You have all heard about Rabbi Akiba, the great Tanna who had twenty-four thousand students, we remember them especially on Lag B’Omer. Did you know that he was also a diamond merchant? Well, when he became a great man, his father-in-law, Kalba Sabua, who was one of the three richest men in Jerusalem, gave him all his fortune to make up for the way he treated him when Akiba was a poor ignorant shepherd of his. So from time to time Akiba bought and sold diamonds and precious stones to earn his own living. Here is a story about a strange customer who wanted to buy a precious pearl from him.

Rabbi Akiba knew the man and had always thought him poor, for he was poorly dressed, and would always sit in the Beth Hamidrash among the poor people. “I want to buy the pearl,” the man said, “and I’ll pay your price. But I have no money with me. If you will be good enough to come with me to my home, I will pay you.

Rabbi Akiba thought that the man was joking, but nevertheless he decided to go along with him.

As they came into the house of the ‘poor’ man, many servants came out to greet their master. They washed his dusty feet and seated him on a golden chair. The man offered his servants to bring the box where he kept his money, and he paid Rabbi Akiba the full price of the pearl. Then he ordered that the pearl be pounded into a fine powder.

Rabbi Akiba was greatly surprised and asked the man, “you paid so much money for this precious pearl, and now you made a powder of it. Why did you do it?"

“You see, dear Rabbi,” the man replied. “I buy pearls and beat them into powder, and mix them with certain medicines to give to the poor.”

The man ordered the table set with the finest food and wines, and invited Rabbi Akiba and his students to have dinner with him. After dinner, Rabbi Akiba asked the man, “I see that you are very rich; tell me, why do you dress so poorly and sit among the poor men, as though you were one of them?”

“I often hear our great Sages teach us that G‑d does not like proud men. And anyway, how can I be proud of my wealth? What is man’s life, and isn't man’s wealth but a passing shadow? Today I am alive, tomorrow, who knows? Today I am rich, tomorrow who knows? Maybe I will be poor, and so it will not be difficult for me to find my place among the poor. If I do not climb high, the fall will not hurt me. But that is only where it concerns me personally, when it comes to giving Tzedoko and supporting Torah institutions, you will not find me poor, only I like to do it quietly for I seek no honor for myself.”

Rabbi Akiba blessed the man to live long, and to remain rich all his life, so that he would continue to do so much good in his wonderful way.

“Whoever has these three things is of the disciples of Abraham our father…A good eye, a humble mind and a lowly spirit…The disciples of Abraham our father enjoy this world and inherit the world to come…” (Pirkei Aboth, 5:23)