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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
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The Greatest Treasure Of All


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“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.”

Arteban, the last Parthian king, once sent Rabi Yehudah HaNasi, a priceless gem with a request, “Let me have, in return, an article as valuable as this.”

Rabi Yehudah sent him a mezuzah.

The king sent back a message, “I gave you a priceless object, and you returned something worth a folar (a small debased coin).

Rabi Yehudah replied: “All of your desirable things are not compared unto her (the mezuzah, symbolizing the knowledge of G-d). Moreover, you sent me something that I must guard, whereas I sent you something that guards you while you are asleep, and while you are awake, as it says ‘When you walk, it shall lead you (in this World); When you lie down, it shall watch over you (in the hour of death); and when you awake, it shall talk with you”’ (in the World to Come) (Proverbs 6:22; Midrash Rabbah 35).

The Priceless Merchandise

Our sages compare the knowledge of Torah to priceless merchandise that we need never fear will be stolen or lost. They narrate the following story:

Once, a sage boarded a ship to travel to a distant land. Aboard the ship were many merchants who proudly displayed their wares. One merchant had the finest silks, another the widest varieties of spices, and another diamonds and jewelry.

Seeing the sage standing empty-handed they asked him, “What are your wares?”

“I have the finest of all merchandise,” he replied. “Mine is far more superior to any of your goods. I deal in knowledge and wisdom.”

The merchants all laughed at him. “Your knowledge will be a fine comfort to any empty and hungry belly!” they jeered.

The sage ignored them saying, “You will see who is right.”

In the middle of the voyage, a terrible storm arose and the ship began to sink. The passengers barely managed to scramble aboard a lifeboat but were forced to leave everything behind – their treasures and even their clothes. The lifeboat was washed up on a shore in a distant land, where the people ignored them and didn’t even care to give them food.

The sage, however, entered a beit midrash and soon the people became aware that there was a great man amongst them. They gave him honor and riches and people came from afar to hear his words of wisdom.

The merchants who had been reduced to beggars visited the sage and pleaded with him, “please intercede for us with the officials of this city to provide us with a means to survive. Tell them that we are not paupers but we were once prosperous merchants. Otherwise we will starve.”

The sage remonstrated with them, “Did I not tell you before that my merchandise is more valuable than yours? Your merchandise can be lost or stolen, whereas mine can never be lost. ‘A priceless gift I have given you”’ (Proverbs 4:2).

The Intricacies Of The Torah

Once, Rabi Yochanan ben Zakai was traveling on the road riding on a mule, while Rabi Elazar ben Arak was walking behind him.

Rabi Elazar said, “Master, teach me a chapter of the ‘Work of the Chariot.”’ (The mysteries of Creation and the Chariot as narrated in Yechezkel and other prophets.)

Rabi Yochanan answered, “Did I not teach you that we may not discuss the works of the Chariot with only one person, unless he is a sage and understands of his own knowledge?”

“Master,” said Rabbi Elazar, “permit me then to say something.”

Rabi Yochanan ben Zakai immediately dismounted from the mule, wrapped himself in his tallis and sat down on a stone beneath an olive tree.

When Rabbi Elazar saw him dismount, he asked, “Master, why did you dismount?”

Rabi Yochanan answered, “Is it proper that while you are expounding the ‘Work of the Chariot’ and the Divine Presence is with us and the ministering angels accompany us, that I should ride on a mule?”

Rabbi Elazar began his exposition and a fire came down from heaven and encompassed all the trees and the angels began to sing, “Praise the Lord from the earth, sea monsters and all deeps…fruitful trees and all cedars…” (Psalms 148:7,9,14). A Heavenly voice rang out and said, “This is the Work of the Chariot.”

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“I’ll pay you whether you cure her or kill her,” shouted the loyal husband.

He lacked for nothing materialistic and could have lived the rest of his life, had he chosen to, in the luxury and laziness that dominated the Roman upper class life.

When the soldiers heard this they exclaimed happily: “You mean this is the sacred Jewish fruit? Hurry, get on the horse. You are coming with us to the palace.”

Now let me ask you, what would happen to an infantryman if he deserted his regiment and went to serve in the cavalry? He would be court-martialed, wouldn’t he?”

Dug out beneath his bunk was a little chest which he guarded with his very life. It contained a small Sefer Torah, miniature size, but kosher, and a shofar.

So began a marvelous period of good fortune. He invested the twenty-four gold pieces in many types of businesses and everything his hand touched turned to gold.

Pressing close to the cage, the Ibn Ezra shouted the words, “Shema Yisrael…”

“You can have your choice,” said the wise king. “You can choose to take this gold, 100 pieces each, or I can give you each three pieces of advice.”

“It isn’t the work,” said Eliezer. “I want to learn our holy Torah.”

More Articles from Rabbi Sholom Klass
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The man was overjoyed to see his benefactor and gave them food and water besides shelter and safety.

Tales-of-The-Midrash-logo

Because of this I wandered about and found friends in similar situations who were also unhappy and I began to hang out with them.

Time passed and Zemira gave birth to a son but not even this could awaken Avinadav from his melancholy.

Yonadav was greatly impressed at the vast sums of money the young man had in his possessions.

“I do nothing worthwhile,” he modestly replied and refused to discuss any of his deeds. For the man was a very modest and humble person.

While he slept, he dreamed of Eliyahu HaNavi, who was trying to awaken him from his sleep.

“I’ll pay you whether you cure her or kill her,” shouted the loyal husband.

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