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The Mystery of the Missing Grain

The Mystery of the Missing Grain

Ethics 1:16

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Rabban Gamliel used to say; "Do not tithe by guesswork..."(Avot 1:16)

"The farmers were about to doze off when they heard a scratching sound … of hundreds of tiny mice."
"The farmers were about to doze off when they heard a scratching sound … of hundreds of tiny mice."
The townspeople could hardly believe it. They had worked so hard to harvest their grain, and now night after night, more and more of their precious harvest was being stolen from their silos. The thief seemed to go right through their locked doors! Who was stealing the grain?

“We’ll stay up all night and watch!” vowed two of the farmers. “That thief is going to be sorry!”

And so, while everyone else was sleeping comfortably in their beds, the two farmers hid under the hay, ready to take the thief by surprise. Hours passed... and no one came. The two farmers began to doze off…

Suddenly they were awakened by a scratching sound. It grew louder and louder. Who could it be?

Startled farmers saw no one, until they looked closer, and saw... hundreds of tiny, hungry mice! The mice were stealing their grain! They were the thieves!

How were they to get rid of them?

The farmers called a town meeting, but no one had a solution for this sudden plague of mice. It had never happened before.

“Let us call Rabbi Pinchas Ben Yair,” one farmer suggested. “He is very wise. He will know what to do!”

When the farmers told Pinchas Ben Yair about their problem, he hurried to help them.

He also called a town meeting. But not a meeting of the farmers. He called a meeting of all the mice.

And the mice came!

When they heard that they had been summoned by great and holy Rabbi Pinchas Ben Yair, they hurried out of their cracks and holes, behind the walls and under floors.

Rabbi Pinchas Ben Yair was very wise. Like King Solomon he knew the language of all the animals, even mice.

“Why do you steal the grain?” he asked them. “We are free to do so!” squeaked the little mice. “The farmers did not tithe their harvest!”

(Note: After crops are harvested, certain amounts must be separated to be given to the Kohen, the Levi, and the poor. These are called tithes. The word tithe literally means ‘a tenth.’ Today we take a tithe from our income, by setting aside one tenth for charity.)

“We did tithe the harvest,” the farmers protested.

“Are you sure to gave as much as you were supposed to do?” asked Rabbi Pinchas. “Or did you just guess?”

The farmers admitted that they had not been as careful as they should. Quite possibly, they had not given the proper amount. When they realized what was happening, they hurried back and tithed their harvest properly!

Immediately, the mice disappeared. And from that time on, the farmers were careful with their tithing, and their harvests were extra bountiful.

Courtesy of Tzivos Hashem and the archives of The Moshiach Times children's magazine. If you would like to subscribe to The Moshiach Times, click here to contact Tzivos Hashem.
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Ethics of the Fathers is a tractate of the Mishna that details the Torah's views on ethics and interpersonal relationships. Enjoy insights, audio classes and stories on these fascinating topics.