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Ancient Jewish Proverbs, by Abraham Cohen, [1911], at

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78. Truth stands, falsehood does not stand (Shab. 104a; D. 592).

Elsewhere it is said, "Truth is the seal of God" (Shab. 55a; Jom. 69b; Sanh. 64b; D. 287). "By three things is the [moral] world preserved: by truth, by judgment, and by peace, as it is said (Zech. viii. 16), "Speak ye every man the truth with his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates" (Aboth i. 18). "A lie is a foul blot in a man, yet it is continually in the mouth of the untaught" (Ecclus. xx. 24).

*79. Happy is he who hears and ignores; a hundred evils pass him by (Sanh. 7a; D. 305).

Do not get vexed at every trifle and at once resent it. Ibn Gabirol says: "Who cannot bear one word will hear many" (Choice of Pearls, no. 95); "Who hears something unpleasant and preserves silence wards off what would prove still more objectionable" (ibid. no. 99); "By endurance one avoids still greater trouble" (no. 104).

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80. When two quarrel, he who keeps silence first is more praiseworthy (Kid. 71b; D. 349).

Palestinian saying. Worthy of quotation is: "There are four kinds of tempers: he whom it is easy to provoke and easy to pacify—his loss disappears in his gain; he whom it is hard to provoke and hard to pacify—his gain disappears in his loss; he whom it is hard to provoke and easy to pacify is a saint; he whom it is easy to provoke and hard to pacify is a wicked man" (Aboth v. 14). Cf. the English proverb "Be not the first to quarrel, nor the last to make it up."

*81. A word for a Sela, silence for two (Meg. 18a; D. 491).

Palestinian proverb. There is a mediæval Jewish saying, found also with most other peoples: "Speech is silvern, silence golden." A Sela was worth one sacred or two common Shekels = about 2s. 4d.

82. Silence is a healing for all [ailments] (Meg. 18a; D. 541).

Cf. "Silence is good for the wise; how much more so for the foolish" (Pes. 99a; D. 324); "All my days I have grown up amongst the wise, and I have found nought of better service than silence" (Aboth i. 17); "Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise; when he shutteth his lips,

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he is esteemed as prudent" (Prov. xvii. 28); "My words may occasion regret, but my silence will avoid it" (Ibn Gabirol, no. 337); and in English, "No one ever repented of holding his tongue."

83. Boldness is royal power without a crown (Sanh. 105a; D. 286).

"Nothing venture, nothing have."

84. Boldness avails even with Heaven (Sanh. 105a; D. 285).

Cf. our saying "Heaven helps them who help themselves."

*85. From the woods themselves it goes into the axe (Sanh. 39b; D. 493).

The sense is clear, but the reading is doubtful. Another possible rendering is: "The axe goes into the wood from which [it originally came]." Dukes appositely quotes the following from the Midrash [see Introd. § 3]: "When iron was created, the trees began to tremble. The iron thereupon said to them, Wherefore do ye tremble? Let none of your wood enter into me, and not one of you shall be hurt." The handle which enables one to use the axe for felling trees is obtained from the trees themselves.

*86. Sixty runners may run, but will not overtake the man who has breakfasted early (B. K. 92b; B. M. 107b; D. 648).

It is also recommended: "Rise early and

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eat, in the summer because of the heat, in winter on account of the cold" (ibid.). Cf. "Early start makes early stages," "The early bird catches the worm." On "sixty" see no. 16.

*87. The door which is not opened for charitable purposes will be opened to the physician (Cant. R. to vi. 11; D. 665).

There was a Hebrew proverb current in Jerusalem: "The salt of money is diminution" (Keth. 66b; D. 498), to the last word of which [.hasser] there is a variant "benevolence" [.hesed]; i.e. by spending money in the relief of distress, we earn the Divine protection and blessing. To the same effect is the English proverb, "Giving to the poor increaseth a man's store." Hospitality and benevolence are the supreme virtues of Orientals, and the Rabbinical sayings on the subject are extremely numerous. "Let thy house be open wide, and let the poor be the members of thy household" (Aboth i. 5); "When a beggar stands at thy door, the Holy One stands at his right hand" (Lev. R. ch. xxxiv. § 9); "Even the beggar is not free from the duty of giving alms" (Git. 7b); "Greater is the alms-giver than the bringer of sacrifices" (Suc. 49b; j. Ber. ii. 1). The duty of supporting and comforting the poor applies to gentiles as well as to fellow-Israelites

