Judaism – A Sampling of Proverbs, Parables, Sayings and Observations from the Jewish Midrash

 

For the LORD Almighty will care for his flock, the people of Judah, and make them like a proud horse in battle. From Judah will come the cornerstone, from them the tent peg, from them the battle bow, from them every ruler.

 

– Zechariah 10:3-4

 

 

A Sampling of Proverbs, Parables, Sayings and Observations from the Jewish Midrash

 

Like the many of the astute observation and comments found in the Talmud, the diverse collection of traditional Jewish Biblical commentaries, also known as the Midrash, also contains a treasure-house of some of the best Judeo-Christian wisdom ever known. Taken from the online text of a book entitled: ‘Tales and Maxims from the Midrash’, by Rabbi Samuel Rapaport 1907, the following quotations represent just a small sampling of incredibly original and profound Jewish wisdom and knowledge that cannot typically be found in the Bible, but remains just as relevant and useful to the practice and study of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Here are the the actual passages from various Jewish Midrash:

 

You cannot be too careful about prayer, and you should never refuse to pray. Prayer eclipses all other services, and towers above sacrifices, and the sinful man may receive God’s grace through prayer. (Tanchum, Vaayro)

 

The comparison in beauty of any woman to Sarah is like comparing monkeys with men. (Tanchum. Lech Lecho)

 

There is no evil that has no remedy, and the remedy for sin is repentance. (Tanchum, Bereshith)

 

Immediately after a man is born he proceeds into death, when he dies he proceeds into life. (Midrash Samuel 23)

 

The Torah is full of holy fire. It was written with a black fire upon a white fire. (Tanchum, Bereshith)

 

 

The Torah has meekness as its sandals, and the fear of God as its crown. Hence Moses was the proper person through whose hands it should be delivered; he was meek, and with the fear of the Lord he was crowned. (Tanchum, Bereshith)

 

You cannot expect to occupy yourself with the study of the Torah in the future world and receive the reward for so doing in this world. You are meant to make the Torah your own in this life, and to look for reward in the life to come. (Tanchum, Bereshith0

 

The following tend to make a man prematurely old: Fear, war, trouble from his children, or a shrew of a wife. (Tanchum, Chaya Sarah)

 

There is merit and even dignity in handicraft. (Tanchum, Vayaitza)

 

God wishes man to ask forgiveness, and not to see him in his guilt. (Tanchum, Vayishlach)

 

Give me the admonishments of the old in preference to the flattery of the young. (Tanchum, Vayaishev)

 

If the fraudulent man and the usurer offer to make restitution, it is not permitted to accept it from them. (Tanchum, Bereshith)

 

 

Wisdom is granted by God to him who already possesses knowledge. (Tanchum, Vayakhail)

 

The Torah was given in the wilderness, and like the wilderness it is free and open to all who are curious without formalities or introductions. All that wish to do so can enter into it. (Tanchum, Vayakhail)

 

But through the prophet God sends us a message, ‘As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.’ (Ezekiel 31). The answer is that there are sinners and sinners, those who do and those who do not repent. (Tanchum, Tsav)

 

God lends eloquence to the pious. (Midrash Proverbs 150

 

A man of a kindly and charitable disposition is generally blessed with old age, which sits on him like a crown. (Midrash Proverbs 16)

 

A learned man who has a learned son and a learned grandson may reasonably hope that learning will be the characteristic of his family for generations to come. (Midrash Proverbs 18)

 

If you want to incur contempt, be extravagant in self-praise. (Midrash Proverbs 27)

 

A judge, like a king, should not depend on anybody’s gifts. Nor should he, like a priest, live on the people’s bounty. (Midrash Proverbs 30)

 

Alexander the Great of Macedonia overran the whole world like a swarm of locusts. (Midrash Proverbs 30)

 

 

What blessings cannot earnest prayer bring down for us from heaven! It was in answer to Hannah’s earnest prayer that she was blessed with a son whose name was associated with those of Moses and Aaron (Psalms 99) as the lights of Israel. (Midrash Proverbs 30)

 

The virtues of Noah’s wife outweighed those of Noah. (Midrash Proverbs 31)

 

Prayer is, or should be, the service of the heart. (Midrash Samuel 2)

 

No wizard or astrologer can produce a human soul. (Midrash Samuel 5)

 

