Study and Theory/
Shavuot

Torah and Merchandise

Folk legend

This is the story of a sage who traveled by ship, on which there were merchants with their merchandise. Over the course of the journey, the merchants would discuss their matters and show each other their merchandise. The sage would sit on the side in silence. The merchants asked him:

Where is your merchandise?

And he said: It is with me.

 

The merchants searched the entire ship but could not find his merchandise. They began mocking the sage, whose merchandise could not be seen and did not take up space. And the sage just sat in silence.

While approaching the shore, pirates raided the ship and robbed everything on it. The merchants went ashore destitute and impoverished, like poor men begging. The sage went to the Beit Midrash (place of Torah study) and began speaking words of Torah. The people in the Beit Midrash saw how much knowledge he had, and honored him greatly.

 

Before long, they appointed him as their rabbi. The merchants then realized what merchandise the sage had, that it was not visible nor did it take up space; hence, it could be taken from him. The merchants approached the sage and told him: Please forgive us for ridiculing you. Now we realize: Your merchandise is better than ours was.

 

Our was lost and yours still exists. Ours was taken from us and we have nothing left, whereas you give yours away freely yet you do not lack any of it.

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