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[paragraph continues] (Git. 61a). Although the Rabbis continually emphasise that the money spent to help the needy will be repaid by increased prosperity, they do not fail to urge that true charity should be done for its own sake. The principle "Be not like servants who minister to their master upon the condition of receiving a reward" (Aboth i. 3) is applied also to moral duties. Thus they draw a sharp line of demarcation between benevolence and mere almsgiving, and distinguish them in the following manner: "In three respects is benevolence greater than almsgiving. The latter can only be performed with money, the former personally as well as with money; the latter can be given to the poor alone, the former to rich and poor alike; the latter only to the living, the former also to the dead" (Suc. 49b).

88. With two dogs they killed the lion (Sanh. 95a; D. 183).

"Union is strength." Cf. "Many straws may bind an elephant."

*89. The weasel and the cat held a feast on the fat of the unfortunate (Sanh. 105a; D. 408).

"Union is strength." When men combine forces they can overcome their common enemy. The proverb is quoted to point the moral of the following fable: Two dogs

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were once quarrelling, and suddenly one of them was attacked by a wolf. Then said the other to himself, If I do not help him now, the wolf will kill him and then turn his attention to me. So they both assailed the wolf and slew him.

*90. A myrtle standing among reeds still retains the name of myrtle (Sanh. 44a; D. 108).

The good man remains good and is recognisable as such, even when he is in bad company. A later Jewish moralist, quoted by Dukes, declares: "The wise man is honoured even if his family is despised."

91. Should the castle totter, its name is still castle; should the dunghill be raised, its name is still dunghill (Jalkut to Jer. § 264; D. 337).

A nobleman remains noble even in the days of distress, and the common man common even in the days of prosperity.

92. Whoever makes the round of his property every day finds a Stater (Ḥul. 105a; D. 386).

Diligence always meets with reward. The Stater is a silver coin equal in value to four Zuz (see no. 24).

*93. In whom it is, in him is everything; in whom it is not, what hath he? He who hath acquired it, what lacketh he? In whom it is not, what hath he acquired? (Ned. 41a; D. 211),

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Refers to Wisdom. A Palestinian saying. There is a similar proverb in Hebrew: "Lackest thou wisdom, what hast thou acquired? Hast acquired wisdom, what lackest thou? " (Lev. R. ch. i. § 6; D. 224). Ibn Gabirol says: "A body without knowledge is like a house without a foundation" (Choice of Pearls, no. 17); "Wisdom constitutes the noblest pedigree" (no. 24); "A man's worth is estimated according to his knowledge" (no. 33); "The wise of the earth resemble the luminaries of Heaven" (no. 35). It would be no exaggeration to say that among the ancient and mediæval Jews there was an aristocracy of learning, not wealth.

*94. Better is one grain of hot pepper than a basketful of pumpkins (Meg. 7a; Ḥag. 10a; Jom. 85b; D. 300).

Just as a grain of pepper imparts more flavour than a heap of vegetables, so a little keen reasoning is worth more than a great deal of useless learning.

*95. He ate the date and threw away the stone (Ḥag, 15b; D. 88).

Palestinian saying. Refers to a man who can distinguish between the true and the false, the useful and the useless.

96. The cloak is precious to its wearer (Shab. 10b; D. 492).

An article always has some value for its

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possessor, if for nobody else. Similarly the opinions held by a person are considered worth holding by him. Cf. "Every man praises his own wares."

97. Better is the smith than the son of the smith (Sanh. 96a).

The experience acquired during many years is of extreme value.

98. Who has eaten of the pot knows the taste of the broth (Jalkut to Deut. § 829; D. 467).

Experience is the best teacher.

*99. He whom a serpent hath bitten is terrified at a rope (Cant. R. to i. 2; D. 221).

A piece of rope lying on the ground resembles a snake. Cf. "Once bitten twice shy," "A burnt child dreads the fire."

Next: Chapter IV: Human Faults