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To Catch A Thief

Tales of the Gaonim-logo

“One day, the boy said to the girl:

“‘Let us agree that if the day ever comes that one of us will desire to marry some other person that it shall not be done without the consent of the other one.’

“The young girl agreed and faithfully gave her word to be bound by the agreement.

“The years passed and the two drifted apart. The girl, however, never forgot her vow; and on the day that she became engaged, she told her prospective groom.

“‘I want you to know that I swore many years ago to a boy I knew that I would seek his consent for any marriage that I would enter. I must, therefore, before entering into our marriage, seek this consent from him.’

“‘I understand,’ replied her fiancée, ‘go seek out this person.’

“After many days they arrived at the home of the boy and there the girl began to plead with her old friend to release her:

“‘Take all my wealth if you wish,’ she cried, ‘but allow me to marry the one of my choice.’

“The boy looked at her and replied:

“‘Because you have faithfully observed our oath, I absolve you of it. Go and marry the one you love. And as for the money, I desire nothing from you.’

“Happily, the couple left the home of the boy and set out for home.

“As they were traveling, however, they were suddenly set upon by a band of robbers led by an old man. They were quickly overpowered and brought before the aged chieftain. He was struck by the beauty of the girl and declared his intentions of keeping her for his wife.

“‘Wait,’ cried the girl. ‘Before you do this thing, listen to my story.’

“And she began to tell the old bandit the entire story of her oath, her love for her fiancée and the absolution granted her by the boy.

“‘Now,’ she said, ‘consider carefully. Here was a young man in the prime of his life who had some claim on me and yet knew it would be wrong to hold me against my will. How much more so should this hold true for you who are an old man and a bandit.’

“Upon hearing the words of the maiden, the bandit lifted his eyes to heaven and declared:

“‘Behold, it is true that I am old and I walk daily along the edge of my grave, and how can I do such a terrible thing?’

“Turning to the couple then, he ordered that his bandits release them, wishing them farewell.”

Shlomo HaMelech ended his narrative and turned to the merchants:

“You have heard the story of the incident that occurred. The king in whose domain this occurred now wishes to know the following:

Which of the parties involved is to be the most highly praised?”

The merchants thought for a few moments, and then one spoke up:

“Surely the maiden is to be the most praised for having clung so steadfastly to her vow.”

“I disagree,” stated the second. “In my opinion, it is the betrothed who agreed to go along with her vow.”

“It is the bandit that I feel is the most praiseworthy,” answered the third, “for he had all the beautiful money, and nevertheless, returned it.”

When Shlomo HaMelech heard this, he leaped to his feet and pointing an accusing finger at the third merchant, declared:

“You are the thief! You are the only one who was so impressed by the money. Confess now!”

The merchant began to tremble and in a broken voice cried out: “Yes, yes, I am the thief.”

The people in the court were deeply impressed by this exhibition and “they saw that the wisdom of G-d was in his midst to do justice.”

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