Rabbi Samuel ben Sosarte, a great scholar of the third generation of Amoraim in the Land of Israel, once made the long and arduous journey to Rome. It is likely that he went there to intercede on behalf of his brethren who were under the harsh rule of the Roman Empire at that time, for it was not unusual for the leaders of the Jewish people to make such journeys whenever the need arose.

Whatever his business in Rome, a wonderful thing happened to him. Walking along the main thoroughfare in Rome which led straight to the royal palace, Rabbi Samuel suddenly noticed a string of beautiful pearls lying on the road. He picked it up and admired its rare beauty, and then put it in his pocket. "I wonder who lost such a rare treasure?" he mused, as he proceeded on his way. "Surely it belonged to a lady of great wealth and prominence!"

Presently he came upon an excited crowd, and he stopped to see what was happening.

In the center of the crowd stood a royal herald, reading a proclamation:

"To all the citizens of Rome! Be it known that Her Imperial Majesty this day lost a pearl necklace of rare beauty in the streets of Rome. Whosoever finds it is hereby ordered to return it to Her Majesty within thirty days, and he shall be richly rewarded. Should the finder return it on the thirty-first day or after, he shall be beheaded!"

The proclamation was repeated several times, while the growing crowd spoke excitedly of the lucky man who would find the pearls. What a rich reward he would get!

Rabbi Samuel listened to the proclamation in silence. He felt the pearl necklace in his pocket, and he knew it was the queens. He also knew that a rich reward awaited him at the palace should he return the necklace in good time. But he was in no hurry to return it.

A day passed, and another, and many more. Every day he heard the royal heralds read the proclamation again and again, promising a reward to the finder, or cruel death should he not return it within thirty days. The whole populace of Rome was seething with excitement. Still Rabbi Samuel ben Sosarte held on to the necklace.

Finally the thirtieth day came. It was the last day to return the necklace to the queen. Rabbi Samuel ben Sosarte took it out and polished it, as he had often done before, but again he put it away safely.

On the following day, early in the morning, immediately after he finished his morning prayers, he went to the palace.

"Inform the lady-in-waiting that an old Jew wishes to see the queen to tell her where her lost necklace is," he said to the guard.

The guard disappeared at once, and hastily returned, bidding Rabbi Samuel to appear before the queen.

"I am indeed privileged to return this necklace to Your Majesty," Rabbi Samuel said, handing it over to the queen.

The queen who had already given up hope of ever seeing her beautiful necklace again, gasped with excitement as she beheld her most cherished treasure. For a moment her eyes were full of gratitude to the aged Jew. Then she remembered that it was the thirty first day since she had lost it. . . .

"When did you find it?" asked the queen.

"Thirty-one days ago," Rabbi Samuel replied.

"Were you in Rome all this time?" asked the queen again.

"Yes, Your Majesty."

"Didnt you hear the proclamation that was announced daily?" the queen asked in amazement.

"I did, Your Majesty," Rabbi Samuel replied calmly.

"Then why did you risk your head, instead of collecting your rich reward?" the queen asked, wondering whether the aged man was in his right mind.

"Your Majesty," Rabbi Samuel explained. "Had I brought the necklace within thirty days, it would have appeared that I returned it either for the sake of your reward, or for fear of your punishment. But neither one nor the other consideration prompted me. I am returning to you your lost property simply because our Torah commands us Jews to return lost property to its owner whoever he may be. We are happy to fulfill the commandments of our Torah without any reward. Moreover, we are ready to die for the observance of our precepts."

"You are indeed very fortunate to have such a wonderful Torah! Blessed is the G‑d of the Jews!" the queen exclaimed.

Not merely was Rabbi Samuel's life spared, but he was given great honor, and for many years the story of Rabbi Samuel's pure and sincere honesty was the talk of all the people of Rome.