver his message until late Friday evening. Realizing that the Rav would not travel on Shabbat, he could not possibly arrive on time. In this way Dichlat could punish him for disobeying the king’s order.
Friday evening, on the way back from bathing in the hot springs of Teverya, Rav Yehuda HaNasi and his companion, Rabi Shimon bar Nachman, received the order from the king. Very much perturbed they continued on their way home.
On the way they met a demon that greeted them profusely, Rabi Yehuda was in no mood to be trifled with, so he prepared to chase him away. But Rabi Shimon stayed his hand.
“Perhaps he has come to help us and he may perform a miracle,” he said.
“How do my esteemed rabbanim feel at this moment?” questioned the demon.
“Terrible,” was the reply, and they then told him of the king’s order.
“Fear not,” replied the demon, “your G-d will perform a miracle for you.”
Saturday night, following Havdalah, the demon called for the two rabbanim and placing them on his shoulders, carried them within seconds to the king’s palace.
When the guards notified the king of their arrival, he was very surprised.
“Before these envoys can see me they must bathe and shower in the royal baths,” the king ordered. He then told his servants to raise the heat of the water to the boiling point so that they would be scalded.
But the good demon again came to their rescue. Entering before them into the bathhouse, he cooled the area so that they were able to emerge unharmed.
Eventually they appeared before the king. Imagine their surprise when they saw that the king was the former pig shepherd.
“Do you think that because your G-d does miracles for you that you have the prerogative to insult people?” asked the king angrily.
Respect Your Fellow Man
Realizing that the king was referring to his former life, the Rabi Yehuda and Rabi Shimon apologized and said they had no idea he would become a king.
“Let this teach you a lesson,” replied King Dichlat.
“Never mistreat a person, no matter how small he might be. For someday he may become a king and then he will repay you double-fold.”
Freedom Of Speech
One day Resh Lakish expounded a law in the Beit Medrash. “If a prince or a leader in Israel sins, he is to be punished just as an ordinary person who sins. He is to be whipped in front of a court of three judges.”
“May the prince be returned to his former position of power?” asked one of his students.
“No,” was the reply. “Because if he were returned to power he would then take revenge upon his tormentors.”
When Yehuda, a grandson of the great Rabi Yehuda HaNasi heard that Resh Lakish was talking so harshly against his office, he termed it insubordination and sent soldiers to arrest him.
Resh Lakish heard about it in time and escaped to the town of Hitai.