Random Quote #56 topic: hebraic, Translations from the Talmud, Midrashim and Kabbala
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A man once laid a wager with another that he would put Hillel out of
temper. If he succeeded he was to receive, but if he failed he was to
forfeit, four hundred zouzim. It was close upon Sabbath-eve, and Hillel
was washing himself, when the man passed by his door, shouting, "Where
is Hillel? where is Hillel?" Hillel wrapped his mantle round him and
sallied forth to see what the man wanted. "I want to ask thee a
question," was the reply. "Ask on, my son," said Hillel. Whereupon the
man said, "I want to know why the Babylonians have such round heads?" "A
very important question, my son," said Hillel; "the reason is because
their midwives are not clever." The man went away, but after an hour he
returned, calling out as before, "Where is Hillel? where is Hillel?"
Hillel again threw on his mantle and went out, meekly asking, "What now,
my son?" "I want to know," said he, "why the people of Tadmor are
weak-eyed?" Hillel replied, "This is an important question, my son, and
the reason is this, they live in a sandy country." Away went the man,
but in another hour's time he returned as before, crying out, "Where is
Hillel? where is Hillel?" Out came Hillel again, as gentle as ever,
blandly requesting to know what more he wanted. "I have a question to
ask," said the man. "Ask on, my son," said Hillel. "Well, why have the
Africans such broad feet?" said he. "Because they live in a marshy
land," said Hillel. "I have many more questions to ask," said the man,
"but I am afraid that I shall only try thy patience and make thee
angry." Hillel, drawing his mantle around him, sat down and bade the man
ask all the questions he wished. "Art thou Hillel," said he, "whom they
call a prince in Israel?" "Yes," was the reply. "Well," said the other,
"I pray there may not be many more in Israel like thee!" "Why," said
Hillel, "how is that?" "Because," said the man, "I have betted four
hundred zouzim that I could put thee out of temper, and I have lost them
all through thee." "Be warned for the future," said Hillel; "better it
is that thou shouldst lose four hundred zouzim, and four hundred more
after them, than it should be said of Hillel he lost his temper!"

THE TALMUD, _Shabbath_, fol. 31, col. 1.



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