A religious teacher who in his old age is found not to be what he had always led men to believe that he was, pious and pure, is not to be held up to public derision, but should be made to retire from his duties in a manner which will not detract from his dignity.(Midrash Samuel 7)

 

The following are dignified with the name ‘Precious’: Torah, prophecy, understanding, knowledge, simplicity, the righteous, the death of the righteous, kindness, riches, and Israel. (Midrash Samuel 80)

 

He that slights his parents may be compared to a knife which one acquires for the purpose of cutting food, but which fails to do this and  instead cuts the owner’s hand, or to a light which one carries in order to help him in the darkness, instead of which it burns his clothes.(Midrash Samuel 7)

 

Man must be attentive to his wife, to his studies, and to his occupation. (Midrash Proverbs 5)

 

 

Happy indeed is the teacher who has a disciple that can intercede with Heaven, by his prayer, on behalf of the teacher. (Midrash  Proverbs 70

 

Do not despise an ignorant man who strives to gain knowledge, or a man of ill repute who strives to redeem his past. (Midrash Proverbs 7)

 

The Day of Atonement will never be abolished. (Midrash Proverbs 9)

 

Have a good word for your fellow-man, and the ministering angels will plead for you before the throne of mercy. (Midrash Proverbs 11)

 

Man has two hands, but he is not to rob with the one and give alms with the other. (Midrash Proverbs 11)

 

When a man, is on friendly terms with another, eats and drinks with him, but does not refrain from speaking against him, is designated by God Himself an evil one. (Midrash Proverbs 12)

 

A man proud of his knowledge is a propagator of folly. (Midrash Proverbs 13)

 

Here man is able to comprehend things and test them by his senses, such as the sense of sight or the sense of hearing; but he cannot imagine what future bliss means, since it is an abstract idea and cannot be tested either by the sense of sight or by the sense of hearing. (Midrash Proverbs 13)

 

One is not to think lightly of a parable or a simile. Indeed one is to look upon them in the same sense as psalms, hymns, or prophecy.

 

Has not the Lord sent his prophet Ezekiel to put forth a riddle and speak a parable unto the house of Israel (Ezekiel 17)? and has not the Psalmist said, ‘I will open my mouth in a parable’ (Psalms 78)? (Midrash Psalms 79)

 

 

If you bear in mind that your prayers are directed to the God above, then there will be a blending of joy and awe. (Midrash Psalms 100)

 

Sing praises unto the Eternal whether you worship Him as a God of judgment or as a God of mercy. (Midrash Psalms 101)

 

God asks neither for burnt offerings nor for other sacrifices. He asks for earnest prayer. (Midrash Psalms 102)

 

Prayer is not to be offered in the midst of frivolity or laughter, but with humility and bowed head. (Midrash Psalms 108)

 

At the redemption of Israel, the nations among which they have been scattered, and out of which they will be redeemed, will sing praises to God. (Midrash Psalms 117)

 

The wicked walk in darkness, but those who have the light of God, the Torah, as their guide are restricted from committing sin even when they have a passing desire to do so. (Midrash Psalms 119)

 

The fact that special mention is made of the affair of Zimri (Numbers 24:14) tends to show that the Israelites, in those days, were very chaste, as such conduct seems to have come as a surprise to the whole camp.(Midrash Psalms 122)

 

Every man gets the wife he deserves. (Midrash Psalms 125)

 

Repentance is of no avail in a matter of wronging your fellow-man, without first rectifying the wrong done. (Midrash Psalms 125)

 

No one has a right to expect success in his mundane affairs unless he works for it. Moses blessed the works of the hands and all of man’s doings (Deuteronomy 14:29). (Midrash Psalms 136)

 

 

Let no man say ‘My father was a righteous man; I shall be all right for his sake,’ or ‘My brother was a righteous man, and I shall reap the benefit of his merits.’ Abraham could not save Ishmael, and Jacob could not save Esau. Each man must work out his own salvation. (Midrash Psalms 146)

 

View David’s career, and you will see both the necessity and the efficacy of repentance. (Midrash Psalms 40)

 

He that is satiated with tears cannot be expected to have appetite for food. (Midrash Psalms 42)

 

In the future the righteous will feast on the splendour of the Shechinah. (Midrash Psalms 45)

 

To Israel’s question ‘O Lord, when will You redeem us?’ God’s answer is, ‘When you have fallen to your lowest depth.’ (Midrash Psalms 45)

 

