Does anyone know of a story from תנ"ך \ גמרא \ or a famous Gadol or even some random Jew - where somebody acted like a smart aleck (אובר חכם) / know-it-all and it really caused them to mess up?

  • How about when Pharaoh decreed to throw all Jewish babies into the Nile, and that ended up leading to Moshe being raised and developed in his house Apr 12 at 21:02
  • 1
    @CuriousYid - i don't know if that would really be considered a smart aleck / know-it-all Apr 12 at 21:04
  • All the nations that came before Alexander the Great to make claims against the Jews and the Jewish elder who refuted their claims one by one.
    – Chatzkel
    Apr 12 at 21:13
  • Brachos 27b....
    – sam
    Apr 14 at 15:03

3 Answers 3


This first thing that jumps to mind is the sequence of well-known stories mentioned in שבת לא עמ' א as an extension of a previous discussion pertaining to:

(משלי כו:ד,ה) אַל תַּעַן כְּסִיל כְּאִוַּלְתּוֹ פֶּן תִּשְׁוֶה לּוֹ גַם אָתָּה: עֲנֵה כְסִיל כְּאִוַּלְתּוֹ פֶּן יִהְיֶה חָכָם בְּעֵינָיו

Where people approach Hillel and Shammai with some outrageous situations and requests.

In the first case, someone bets his friend 400 zuz that he can make Hillel angry. The person goes repeatedly to pester Hillel with farfetched questions while the latter is getting ready for Shabbos, only to find that Hillel patiently answers each question without anger. This causes the person a net-loss of 800 zuz in his own mind since he was so sure that he would win 400 zuz instead of losing 400 zuz.

  • How is that being a know-it-all / smart aleck? Apr 12 at 21:06
  • yes @Shalom L'olam - perhaps just the irritating part of smart-aleck as opposed to know-it-all - but perhaps the know-it-all part is that he thought he could make anyone, even Hillel, angry - perhaps considering himself an expert on human behavior.
    – EraserX
    Apr 12 at 21:07
  • which person are you considering a smart aleck? Apr 12 at 21:08
  • the person that tried to make Hillel angry.
    – EraserX
    Apr 12 at 21:08
  • You have an interesting P.O.V - but I don't know if I would really call it a smart aleck Apr 12 at 21:14

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein's family record that when he was 11 years old, he'd already completed several tractates of the Talmud. His uncle came to visit, and stood up when young Moshe entered the room. Rabbi Feinstein's father sent young Moshe on an errand out of the room, and then yelled at the uncle that this was no way to raise a kid, thinking he's the greatest thing ever; it would be harmful in the long run.


I don't know if this fits your definition of a smart aleck, but there is the story of David coming before King Achish and acting very weird. King Achish tells his servants:

Why did you bring him to me? Does it look like I don’t have enough lunatics [in my kingdom] that you have brought this one to carry on in my presence? [1 Samuel 21:15-16]

  • Did it backfire?
    – shmosel
    Apr 14 at 21:10
  • Similar: המבלי אין קברים במצרים
    – shmosel
    Apr 14 at 21:11

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