In ancient Antioch there lived a man called Abba Judan. He had been wealthy once, and used to be very generous in his donations to the poor and needy. But there came a time when he lost all his fortune, save a small field and a cow.

One day the great Sages Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Joshua and Rabbi Akiba came to Antioch to collect money for the support of needy scholars. On learning of the presence of the great Sages in his town, Abba Judan felt very sad, and came home looking quite miserable.

"Why do you look so ill?" his wife asked him.

"Our great Sages are in town to collect for charity, and I have nothing to give them," replied Abba Judan.

"We still have a field left," replied the good wife. "Why not sell half of it and give the money to the Sages?"

Abba Judan cheered up and followed his wife's advice. When he brought the money to the Rabbis, they blessed him: "May the Almighty make up to you for it."

Some days later Abba Judan went to till his half of the field. Suddenly his cow stumbled and fell into a ditch, breaking its leg. "What a calamity!" Abba Judan thought, as he bent down to pull out his injured cow from the ditch. At this moment his eyes lit up, for he discovered a huge treasure which had been buried there. "Blessed be G‑d who turned my calamity into good fortune!" Abba Judan said gratefully, and hastened to bring the good news to his wife.

Before long, the three great Sages stopped in Antioch again, on their way back. They inquired after Abba Judan, and were pleased to learn of his good fortune. "Why, Abba Judan owns herds of goats, herds of mules, herds of camels, herds of oxen!" the people said. "His wealth is greater than ever!"

Presently Abba Judan came to meet the Sages and make up for the small donation he had given them before. The Sages greeted him warmly and told him how happy they were to hear the good news.

"Your blessing has brought fruit, and the fruit has brought more fruit," Abba Judan said to them gratefully.

"We knew what sacrifice you made when you gave us your donation," the Sages replied. "But although we had received larger donations, we placed you at the head of the list, for none was more generously given than yours!"

The Sages made him sit down among them and gave him much honor. "Truly it is written," they said, " 'Man's generosity brings him comfort, and leads him ahead of the great.' " (Proverbs 18:16).