It was said of Rabbi Tarphon, that though a very wealthy man, he was not charitable according to his means. One time Rabbi Akiba said to him. “Shall I invest some money for thee in real estate, in a manner which will be very profitable?” Rabbi Tarphon answered in the affirmative, and brought to Rabbi Akiba four thousand denars in gold, to be so applied. Rabbi Akiba immediately distributed the same among the poor. Some time after this Rabbi Tarphon met Rabbi Akiba, and asked him where the real estate which he had bought for him was situated. Akiba led his friend to the college, and showed him a little boy, who recited for them the 112th psalm. When he reached the ninth verse, “He distributeth, he giveth to the needy, his righteousness endureth forever.”
“There,” said Akiba, “thy property is with David, the king of Israel, who said, ‘he distributeth, he giveth to the needy.’”
“And wherefore hast thou done this?” asked Tarphon.
“Knowest thou not,” answered Rabbi Akiba, “how Nakdimon, the son of Guryon, was punished because he gave not according to his means?”
“Well,” returned the other, “why didst thou not tell me this; could I not have distributed my means without thy aid?”
“Nay,” said Akiba, “it is a greater virtue to cause another to give than to give one’s self.”
Rabbi Jochanan, the son of Lakkai, was once riding outside of Jerusalem, and his pupils had followed him. They saw a poor woman collecting the grain which dropped from the mouths and troughs of some feeding cattle, belonging to Arabs. When she saw the Rabbi, she addressed him in these brief words, “O Rabbi, assist me.” He replied, “My daughter, whose daughter art thou?” “I am the daughter of Nakdimon, the son of Guryon,” she answered.
“Why, what has become of thy father’s money?” asked the Rabbi; “the amount which thou didst receive as a dowry on thy wedding day?”
“Ah,” she replied, “is there not a saying in Jerusalem, ’The salt was wanting to the money?’”
“And thy husband’s money,” continued the Rabbi; “what of that?”
“That followed the other,” she answered; “I have lost them both.”
The Rabbi turned to his scholars and said:—
“I remember, when I signed her marriage contract, her father gave her as a dowry one million golden denars, and her husband was wealthy in addition thereto.”
The Rabbi sympathized with the woman, helped her, and wept for her.
“Happy are ye, oh sons of Israel,” he said; “as long as ye perform the will of God naught can conquer ye; but if ye fail to fulfill His wishes, even the cattle are superior to ye.”
Nachum, whatever occurred to him, was in the habit of saying, “This too is for the best.” In his old age he became blind; both of his hands and both of his legs were amputated, and the trunk of his body was covered with a sore inflammation. His scholars said to him, “If thou art a righteous man, why art thou so sorely afflicted?”