Sacred Texts  Judaism  Index  Previous  Next 

p. 122


IN THE DAYS of Saadiah Gaon, a rich man lived in Babylonia. This rich man had two sons, whose names were Uri and Naphtali. One day the rich man died suddenly, and left no will. Who would now get all the money that the rich man had left? Would it be Uri or Naphtali?

The law of the land was that each son was to get an equal share. But Uri, the older son, did not like this idea. "Here is a chance to get very, very rich," he thought. So without a word to anyone he went to the Head of the Jews and said:

"When the case comes up between my brother and me, will you rule that all the money is to go to the older son? If you do this, I will make you a rich man. Think of it! just by giving a little different explanation, you can become a very rich man."

"Let me think it over," said the Prince.

p. 123

The Prince put his hand to his forehead and sat thinking very hard. At last he said:

"All right, that's agreed."

Uri left, feeling very happy.

The Prince, however, could not eat nor could he sleep. Every minute he was thinking: "I am going to give an unfair decision. I am going to take away from Naphtali what rightfully belongs to him." Yet he was happy too, for he was also thinking: "In a few weeks I shall be a very rich man." But his conscience kept on troubling him so that he could not rest at all. At last he found a way of making his decision seem less wicked. He would have the Geonim agree in writing that his decision was just.

So the Prince sent messengers to get the signatures of the Geonim. When the Geonim saw the decision they were very much surprised. And they wondered what could have come over the Prince. One did not dare to ask any questions. He was told to sign, and sign he did.

Since Saadiah was the other Gaon at that time, he, too, was asked to sign the decision, but he refused to do so. He said that justice was justice and not even the Prince could make him say that that ruling was right.

"Saadiah," his friends warned, "don't be so stubborn.

p. 124

[paragraph continues] Don't you know you will lose your office?"

"Suppose I do," said Saadiah firmly, "is that a good reason for giving an unfair decision?" And Saadiah did not sign the note.

On the following day, Saadiah was removed from his office.

A good many years had passed. Saadiah was again put back into office. The Prince, who was Saadiah's enemy, was very old, and a new prince was to be put at the head of the Jews. Who would be chosen? Saadiah did not think of himself, nor of his enemy. Saadiah thought only of what would be good for the Jewish people. He decided that his enemy's son was a brave and just man, and that he should be chosen as the Prince. Therefore, Saadiah did all he could to have his enemy's son made Prince.

Many more years passed, and the young Prince died. Then Saadiah took the son of the Prince into his own home. There Saadiah educated him, just as he would have educated his own son. He prepared him to be Prince just as his father and grandfather had been before him. In this way, Saadiah did all he could even for a man who was his enemy. That was the kind of a man Saadiah was.

p. 125


Click to enlarge


Next: 23. A Gift to the Caliph