Latest update: January 21st, 2013
Beware Of Pride The inhabitants of Simonia once came to Rav Yehuda HaNasi (also known as Rebbe) and asked him to recommend a scholar to serve as their rav, dayan, teacher and sofer. Rebbe sent them Levi ben Sisi. When Ben Sisi came to the city, its inhabitants greeted him with great joy and paid him much honor. They erected a large platform and enthroned him there.
Then they approached him and asked a variety of questions. Eagerly they waited for the great scholar to demonstrate to them his great knowledge. However, to their great surprise, Levi ben Sisi did not open his mouth.
The people of the city were shocked, but said:
“He may not be a great scholar in the law, but he might be a great preacher, well versed in parables and morality stories.”
SoO they asked him about some fables and parables and stories of the rabbanim. Again, Levi ben Sisi did not answer them.
Angrily, the people came to Rebbe complaining. “What kind of man did you send us,” they asked? Did we not ask you to recommend a great scholar? The man you sent to us does not know anything.”
Rebbe was surprised to hear this. He said to the people: “Believe me, the man I sent to you knows as much as I do. I am going to find out what has happened to him.”
Rebbe called Levi ben Sisi before him and asked him the same legal problems which the people had asked and lo and behold, ben Sisi gave him an immediate reply. Rebbe then asked him to narrate some fables and parables and again he received an immediate reply.
Rebbe was quite puzzled and asked: “If you know all the answers, why didn’t you tell them to the people of Simonia?”
Levi ben Sisi answered: “When I came into the town the people received me with great honor. They erected a large platform and enthroned me there. I felt greatly honored and pride swelled up in my breast. I became exceedingly proud of my learning and then as a consequence and punishment for my pride I had forgot all that I had learned. When the people came to me with their questions, I could not answer them.”
Rav’s Gifts Arteban, king of the Persians, sent a precious pearl to Rav. He wrote to him: “I am sending you a precious gift. Give me a gift of equal value.”
Thereupon Rav sent him a mezuzah.
Arteban sent back to Rav saying; “I have sent you something of great value, and you send me something which can be acquired for little money.”
Rav replied: “The two objects we have exchanged cannot be compared in value. You sent me something which I must guard, and I sent you something which, even while you sleep, keeps watch over you. As it is written: ‘when you walk it shall lead you; when you rest it shall keep you’” (Tehillim 6:22).
The Priceless Merchandise Chazal 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 rav 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 rav standing empty-handed they asked him, “What are your wares, O fellow traveler?”
“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 rav 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. They all barely managed to scramble aboard a lifeboat. They had to leave everything behind them, 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 rav, 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 rav 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 rav said, “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 give I have give you’” (Proverbs 4:2).
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