There were two obscure prophets whose prophecy was not made known, mainly because only prophecy which was of any utility at the time or in the immediate future was ever published or recorded. However, the prophecy of the prophets mentioned will be made known at a future time.(Midrash Ruth 2)

 

Moses, who always stood in the breach, has been compared to a shepherd who, when bringing home his flock for the night, finds the fence around their resting-place fallen in and has only time to put it up again on three sides, leaving on one side easy access to the wolf. This good shepherd placed himself on the open side, for the protection of his flock from the wolf and the lion. (Midrash Ruth 2)

 

Death is every one’s portion, but it is not given to every man to leave a good reputation behind him. No one feels the death of a man like his wife, or of a woman like her husband. (Midrash Ruth 2)

 

A great and good man sheds lustre upon the place in which he happens to live. (Midrash Ruth 2)

 

A would-be convert to Judaism should not at once be admitted into the fold, but should be mildly cautioned against the step he intends upon taking. If he persists, and is steadfast in his desire, he is to be admitted. (Midrash Ruth 2)

 

 

The earth has wings (Isaiah 24), the sun has wings (Malachi 3), the cherubim have wings (1 Kings 8), and the seraphim have wings (Isaiah 6), but the righteous and those who are compassionate and merciful are sheltered under none of these wings, but under the wings of the Most High God. (Midrash Ruth 5)

 

It is a great and good thing for a man to have the blessings of a good man. (Midrash Ruth 6)

 

One of the characteristics of the righteous is that their yes is yes, and their no is no. (Midrash Ruth 7)

 

Do not sit down in the presence of one who is greater than you unless he invites you to do so. (Midrash Ruth 7)

 

If a man does good acts at the close of his life, it shows he is anxious to add these to the many he has done in the course of his life; and vice versâ. If at the end of his career a man does a reprehensible act, it tends to show that he is full of such misdeeds, and only required this additional one to complete the sinister list. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 3)

 

Adam was destined to be the father of the twelve tribes of Israel; but, seeing that of the two sons one of them had one killed the other, the privilege was withdrawn. The Torah also would have been given through Adam, had he not proved himself unable to observe even one of God’s behests. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 3)

 

God says to Israel, ‘You are called my children, but you must take my law as your guide of life.’ It is as though a prince should ask his father to make it known throughout his kingdom that he is the king’s son. The father tells him: ‘Clothe yourself in purple and put on your coronet; then all will know that you are my son.’ (Deuteronomy Rabba 7)

 

Joseph’s bones, which were brought up from Egypt, were buried by the children of Israel in Shechem (Joshua 24:32) because they sold him in Shechem (Genesis 27). When thieves have stolen a cask of wine, the owner might well say to them: You have stolen the wine, the least you can do is to take back the empty cask to the place whence you took it. (Deuteronomy Rabba 8)

 

Rabbi Samuel was a great astronomer, but devoted only his spare moments to the study of astronomy. (Deuteronomy Rabba 8)

 

By saying that the Torah is not in Heaven, Moses meant to convey that there is no other Torah to come in the future to supersede this Torah, and there will be no other man to come and bring another Torah from Heaven. (Deuteronomy Rabba 8)

 

 

If you are anxious not to forget the subject you study, then it is necessary to pass what you read through your lips, not merely to read the subject up. If you do not utter the words you read you will forget them. (Deuteronomy Rabba 8)

 

Remember that whatever evil it may be possible to avert or delay, there is no such possibility with death. Death is no respecter of persons, against it there is no appeal, and after it there is no remedy, nor can you suggest a substitute such as your slave, nor can you plead for delay, or say that you are not quite ready to meet it, nor can you create anything to protect you from it. (Deuteronomy Rabba 9)

 

Moses, probably on account of his anxiety that after his death the Israelites might go astray (Deuteronomy 31:29), prayed for everlasting life on earth. God said He could not gratify his wish, since in order to inherit the bliss of the future life he must give up earthly life. (Deuteronomy Rabba 11)

 

In no instance is it permitted to hear the evidence of a witness in the absence of the litigants. (Midrash Ruth 1)

 

‘The words of God were scarce,’ etc. (1 Samuel 2). That generation was known as a generation of hypocrites. They pretended to adhere to the religion of their fathers, but worshipped idols in secret, and the Holy Spirit did not rest upon them. (Ruth Rabba)

 

