There were three brothers who decided to leave their home to study Torah in the palace of Shlomo HaMelech. The king was very pleased and advised them to remain with him for many years. He then appointed them as members of his inner guards.
They remained in his guard for thirteen years. One day, they realized they hadn’t learned anything from the king and decided to go home.
They came before the king to request permission.
Shlomo HaMelech agreed and asked his treasurer for 300 pieces of gold.
“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.”
The brothers thought it over and agreed to accept the gold. They had barely traveled a few miles when the youngest brother stopped and cried out, “Did we spend thirteen years of our lives merely to accept gold or to gain knowledge from the great and wise Shlomo HaMelech? Let us return this gold to the king and request his knowledge.”
But his brothers would not be dissuaded. “You can return,” they said. “But we will continue homeward with this gold.”
The youngest brother returned to the king, gave him back the gold and requested in its stead to be taught the three wise things.
Shlomo HaMelech gave him these words of advice: “My son,” he said, “When you are traveling make sure to start out as soon as the sun rises and prepare your night’s lodging well in advance – during the day. Don’t wait until it gets dark.”
“If you see a river that is overflowing its banks, do not descend into it but wait until the water recedes.”
“Never tell a secret to a woman – even your own wife.”
The young man thanked the king and departed. Traveling very fast he overtook his brothers.
“What did you learn from the king?” they asked him.
“What I learned from the king is my secret,” said the youngest of the brothers. “For this is why I returned all of my gold to him.”
They traveled together for nine hours and came to a beautiful sheltered space near a spring of water.
“Let us stop here,” said the youngest brother. “This place has everything: water, grass for the horses and wood for kindling and protection from the cold winds.”
“Are you a fool?” his brothers retorted. “The day is still young. We can cover at least another eight miles, especially when we have to cross this mountain.”
He would not listen to them and remained in this secluded spot while they went on. He cut down trees, built a fire and a lean-to for himself and his horse and, after providing enough fodder for his horse, fell asleep for the night.
His brothers, however, continued on over the mountain until it became very dark. Suddenly it began to snow and they couldn’t find a suitable shelter. Soon they met their death from the cold.
Early in the morning the younger brother saddled his horse and, completely refreshed, started up after the trail of his brothers. He found them frozen. Mourning, he buried them, took their gold and continued on his way home.
Midday, the sun melted all the snow from the mountainsides. The water flowed into the rivers and soon they overflowed their banks. Seeing the bulging rivers, the younger man remembered Shlomo HaMelech’s advice and sat down near the riverbank, waiting for it to recede.
On the other side of the river a troop of the king’s soldiers were leading a pack of mules laden with gold for the king’s coffers. Noticing the young man they called out, asking him why he was waiting.
“The waters are too deep and turbulent,” he shouted back. But the soldiers were in a hurry and descended into the river. Midway across a swell of water engulfed them and they all drowned. The young man waited until the waters became very low. Then, crossing the river, he picked up on the way all of the gold the mules were carrying.
The young man soon reached home and the entire family celebrated. When his brothers’ wives asked about their husbands, he simply told them that they were still studying. But his wife kept asking how he received all of the gold. He refused to divulge his secret. In the meantime the man became very wealthy. With the gold he purchased vast estates and prospered.
His wife was not satisfied with his answers and she began to bother him every day, until one day he revealed the true events.
Sometime later the man had a quarrel with his wife and out of anger she shouted, “You murderer, do you think you can kill me the same way you killed your brothers?”
When his brothers’ wives heard they complained to the courts. The man was tried and condemned to die. Realizing his predicament, he requested that he be allowed to see Shlomo HaMelech.
Brought before the king he explained that he was one of the three brothers who had studied with him many years before and that king’s advice had saved him until he neglected to obey the last instruction. The king recognized him and confirmed that he had given them the gold, which, by rights, now belonged to the younger brother. He freed the young man and then quoted his famous saying, “He who buys wisdom has purchased something more valuable than gold and diamonds.”