Honor Your Parents

Long ago, in Eretz Yisrael, lived a man named Dima ben Netina. Dima ben Netina was not Jewish, but he lived in Jerusalem, among many Jewish people. Dima ben Netina was a jeweler; he bought and sold both precious and semi-precious stones, and made jewelry for those who could afford his beautiful wares. Dima ben Netina was known to be a diligent and honest man, and so it was to him that a group of rabbis came one day.

In those days, there was a great and glorious Temple in Jerusalem. The first Temple had been built by King Solomon, the wise son of King David. It was a place for Israel to bring sacrifices and learn Torah; it was a house of worship. After it was destroyed by the Babylonians, Jerusalem lay in ruins for several generations. But then Jews returned from Exile in Babylonia and, together with the Jews who had remained in Eretz Yisrael since the Destruction, they rebuilt the Temple, but bigger and more glorious than it had been. There the priests continued to bring sacrifices each day, and the people brought their first fruits and donations for the priests. The High Priest wore special garments described in the Torah when he officiated at the Temple, including a breastplate encrusted with twelve stones: one representing each of the twelve tribes of Israel.

On this particular day, three rabbis entered Dima ben Netina's shop in search of a ruby for the High Priest's breastplate. They had heard that Dima ben Netina was in possession of the finest ruby one could buy, and they considered this suitable for the breastplate worn by the High Priest. When they entered his shop, they found Dima ben Netina quietly working at his workbench. His elderly father was asleep, napping on a large trunk in the back corner of the shop. No one else was in the shop.

"We hear you have a magnificent ruby for sale, Dima ben Netina," said on the rabbis, "And we would like to buy it."

Dima ben Netina glanced as his sleeping father, turned back toward the rabbis, and shook his head. "I'm sorry. I cannot sell it to you," he replied.

"We are prepared to offer you 300 gold coins," continued the rabbi.

"I cannot sell it to you," repeated Dima ben Netina.

The rabbis realized that they would have to bargain for the ruby, but since it was such a magnificent stone, they offered Dima ben Netina 500 gold coins for it, though they were not sure it was worth this much.

Again, Dima ben Netina shook his head. He seemed sad when he responded, "No, I cannot sell it."

The rabbi grew quite angry. They felt that Dima ben Netina was trying to extort a very high price from them, knowing how much they needed the ruby for the High Priest's breastplate. "We will offer you 600 gold coins, but that is the most we can possibly offer," said one rabbi.

But Dima ben Netina only shook his head sadly.

This angered the rabbis so much that they began shouting. "How could you ask such a high price! It is robbery!" they exclaimed.

All the noise woke Dima ben Netina's father, who yawned, stretched, and arose from the trunk. "What all the noise about?" he asked sleepily.

"Ah," smiled Dima ben Netina in relief. "Now I can sell you the ruby you desire."

He walked over to the trunk, where his father had been sleeping only moments before, lifted the lid, and removed a large ruby, perfect ruby. He handed it to the rabbis.

"I will sell you the ruby at your first price of 300 coins, for that was a fair price," Dima ben Netina said.

The rabbis realized at the moment what had happened. Dima ben Netina respected his father so much, that he had been unwilling to wake him from his nap, even for a profit of 600 gold coins.

"Would that everyone obeyed the commandment to 'Honor your parents' as Dima ben Netina does!" remarked one rabbi, and they paid him his 300 gold coins, thanked him, and left his shop.

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