All the peace and happiness here on earth are mere vanity as compared with the abiding peace in the world to come. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 2)

 

‘There seems to be more than one Creator,’ said a sceptic to Rabbi Samuel. ‘Is it not written “In the beginning Elohim (the plural) created heaven and earth”? Further, “Let us make man in our likeness.”‘ ‘Do you find it said,’ returned the sage, ‘they created, or are we told they saw or they said, or that man was formed in their image? In each instance you find the singular, and the ‘Elohim’ is applied to Him in whom is combined all power and all might.’ (Deuteronomy Rabba 2)

 

In vain have you acquired knowledge if you do not impart knowledge to others. (Deuteronomy Rabba 2)

 

To do justice and righteousness is more acceptable to God than sacrifices (Proverbs 21:3). Sacrifices were in vogue only while the Temple was in existence, but justice and righteousness must exist with and without the Temple. Sacrifices atoned only for sins committed in error, not for presumptuous sin. Justice and righteousness atone for all sins. (Deuteronomy Rabba 5)

 

All men alike, both those who know the living God and those who know Him not, lose their lives, one may say, when they sleep; but God in his goodness restores their lives to all alike. (Deuteronomy Rabba 5)

 

He who causes his fellow-man to sin is worse than he who seeks a man’s life. (Numbers Rabba 21)

 

There is a tendency with every man to become humble when near his death. (Tanchum, Vaychee)

 

It matters not where the body is buried, the spirit goes wherever it is destined. (Tanchum, Vaychee)

 

The altar of God was to prolong man’s life, and iron is a metal which can destroy man’s life; therefore it was forbidden to use iron in the erection of the altar. (Tanchum, Jethro)

 

Slight no man. Every man was created in God’s image. (Tanchum, Jethro)

 

The righteous bless their offspring before they depart hence. (Tanchum, Vaychee)

 

 

David was descended from Judah. (Tanchum, Vaychee)

 

Poverty outweighs all other sorrows. (Tanchum, Mishpotim)

 

A man never so learned should not preach if his preaching is not agreeable to his audience. (Tanchum, Kee Sisso)

 

A public teacher (preacher) must not only be thoroughly conversant with the twenty-four books of the Bible, but must be known to his flock as modest and distinguished for his virtues. (Tanchum, Kee Sisso)

 

He who rebukes his fellow-man with a sincere desire to make him better comes within the inner walls of the heavenly pavilion.(Tanchum, Mishpotim)

 

You are not permitted to select injunctions of the Torah which you consent to observe, and reject others for the observance of which you can find no reason. In accepting God’s word one is bound to implicit obedience to all of it. (Tanchum, Mishpotim)

 

Jacob’s objection to being buried in Egypt was due to the fact that the Egyptians practised witchcraft by means of dead bodies, and he would not have his body utilized for such abominable practices. (Tanchum. Vaychee)

 

The righteous stand on a higher level than angels. (Tanchum. Vayikra)

 

Those who aim at greatness do not always get it. Moses fled from it, but it was forced upon him. (Tanchum. Vayikra)

 

It is but right and proper that one should be right in the sight of God, but it is also desirable so to act as to be just and right in the eyes of man. (Tanchum. Pekudai)

 

Slander no one, whether your brother or not your brother, whether a Jew or not a Jew. (Tanchum. Pekudai)

 

Good men lift up their eyes and look one straight in the face. Bad, wicked men drop their eyes. (Tanchum, Vayaishev)

 

‘Swear not at all, not even to the truth.’ (Tanchum. Vayikra)

 

 

No one can imagine the reward of him who accepts all his sorrows and reverses with religious resignation. (Tanchum. Kee Saizai)

 

Isaiah committed sin by saying, ‘In the midst of a people of unclean lips do I dwell’ (Isaiah 6). For this, a slander which may be compared to fire, he was punished with fire, with the live coal taken from the altar (Isaiah 6). (Tanchum. Vayishlach)

 

However adverse one’s opinion may be of any one placed in a high position, he is bound to pay him the respect due to his position. Rabbi Judah Hannasi, when writing to Antoninus, invariably used the phrase, ‘Judah, thy servant, sends greeting.’ (Tanchum, Vayishlach)

 

Regarding the giving of alms, judgment and discretion should be exercised. Obviously, poor relatives have a prior claim to any other, and the poor of your town claim priority over those of another town. (Tanchum, Mishpotim)

