RASHI'S father lived in a small town in France, near the sea. He was very poor, and he had to work very hard, loading and unloading the boats. One day as he was walking near the harbor, he thought he saw something very bright in the dirty sand. He stopped, and sure enough there, between two little pebbles, lay a very precious pearl.
Hardly believing his eyes, Reb Isaac picked up the jewel and ran home. His wife, Sarah, when she saw him running towards the house, became worried. What could have happened? Why was Isaac coming home so early? And why was he running? In her great anxiety, Rashi's mother began to run towards her husband.
"Look! Look, Sarah!" called Isaac all out of breath. "See," he said between gasps, "see, I just found this pearl at the harbor."
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"Isaac!" cried his wife with joy, "you'll never have to carry those heavy loads again."
"And I shall be able to sit and study the Torah all the time. Just think of that!" replied Isaac, his eyes filling with tears.
"I shall take it to the jeweler immediately," said Sarah as Isaac carefully handed her the jewel.
With trembling hands and a very fast beating heart, Sarah ran into the store of the jeweler.
"Look at this pearl. Isn't it very, very precious indeed?" she asked tremblingly.
The jeweler examined it carefully with his magnifying glass. (You know that's a glass that makes everything look much, much bigger than it really is.) He held the pearl up to the sun and then again in front of his candle.
"Yes, yes," the jeweler at last said slowly, as if talking to himself. "This jewel is worth a lot. I will give you 10,000 ducats for it."
Now it happened that on that very day, the jeweler had received an order from the bishop for a very expensive jewel, one that would be fit to set in his crown. So the jeweler was very anxious to buy this pearl from Rashi's mother.
"Yes," the jeweler said again, "I need this pearl to adorn the bishop's crown, and even though it's not
worth 10,000 ducats, I will pay you that much so that I may have it for the bishop's crown."
"Oh, is it that bishop who hates the Jews? That bishop who wants all the Jews to become Christians?"
The jeweler continued to examine the pearl, as if he hadn't heard what Sarah had said.
"Is that the bishop?" Sarah asked again.
Looking up, the jeweler smiled and said: "Well, I guess he is the one you mean."
Without saying another word, Sarah took the jewel from him and carefully wrapped it up. The jeweler watched her, wondering what she was going to do next. As he saw her turn to walk out, he said:
"What's the matter, woman, don't you think 10,000 is enough for that pearl?"
"Oh, indeed, more than enough, I'm sure, but I must go home to ask my husband's advice."
Do you think Sarah was foolish for not selling the pearl to the jeweler immediately? Do you know why she didn't sell the jewel?
Just listen to what happened. Sarah came home and told her husband the whole story. So he said:
"Well, Sarah, you didn't sell the jewel to him, did you?"
"Why, how did you guess?" asked Sarah wonderingly.
"Because I know you wouldn't want to have your jewel adorn the crown of a wicked man."
"That's it exactly. I was hoping you wouldn't be angry with me," Sarah answered smilingly.
"No, no, far from it," and with those words Isaac took the jewel from his wife's hands and threw it into the sea.
"I would rather the sea had it, than that it should adorn that man's crown," he said.
Now if this was the kind of people Rashi's parents were, what would you expect of their son? And what might have happened, had Isaac and Sarah kept the jewel? Think of that!