A Torah scholar was once traveling by ship together with many merchants, each transporting his wares. To while away the time, they took turns describing their goods and boasting of their business acumen. Finally they turned to the scholar, who had been busying himself with his studies.

“Where is your merchandise,” they asked mockingly. “We don’t see that you have anything with you.”

“Oh,” replied the scholar looking up from the scroll he was examining, “My product is far greater than yours.”

The men looked around in surprise, but saw no packages on board belonging to him. Convinced he was bluffing, they scoffed at him and his invisible business.

Suddenly, their banter was disturbed by a shout. Pirates had attacked and the men scrambled in all directions, each struggling in vain to protect his precious cargo. But to no avail. The ruthless bandits carefully scoured the ship for anything of value. Only once they had taken everything aboard the ship did they allow the frightened passengers to disembark.

Upon dry land, the sorry, bedraggled group made their way to the closest city. They had nothing at all with them, not even a loaf of bread or a change of clothes.

The Torah scholar went directly to the study hall, where he immediately struck up a conversation with the learned Jews gathered there. The locals soon realized he was an accomplished scholar, and they offered him a respectable position. Within days, his needs were cared for and his newfound flock respectfully accompanied him whenever he went out.

Word reached the woebegone merchants of the kind stroke of fortune that had befallen their erstwhile travel companion.

At their behest, he spoke to the local authorities and vouched for their genuine need.

He then chided them gently, reminding them of their conversation aboard the ship. “Isn’t this what I told you? My business is greater than yours, for it endures forever.”

This, says the Midrash,1 is the meaning of King Solomon’s words: “For I give you a good portion, do not abandon my Torah.”2