 

Poor ignorant man, if you want to find out God’s ways explain first the phenomenon of your own eye. It consists of white and black, and according to all reason the white should supply light, but in reality the little spot in the centre of your eye is the lens to give you sight. (Tanchum, Tezaveh)

 

The rich should ever bear in mind that his wealth may merely have been deposited with him to be a steward over it, or to test what use he will make of his possessions. Not less should the poor remember that their own trials may have been sent as a test of their fortitude. (Tanchum, Mishpotim)

 

‘If you have taken a pledge from the poor,’ says God to the rich, ‘do not say he is your debtor and you are therefore justified in retaining his garment. Remember you are my debtor, your life is in my hand. Keep in mind that I return to you all your senses and all your faculties after your sleep every day.’ (Tanchum, Mishpotim)

 

Do not say, I need not work for my living, but cast my hope on God who supports all living creatures. You must work for a livelihood and look up to God to bless the work of your hands. Jacob, in alluding to the delivery from Laban’s house, says, ‘God has seen the labour of my hands’ (Genesis 31). (Tanchum,Vayaitza)

 

Of all the good men who are designed to see God, those that were upright in their lives here stand in the first rank. (Midrash Psalms 110)

 

 

He who hears himself abused (or cursed) and does not retaliate may be called a saintly man. (Midrash Psalms 16)

 

The six hundred and thirteen commandments which were handed over to the Israelites were reduced by King David to eleven (Psalms 15). Isaiah further reduced all the commandments to six (Isaiah 33:15, 16). Micah made a further reduction of them to three (Micah 6:8). Habakkuk reduced the whole to one, that of faith (Habakkuk 2-4). (Midrash Psalms 17)

 

Trust in God delivers us from impending peril. (Midrash Psalms 22)

 

Woe to any man when death approaches him, to the strong man when he becomes weak, or to him who loses his sight. Woe to the whole generation which is ruled by a woman. (Midrash Psalms 22)

 

If all your life is given up to the pursuit of earthly things, it is quite consistent for you to look downwards, but if you pursue the higher life, look upwards. (Midrash Psalms 32)

 

He that feels as though his heart is torn within him on account of his sin may well hope for God’s forgiveness. Yet while continually thinking of his grievous sin, man must not make a habit of sinning and rely on his sorrow and confession for the expiation of his sin. Midrash Psalms 32)

 

The wicked are, as a rule, brought to judgment when all fear of judgment has left them. (Midrash Psalms 36)

 

Jerusalem is destined to become the Metropolis of the world. (Midrash Psalms 36)

 

He that is deeply sensible of his sin, is in terror of it, confesses it, and is in communion with God concerning this burden of uncleanliness, may hope for forgiveness. (Midrash Psalms 51)

 

If you intend to put man to rights, put yourself to rights first. (Midrash Psalms 53)

 

As there is no limit to the evils of a bad wife, so there is no limit to the good that is caused by a good wife. (Midrash Psalms 53)

 

‘I am that I am,’ said God to Moses, by which He implied that He created the world in mercy, and will always rule the world in mercy. (Midrash Psalms 72)

 

The Hebrew language for speech, Latin for war, and the Persian language for lamentations. (Midrash Esther 4)

 

The misdeeds of faithless servants sometimes bring about the reward of deserving men, as was the case with Joseph and with Mordecai. (Midrash Esther 6)

 

The book of memorial of Ahasuerus should remind us of the Book of Memorial of the Most High. (Malachi 3)(Midrash Esther 6)

 

David’s blessing, ‘Blessed are they that keep judgment and he that does righteousness all the time’ (Ps. 106. 3) is applied to him who adopts an orphan. (Midrash Esther 6)

 

As the sea throws up its refuse on its shores, so do the wicked have their filthiness upon their mouths. (Midrash Psalms 2)

 

As the billows of the sea, when rushing towards the shores in their violence and fury, threaten to swamp the whole shore, yet when they near the shore their fury and violence are lessened, and at last they meekly spend themselves. So it is with those who persecute Israel (likened to the sand on the shore of the sea) and threaten to overwhelm them. They are eventually constrained to lessen their violence and fury. (Midrash Psalms 20

 

All the prophets started with admonitions and ended with words of comfort. Jeremiah alone had no words of comfort to offer.(Midrash Psalms 4)

 

A man is bound to pay the same respect to his wife’s father as he would to his own father. (Midrash Psalms 7)

