In the days of Shlomo HaMelech, the richest man in the land lived in Yerushalayim. His name was Bavsi and he was known as a wicked miser. He oppressed his servants and his slaves and made their days bitter with toil from dawn until late at night. Because he was so stingy, he did not give them enough food to eat, so they and their children constantly suffered from pangs of hunger.
One of the areas in which even observant Jews sin is in their attitude towards rabbanim. A rav is not just someone whom we have the right to hire and fire; he is not just a man who gives a speech on Shabbos. He is a teacher and a leader. When he rules on a point of halacha, it is not only our right to listen to him; it is our obligation to do so.
The life of our sages was never an easy one. Although persecuted by the Romans, they continued to devote all their efforts to the study of Torah and doing good deeds.
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.
Chazal posed the following questions to Eliyahu HaNavi: “Why are some of our pious people so poverty stricken? Doesn’t G-d answer the prayers of tzadikim?”
Herod or Hordos — as he is known in the Talmud — was a usurper who seized the throne of the Chashmonaim and caused a terrible tragedy to befall the Jewish people.
One day, the great sage Choni HaMagel pondered the meaning of Tehillim 26, “A song of ascent, when Hashem returned the captives of Tzyon, we were like them in that dream.”
If you were to ask the average Jew who destroyed the Beis Hamikdash and who sent Klal Yisrael into galus (exile), he would instantly answer, “The Romans.”
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.”
This is the story of a staff, the most miraculous staff that was ever created. It was none other than the staff that Moshe used to perform all the amazing miracles in Egypt.
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."
Chazal taught: He who judges his associates (in questionable acts) with favor will be judged with favor from Above.
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.
Through the inﬂuence of Daniel, who was one of the ministers of King Nevuchadnezar, his three companions, Chananiah, Mishael and Azariah were appointed as governors over various provinces in Bavel.
There are many wonderful stories narrated in Scriptures about the experiences of the Navi Daniel. Many of these stories are found in Sefer Daniel, while others are found in the Talmud and Midrash.
Rabba Bar Bar Chana related the following, “Sailors told me that once they were threatened with gigantic waves that could have sunk their ships. These waves appeared with a ray of whitish light at their crest and when they struck it with clubs engraved with the words ‘I will be what I will be, L-rd G-d, King of Hosts, Amen, Amen, Selah,’ the waves subsided.”
Among the great giants of Chassidism were two brothers, Rav Zusha of Hanipoli and Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk. But the apple does not fall far from the tree and the deeds of the father are lessons for the children. These two tzaddikim owed much of their character to their father, Rav Eliezer Lippa.
The great Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakai was once asked by a student, “Rebbe, I have a question which has puzzled me for some time. We find in the Torah a law concerning an eved Ivri, a Hebrew slave. He serves for six years and at the end of that time he may go free. Should he refuse, however, saying that he likes his master and prefers to remain with him, the tribunal takes him and makes a hole in his ear as a punishment.”