Tales : Charity and the Snake

Rabbi Akiva, who came to be known as the ‘Chief of the Sages,’ started life in a very humble way. He was an illiterate shepherd, when Rachel, a daughter of a wealthy man, seeing good qualities in him, told him that if he would learn to read and study the Torah, she would consent to marry him. As might be expected, her father was furious at her choice, and disowned her. Consequently the couple had to endure many years of poverty before their circumstances changed.

It is said that when a daughter was born to Rabbi Akiva and Rachel, astrologers declared that she would die on her wedding night from the bite of a venomous snake. “Perhaps, and perhaps not,” said Rabbi Akiva. “Only the Almighty knows.”

The years passed, the daughter grew, and then it was time for her to marry. On the night of her wedding she took off a brooch and stuck it in the wall of the bedroom. In the morning, when she pulled the brooch from the wall, she found that the pin had pierced and killed a small but deadly serpent.

Hearing of this, Rabbi Akiva asked her, “Did you do anything unusual yesterday?”

The daughter replied, “A poor man came to our door yesterday. Everyone was busy with the feasting, and there was no one to attend to him. So I took the portion of food that had been given to me and gave it to him.”

And hearing this, Rabbi Akiva repeated the saying from Proverbs, : ‘…Charity delivers from death.’

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