 

If one tells you definitely when the Messiah will come, believe him not. (Midrash Psalms 9)

 

The following Rabbis were martyrs: Rabbi Simeon b. Gamaliel, Rabbi Ishmael b. Elisha, Jeshbab the scribe, Chuzpas the translator, José Judah b. Baba, Judah Nachtom, Simon b. Azai, Chanina b. Tradyon, and Rabbi Akiba. (Midrash Psalms 9)

 

David’s words clearly show that righteous non-Jews will inherit future bliss. He says: ‘The wicked shall go to ‘Sheol’ and all the nations that forget God’ (Psalms 9:18), in other words, those of the nations that forget God, but not those who worship God. (Midrash Psalms 9)

 

It is much more difficult to cope with a Jewish enemy than with a non-Jewish enemy. (Midrash Psalms 18)

 

That King Solomon held the fear of God in high estimation we glean from the fact that his two great books, those of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, conclude by saying that the fear of God is above everything. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 30

 

All souls go upwards, but for those of the righteous there is a resting-place, while those of the wicked are fugitive. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 3)

 

The recital of a prayer is better than a thousand burnt offerings. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 4)

 

An ignorant man who puts forth pretentions to knowledge is best styled a flatterer of the Torah. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 5)

 

There is stir and noise when a man is born, and the same when he dies. He comes to this world weeping, and there is weeping for him when he goes hence. He arrives without knowledge, and departs without knowledge. When born his fists are closed, as if to say, ‘I have everything,’ and when he dies his hands are open, showing that he has nothing. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 5)

 

There is no death brought about without sin, and no pain without iniquity. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 5)

 

 

Are you troubled by evil forebodings, visions, or dreams? Have recourse to prayer, repentance, and charity, for if there is in reality any evil decree against you, the exercise of these great virtues will avert it. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 5)

 

God says to the prophets, ‘Think not that if you do not carry my messages, my will cannot be made known in the world. I have many messengers- even such as a scorpion, a snake, a frog, or an insect.’ (Midrash Ecclesiastes 5)

 

The Israelites were bent on sacrificing, they sacrificed on the high places in the wilderness, hence the Mishkan was erected as soon as was practicable, so that they should bring their sacrifices in that sanctuary. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 50)

 

If you see cruelty and injustice perpetrated by Romulus in Rome, be not dismayed. Remember there is One above the dukes and princes of Rome who executes judgement even by the mere word ‘Behold.’ (Midrash Ecclesiastes 5)

 

The well of Miriam can be seen from the top of the mountain Jeshimon (Numbers 21:20), and its waters have healing properties.(Midrash Ecclesiastes 5)

 

The soul is not attracted by any earthly goods that may be offered to her. She is like a king’s daughter, who finds no value in things which to others may seem precious. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 6)

 

He who rebels against the king has it in him to rebel against God. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 9)

 

Some of the Rabbis, whilst very assiduous in study and prayer, would not neglect their daily chores, but had set apart a third of the day for the pursuit of labour, and they were, on that account, known as ‘the holy body.’ (Midrash Ecclesiastes 9)

 

Fools, as a rule, look upon all mankind as fools. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 10)

 

He who trains a bad pupil must expect discredit. (Midrash Lamentations, Pesichta)

 

There was harmony between God and his people when He redeemed them from Egypt. They have sinned and broken that harmony, and become separated from their God. (Midrash Lamentations, Pesichta).

 

ELISHA B. ABUYA used to make it his duty to call at infant schools and endeavour by his idle talk to divert the children’s attention from religious instruction and direct them to frivolous matters. (Midrash Song of Songs 1)

 

Scrupulousness causes cleanliness, which again leads to purity, and purity brings holiness, holiness meekness, and this prompts a fear of sin, a fear of sin begets saintliness, and saintliness brings the Holy Ghost. (Midrash Songs 1)

 

Moses, Aaron and Miriam died by having their souls drawn out by God’s kiss. (Midrash Songs 1)

 

The nations of the world are not justified in thinking that, because Israel is rebellious, God will exchange them for another nation. It is as though a black maid should expect her master to divorce his wife and marry her, because her mistress’s hand had turned black.(Midrash Songs 1)

 

King Solomon was like the clever statesman adopted in the king’s house, who when asked by his august master what token of his favour he wished, asked for the king’s daughter. Solomon, when asked by the King of Kings for his wish, asked for wisdom. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 1)

