Was it a Piece of Glass or a Precious Jewel?

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A Lesson For the Children – Rabbi Kahane, a prominent rabbi of the Amoraim in the time of the Talmud, wanted his son Salik to study Torah. He was five years old, and the time had come to take Salik to the home of a tutor. Rabbi Kahane searched for a suitable tutor and finally found one. He made an agreement: “If you continue to teach my son for twenty-five years, you will receive one thousand golden coins!” The teacher agreed, and he began to teach Salik. He moved into Rabbi Kahane’s house, where all his needs were taken care of, and he sat every day to teach Salik.

Years passed, and little Salik grew and had become a scholar, studying Torah day and night. During the entire time, he did not leave the house, and he did not learn the ways of people. He was deeply involved in the world of Torah, far away from worldly matters.

Twenty-five years passed. The tutor finished his task, as had been agreed in advance. He tearfully parted from his dear student, received the promised salary, and went on his way. And Salik, who was thirty years old, decided to go out and see the market. At one point he felt very thirsty. He heard the shout of a peddler, “Water! Water! A bottle for a kasskass (a small coin)!” Salik approached him and asked, “Can you give me some water? I am a Torah scholar, studying day and night, and I do not have any money with me. Please, give me something to drink.”

“A Torah scholar!” the peddler mocked him. “So what? Your task is to study Torah, and mine is to sell water! Give me a kasskass, and I will give you water.”

Salik was upset, and he returned home in an angry mood. He tore off his garment, the clothing of a wise man, and threw it before his father and mother. He called out, “What kind of a world is this? What people! Isn’t everything that I have learned for the last two decades worth even one kasskass? If that is the case, I will go and find another profession!”

His father was astounded by this outburst, but he held back and did not show how he felt. He turned to Salik and said, “If you really want to find yourself another path, I will help you. First go up to the attic, find the box that is hidden in the corner, and bring me the silver box that is wrapped in a sheet.” Salik brought the box, and his father took from it a sparkling red jewel. He said to his son, “Go, and sell this jewel. I will keep half the money for my old age, and you can take the rest to start your new life. But heed my advice: First go to the dealers in glass trinkets, and then to the dealers in precious jewels. Even then don’t sell the jewel right away. Ask its value in at least ten different places, and then sell it to the one who offers the highest price.”

Salik went away and returned a short time later. “You will not believe this, Father, but the dealers in glass barely looked at the jewel. They were only willing to pay one Sela (a large coin). There were also big differences among the jewel merchants. In the end, someone paid me twenty-five thousand coins for the jewel!”

And his father replied: “Now do you understand why the water peddler would not give you any water to drink? He does not recognize the worth of the Torah! He does not think it is worth any more than a trinket made of glass. Go to the wise men, my son. Do not search for honor, they will recognize your true value. And you will have the privilege of spreading your wisdom around the world.”

Salik indeed went to the wise men, and very quickly his greatness in Torah and wisdom was recognized. He spent the rest of his life studying, teaching, and observing the Torah.

Source: Tel Aviv Batei Midrashot, “The Story of Rabbi Kahane and His Son Salik”. Reprinted with permission from Zomet Institute (www.zomet.org.il).

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.