Czar Nicholas was a rabid anti-Semite and constantly sought means and methods to convert the Jews to Christianity. But the harsher the decrees he issued against the Jews, the more tenaciously they adhered to the tenets of their forefathers.
Those who learn the Talmud are forever indebted to a commentary found on the side of the pages which enables the student to find the source of a particular law. This commentary, known as Mesoras HaShas, is the work of one of the most brilliant and erudite Talmudic scholars, Rav Yosef Shmuel of Cracow.
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 chronicles of Jewish history, few men have shown as magnificent a soul as the great Hillel. For in order for a leader to qualify for greatness, he must be more than merely a great scholar — although that is, of course, the most necessary attribute. He must also possess depth of character and the sweetness and gentleness of soul that will enable him to under stand the needs and sufferings of his people. Without this sensitivity, he can never truly be a great leader.
The death penalty in Judaism was seldom invoked because of the requirement for prior warning and two witnesses to the act that called for the penalty. Nevertheless, the Torah solemnly prescribes these penalties and through them one could judge the magnitude of the offense.
Rabi Meir was accustomed to remaining in shul each morning until every person left. He was usually the last person to leave. One day, he davened very fast and left very early. Walking outside, he thought to himself, “Why did I leave early? Is it possible that G-d ordained it so that a miracle may occur through me today?”
“Wisdom is better than rubies, and all things desirable are not to be compared unto her” (Proverbs 8:2). Rabi Aha explained in the name of Rabi Tanchuma ben Rabi Chiya: “My desirable things and your desirable things are not to be compared to her.”
The story of Bnei Yisrael in the land of Mitzrayim is a tale that has become tragically repetitive in the history of our people. It is the story of a land which allows Jews to enter, and devote their talents and energies to building it up land and making it strong, only to have the ungrateful inhabitants turn on them through jealousy and greed.
The piety of the saint Rabi Chanina ben Dosa was so great that people would often request that he daven on their behalf. Once, the son of Rabban Gamliel became dangerously sick. He sent two talmidim to the home of Rabi Chanina with the message: “Pray to God that my son will get well."
While Shimon ben Shetach was head of the Sanhedrin a great sage passed away. He came to a disciple in a dream and told him of the great punishments awaiting Rabi Shimon ben Shetach because he permitted 80 witches to continue living in Ashkelon. As these witches were casing the people to sin, he would be punished for allowing them to live.
After the death of Balshazzar, Darius the Medean became king of Babylon. He appointed 120 governors to rule over his provinces and over them he appointed three presidents, and over them he appointed Daniel. The king admired the wisdom of Daniel and this evoked jealousy and enmity among all the ministers who sought to find fault with him. But Daniel was too honest and wise.