In the story of Yosef Mokir Shabbat, Yosef is a Jew who honors Shabbat above all, and ends up becoming very rich because of it.

There was a very rich Gentile who was told that all of his wealth would become Yosef's. He sold all his possessions and bought an extremely valuable pearl, which he kept in his hat. One day, the hat blew off while he was crossing a bridge, and a fish ate it. The fish was caught, Yosef bought it, and when he cut it open, he found the pearl inside. (Classic story, told in Masechet Shabbat 119a.)

But my question is, why did the Gentile buy a pearl? Surely he should have seen that a small thing like that is much more likely to get lost than his house full of wealth.

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    Probably for the same reason that people feel safer driving themselves than flying in a commercial airliner: the illusion of control.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Nov 7, 2014 at 14:15
  • 1
    Good job picking out an interesting detail of a story concerning the state of mind of a character that we may be more likely to dismiss as the foil.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Nov 7, 2014 at 14:43
  • 1
    Hindsight is 20/20 Commented Nov 7, 2014 at 16:36
  • 1
    Almost an example of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
    – o0'.
    Commented Nov 7, 2014 at 19:53
  • @scimonster Haaretz's interpretation of the Gentile and the pearl: haaretz.com/pearl-of-wisdom-1.27640.
    – JJLL
    Commented Nov 7, 2014 at 22:18

1 Answer 1


There are two advantages of a pearl over a house full of wealth:

  1. it can be locked in a place (sewn into his hat) that only he has access to (presumably he wouldn't share his hat) while he will have people in his house
  2. it is with him 24 hours a day as opposed to his house which he must leave.
  • But would someone come clear out his house while he's away? And certainly when you're talking about a pious Jew.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Nov 8, 2014 at 16:25

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