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Rabbi Ishmael

Poverty Disfigures A Girl's Beauty

The sage Rabbi Ishmael was a friend and protector of the daughters of Israel. He used to say, "The daughters of Israel are beautiful, but poverty disfigures them." When he would hear of a prospective bride who was not pretty, he would arrange to clothe her in beautiful garments and he would adorn her with jewelry to make her attractive to her prospective groom.

Once a certain man made a vow not to marry his neighbor's daughter. His family had been attempting a match between them. Unfortunately, the girl was not pretty. When Rabbi Ishmael heard, he visited the girl's home and gave her beautiful clothes. He then arranged for beauticians to redo her hair and change the complexion of her face. He placed diamonds in her hair and jewelry around her neck.

Girl Looks Beautiful

When the treatments were finished the girl looked beautiful. No one would have thought she was the same person. Rabbi Ishmael then called her suitor and asked him, "My son, is this the same girl against whom you made a vow not to marry?"

When the man saw her he was amazed. "No," he answered, "this is somebody else. She is beautiful, while the one I knew was very ugly."

"If this is the case," said Rabbi Ishmael, "then your previous vow is nullified and you may now marry her."

When the happy couple left the house Rabbi Ishmael wept and said, "The daughters of Israel are beautiful but poverty disfigures them."

Puts In Gold Teeth

There was another man who made a similar vow not to marry a girl because she was missing several teeth. They brought the girl to the home of Rabbi Ishmael and the rabbi arranged to have gold teeth placed in her mouth. He also made her very beautiful with clothes: and jewelry. When the boy saw her he was happy and they were married.

When Rabbi Ishmael died, the following eulogy was made over him. "Lament over him, ye daughters of Israel, weep for Rabbi Ishmael who would clothe ye in finery and jewelry."

The Patience Of Baba Ben Buta

A similar story is told about the sage Baba Ben Buta, who never lost his patience but did all in his power to bring peace between husband and wife. It happened that a man from Babylon went to the Land of Israel and took a wife there. When the happily married couple was settled in their home, the man asked his wife, "Please boil two cow's feet for me." Not understanding the Babylonian tongue she mistakenly thought he meant two lentils, which she boiled and brought to him. Others say he asked for two lentils and she took him literally and gave him only two lentils.

The man became angry and exclaimed, "You fool, can't you understand a word I'm saying? Boil me plenty of lentils."

Again mistaking his words, she secured a large pot and filled it to the top with lentils and brought it to him. The husband became furious. "I must have married an idiot," he shouted. "If this continues, I'll have to divorce you."

The woman felt very bad and she began to cry. The following morning, the husband said to his wife, "Please bring me two betzune" (Babylonian for melons, but candles in Hebrew).

The woman innocently brought him two candles. The man became exasperated and he shouted, "Break them on the head of the baba" (Babylonian for threshold). The woman, however, thought that her husband meant that she was to break them on the head of the sage, Rabbi Baba Ben Buta.

Breaks It On The Sage's Head

The woman immediately went off to the hall of the Sanhedrin where Baba Ben Buta was holding court. He was engaged in judging litigations and he was so engrossed in the discussion that he did not notice when the woman came up behind him and smashed the two candles over his head. The shock was so great that he fell over and nearly fainted.

Arising unsteadily, he said to the woman, "Why did you do this to me when I never saw you before and I never did anything bad?"

The woman began to cry and she replied, "What could I do otherwise, my husband commanded me to do it." She then began to explain the problems of her marital life, with a husband she couldn't understand.

Seeing the poor woman trembling and frightened, Baba Ben Buta took pity on her and said, "Fear not my daughter, you have obeyed the will of your husband. Therefore, may it be the will of the Almighty that He should give you two sons of the caliber of Baba Ben Buta."

The woman made a determined effort to learn the language and under the guidance of the great sage she became very wise and G-d blessed her with two great sons.

The Champion Of Poor Women

Baba Ben Buta would usually defend poor women. Once, when a man sought to divorce his wife and he tried to avoid paying her kesuba - the support and the settlement of her marriage contract, he created a false rumor about the fidelity of his wife. Then, one day, he turned her out, claiming that she had been unfaithful to him. Baba Ben Buta took up the case made a thorough investigation and proved that her husband had lied. Thereupon the court punished the husband and fined him and made him pay double the amount of the kesuba. The woman blessed Baba Ben Buta.

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