It is very easy for a person to be good and kind to those who are his friends. It is much more difficult to act this way towards those who have hurt or have angered him. This is why the Torah reminds us, “You should not seek revenge” and “You should not hate thy neighbor in your heart.”
When you see the goodness repaid to a former wife, who had made life miserable for him, the greatness of Rabi Yosi Haglili is even more apparent.
A Difficult Marriage
Rabi Yosi Haglili was a great scholar with hundreds of talmidim and a very righteous man who lived during the time of the Talmud. There was only one thing that marred Rabi Yosi’s life. He was married to a woman who went out of her way to make life miserable for him.
One day, as he was sitting with his students, she suddenly burst into the room and publicly shamed him before their very eyes. The students were terribly embarrassed for their teacher but said nothing. However, when it continued happening on a regular basis, they finally spoke up.
“Rebbe, forgive us for speaking, but we cannot bear to see you shamed in this manner. Why do you continue to bear these insults? Would it not be better to divorce her?”
Rabi Yosi only sighed and answered: “Would that I could! I am a poor man, and do not have the money to pay the amount written in her kesuvah.”
The days passed and Rabi Yosi continued to suffer the taunts and evil tongue of his wife. One day, Reb Elazar ben Azarya came to visit Rabi Yosi and hear words of Torah from him.
When the lecture had ended, Rabi Yosi invited Rabi Elazar to stay for dinner. Going to the kitchen, he told his wife:
“I have invited a guest for dinner, the great Rabi Elazar. Please serve him with us.”
His wife began to rave wildly and said: “Is that all I have to do, to feed uninvited strangers?” And with this, she turned to leave the house.
“I beg of you not to shame me in front of this man,” cried Rabi Yosi. “If you do not wish to serve him, tell me what we have to eat and I will serve him myself.”
“We have nothing but vegetables,” she said, as she stormed out of the house.
Rabi Yosi went to the stove and lifted the cover off the pot. He was shocked to see that there weren’t any vegetables inside. Instead there were roasted chickens.
Rabi Elazar, who had heard everything, laughed and said: “It appears that the Almighty has been good to us. He has turned vegetables into chickens!”
Then, turning serious, Rabi Elazar said: “Rabi Yosi, why do you allow this woman to torment you so? Divorce her.”
Once again, Rabi Yosi explained that he lacked the money for the kesuvah. When Rabi Elazar heard this, he asked: “If, by chance, you were able to find a man who would loan you the money, would your wife accept a divorce?”
“The woman hates me. Many a time she has said that if only I would give her the amount of money in her kesuvah, she would gladly be free of me.”
When Rabi Elazar heard this, he laid the required money on the table and said: “Here is the money. Give it to her together with the divorce decree and be free of her forever.”
And so, Rabi Yosi divorced his wife and he began to know happy days again. However, his former wife was not so lucky. Because of her nature, no one wanted to have anything to do with her, and her sharp tongue prevented her from finding means of employment. Thus, her money quickly dwindled until it was gone.