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The Generous Couple

The Generous Couple

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One time, some rabbis needed charity. They sent Rabbi Akiva, together with another rabbi [to collect money].

Together, the two came to the home of a man named Ben Maivi Yayin, where they heard the man’s child asking him, “What should I buy for you today?”

“Some endives, not fresh. Leftovers from yesterday. If they’re wilted they’ll be cheap.”

Hearing this, Rabbi Akiva and the other rabbi decided that this man who used to be rich and generous must have lost his money, so they left without asking him for charity, choosing to first collect from the others in the city. After they had made their rounds, they came back to him. He asked them, “Why didn’t you come to me first, as you usually do?”

“We did come to you first, but when we heard you talking to your son . . .”

He said to them, “You heard what was said between me and my son, but you don’t know what is said between me and G‑d. Even so, go tell my wife to give you a bag full of money.”

So they did. She asked them, “Did he tell you if it should be overflowing or just up to the top?”

“He didn’t say.”

She said, “In that case, I’ll give you an overflowing bag. If he meant it to be overflowing, I’ll be doing what he wants, and if he meant for me just to fill the bag, I’ll pay the difference from the money that he has promised me in our marriage contract.”

When her husband heard that, he promised to give her twice as much as he had originally written in the contract.

Note: In the version in Esther Rabbah, the man (named Barbohin there) explains his behavior saying, “With my own needs, I am allowed to take liberties and be stingy, but when it comes to the commandments of my Creator, I have no permission.”

Jerusalem Talmud, Pesachim 4:9; Esther Rabbah 2:3
Translated by Esther Rabi.
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