There were three brothers who decided to leave their home and study Torah and knowledge under Shlomo HaMelech. The king was pleased and advised them to remain with him for many years so he could teach them all the wonders of the world. He then appointed them as members of his inner guards.
They remained in his guard for thirteen years. Finally one day they said to each other, “Why did we come here? Thirteen years have passed and we haven’t learned a thing. Let us go home.”
They came before the king and requested permission to depart for home.
Shlomo HaMelech agreed and then called his treasurer who produced 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? If you will listen to me we will all 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 taught the following:
“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. The younger brother cut down trees, built a fire and a lean-to for himself and his horse and, after providing enough fodder for his horse, he fell asleep for the night.
His brothers, however, continued on over the mountain until it became very dark. Suddenly it began to snow and because it was very dark they couldn’t find a suitable shelter and soon froze to death.
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 all the rivers 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.