Even A King
There are certain moral principles and good deeds that must be done and adhered to by all people – even a king. No man can escape the obligation of righteous conduct – not even a king. The Fear of Heaven falls upon the head of every man.
Such is the Jewish concept of a king. And many kings were there who took this lesson to heart and hearkened to the commandment of the Torah, not to “raise their hearts” in arrogance. One of these was a king by the name of Agrippas.
Agrippas The King
Agrippas the king, reigned for a very short time just before the destruction of the Second Temple. Despite the fact that he was from the house of the evil Herod, he was a gentleman and very observant of the Torah.
Such was his concern for the common people, that he gave orders that the residents of Jerusalem were forbidden to charge rent when they leased out their rooms to Jews coming to Jerusalem for the obligatory visits on Pesach, Shavuos and Sukkos – the Shalosh Regalim.
Agrippas was, furthermore, a man who fled from haughtiness and arrogance. He considered himself as one of the people and when it came to the doing of mitzvahs he never considered anything the “beneath” him. Thus, on Shavuos, when the time came to bring the Bikurim – the first fruits – from the field to Jerusalem and the Temple, a familiar sight to be seen was the king himself carrying his fruits in a basket on his shoulders and walking to the Temple with the rest of the Jews.
The Bride And Groom
One day, Agrippas was traveling near Jerusalem together with all his ministers, advisors and generals. The road was a narrow one, and thus when they rounded a bend and saw another large group approaching from the other direction, it was obvious that is would be impossible for both to pass.
As the entourage came closer, they saw that it was a wedding party with the bride and groom walking happily in front.
“Make way, make way for the King,” shouted the soldiers.
But Agrippas was already on his feet and called out:
“Let them be. Let us not disturb a bride and groom on their wedding day. I shall step aside and let them pass.”
When the Jews saw this, their love for their modest monarch increased and they cried out: “There is none so modest as Agrippas, the King of Israel.”
A Thousand Sacrifices
Agrippas heart was full of love and thanksgiving to the Almighty. Because of this, he gave orders one day to sacrifice 1,000 sacrifices of thanksgiving to the L-rd.
Arriving at the Holy Temple he said to the Kohen:
“Today I sacrifice a thousand sacrifices to the L-rd. Make sure that no other sacrifice is laid upon the altar this day.” The Kohen promised the king that this order would be obeyed.
In the midst of the sacrificing, however, the Kohen was approached by a ragged, poor man who held in his hands two doves.
“My master, the Kohen,” he said. “Sacrifice, I pray you these two doves before G-d.”
“I cannot,” replied the Kohen. “The king has given strict orders that on this day, only his thousand sacrifices be placed upon the altar.”
The Man Weeps
When the poor man heard this, he began to weep and wail.
“But you must sacrifice these doves: it is imperative!”
“Why is it so important?” asked the Kohen.
“Every day I go out to the fields and the Almighty aids me in capturing four doves. Because of this, I have sworn that two of them will be sacrificed to Heaven every day in appreciation for G-d’s kindness.
“Now, I fear, if you do not sacrifice them, the L-rd will be angry with me and not aid me in capturing the doves, and my family will starve.”
The Kohen Agrees
When the Kohen heard these words and saw how upset the man was, he said: “Very well I fear the king, but I will do this for you.” And so speaking, he stopped sacrificing the king’s animals and sacrificed the happy man’s two doves.
When Agrippas heard this, he ordered the Kohen to appear and asked:
“Did I not tell you that no sacrifices except my own were to be offered the Almighty today? Why then have you disobeyed my word and offered another man’s sacrifices on the altar?”
“If only the king had seen the face on the pauper,” answered the Kohen, “and if only he had heard his plaintive words, he would have understood.”
When Agrippas heard the story, he rose and said to the Kohen: “You have done the right thing. May your righteous conduct serve as an example to all the other Kohanim.”
The ‘Curses’ Were Really Blessings
The great Rabbi Gamliel (known as Rabban Gamliel) had a daughter whom he lived to see reach her wedding day.
Before the marriage the young girl came to her father and said: “Father, I am about to be married. Bless me!”
Placing his hand son her head, Rabban Gamliel blessed his daughter saying:
“May it be the Will of Heaven that you do not return here again forever.”
The daughter was stunned by the words of her father. Her heart was broken; what could her father mean by saying such a terrible thing to her? Nevertheless, she refrained from speaking out and restrained herself.
A Son Is Born
In the course a year, a child was born to the daughter, and Rabban Gamliel hearing the news, left his city to visit his daughter and grandchild.
His daughter was overjoyed to see him and once again said:
“At this time of the birth of my child, Father, bless me.”
Raising his hands Rabban Gamliel said:
“May the word ‘Oh!’ never cease to leave your mouth.”
The daughter could not restrain herself now, and she burst into tears.
“What have I done to you that you hate me so? This is the second time that I have asked you for a blessing, and both times you have cursed me instead.”
Rabban Gamliel Explains
“G-d forbid, my beloved daughter,” replied Rabban Gamliel. “Let me explain to you what I meant.
“When you were married, I prayed to the Almighty that you would spend your entire life with your husband and never become a widow and be forced to return to your father’s home. This is why I said: ‘May you never return here.’
“When your child was born I prayed that he would be healthy all his life and be raised by you until he grew to manhood. Therefore, I said: ‘May the word ‘Oh’ never cease to leave your mouth.’
“By this I meant, may you always say ‘Oh, my son has not eaten yet: Oh, my son has not dressed properly!’”
When the daughter heard this she exclaimed: “You are truly wise, my father, for you have both blessed me and also taught me to understand how awful a curse is and to refrain from uttering it.”
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Page last updated - 05/26/2006