Bava Basra 128 - 134
The son of Rabbi Yosef ben Yoezer was not behaving properly so his father disinherited him by donating a pitcher full of coins to the Sanctuary. When this son's wife was later recuperating from childbirth he bought her a fish to eat. Upon cutting open the fish he found inside a precious pearl. His first impulse was to offer it for sale to the king for use in one of his crowns. His wife, whose father was the king's crown maker, discouraged him from doing so because she knew that the king would pay only a paltry sum for it. She urged him instead to sell it to the Sanctuary. The Sanctuary officials evaluated it at thirteen pitchers of coins but informed him that their treasury only possessed seven such units. He told them to give him the seven they had and to accept the remaining six due to him as a donation to the Sanctuary.
The Sages were divided in their attitude towards the initial action taken by the father and the later action of the son. One opinion looked favorably upon the father's disciplinary move towards the son and saw it as a motivating force for getting the son to improve his behavior. According to this view it was duly recorded in the Sanctuary records that "the father donated one and the son six." The other school of thought looked askance at the father's action which proved to be futile in improving the son who emptied out the Sanctuary coffers, an inconsiderate move critically recorded as "the father donated one and the son took seven."
The final word on this controversy is contained in the counsel which the Sage Shmuel gave to his disciple Rabbi Yehuda:
"Don't be amongst those who disown a child, even to switch inheritance from a bad son to a good one, because you must always consider the possibility that the bad one may have good children deserving of your inheritance."
- Bava Basra 133b
The Burning Bird
The Sage Hillel had eighty disciples. Thirty of them were deserving of the Divine Presence surrounding them. Thirty others were deserving of the sun standing still as it did for Yehoshua. The greatest of them all was Rabbi Yonasan ben Uziel. It was said of him that when he sat learning Torah a bird flying overhead would be burned.
Two of the explanations offered for this phenomenon are:
- The heavenly angels would gather around him to hear his Torah and it was their fiery presence which consumed the bird (Rashi).
- His Torah study was a joyous recreation of the giving of the Torah at Sinai, including the fire which surrounded the mountain top and now consumed the bird (Tosefos).
- Bava Basra 134a