 

 

At the resurrection men will be revived and will have the same infirmities and defects that they may have had during their former life; so that there may be no mistake as to whether those that are resuscitated are the same as those who were known to be dead. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 1)

 

If those who are in authority at present should be inferior men to those who were in authority before them, one is not permitted to slight them on that account, but is bound to pay them the tribute of respect due to their position. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 1)

 

There is no hard and fast rule as to any part with which books in Holy Writ should open. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 1)

 

Man as a rule does not allude to his low estate, except when he comes out of it and gets into an improved position. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 1)

 

The Sanhedrin sat at a table in the form of a half moon, or horseshoe, so that they were be able to see each other. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 1)

 

No man dies possessing half of what he wishes to possess. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 1)

 

In one sense there is an advantage in failing memory; if man’s memory did not fail, there would be no study of the Torah. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 1)

 

If the wind had unbridled sway, no human being could stand against it, but God limits its power so that it may not become injurious to mankind. The wind that destroyed Job’s property and that which caused shipwreck to Jonah were specially sent and confined to the places where they had to do their work of destruction. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 1)

 

Just all the waters run into the sea and the sea is not filled, so a man may be possessed of much knowledge and learning and not be overcharged. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 1)

 

 

Rabbi Janai and Rabbi Ishmael both agree that there is no such thing as Hell, but that the Lord will employ the sun to bestow punishment on the unrighteous and reward on the righteous. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 1)

 

The sun rises and the sun goeth down. Thus, before Sarah died there arose the sun of Rebecca. The sun of Athniel shone before that of Joshua set. So on the day when Rabbi Akiba died Rabbi Judah Hanasi was born, on the death of Rab Adda Rab Hamomonah saw the light) at Hamomonah’s death Rabbi Abbin came into the world; and on the day of R. Abbin’s death Abbé Hoshiah the man of Taria was born. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 1)

 

When Solomon says ‘the wise man’s eyes are in his head,’ he does not imply that the fool’s eyes are in his feet, but that the wise man can, at the start, foresee the consequence of every one of his actions. Rabbi Meier was in the habit of calling the finishing of a thing its beginning. (Midrash Ecclesiastes 1)

 

What wisdom considers to be her very crown, meekness looks upon as her mere sandal.(Midrash Songs 1)

 

Do not look upon a parable or simile lightly, for some difficult passages of Scripture may be explained through them, just as one may find anything lost in a dark place by the aid of a candle. (Midrash Songs 1)

 

 

From the point of view of religious observance one may say that poverty becomes the Jew. In poverty he is an observant Jew. Rabbi Akiba used to say, ‘Poverty becomes a Jew as a red bridle becomes a white horse.’ (Midrash Songs 1)

 

King Solomon’s mind may well be compared to a hidden treasure, of the existence of which no one was aware until an expert pointed out the spot and its contents. His was a most brilliant mind, lying dormant till it was inspired from above, and then he became a veritable light to the Torah in his exposition, by prose, poetry, and simile, of many of its obscure passages.(Midrash Songs I)

 

Formerly learning was a thing sought after, but now we are become spiritually sick, we grow dainty and choose only light reading or what we consider comforting and promising words. So a man when in robust health does not pick and choose his food, but when less robust he must have light morsels such as will tempt his appetite. (Midrash Songs 2)

 

Do not, like a simpleton, be deterred from study by thinking ‘How can I meet the formidable task of acquiring all that is to be known?’ Rather argue like a wise man, ‘Others have done it, so it can be done.’ Try a little by day and a little by night, and in the course of time your task will be accomplished. (Midrash Songs 5)

 

The Torah or knowledge increases, and the intellect becomes keener by proper study, and any difficult matter submitted to scholars will find solution, just as a structure will be satisfactorily erected by skilful workmen each contributing his own skill. (Midrash Songs 5)

 

 

 

The second Temple was deprived of the following five blessings which the first Temple had enjoyed: (1) The fire that came down from heaven for the altar. (2) The anointing oil. (3) The ark. (4) The Holy Spirit. (5) The Urim and Thummim. (Midrash Songs 8)

 

May the LORD God bless you in the name of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

 

 

SOURCE: Tales and Maxims from the Midrash, by Rabbi Samuel Rapaport 1907 (http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/tmm/tmm10.htm)

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