This is a question is referenced the Gemara or Mishna I think.

I believe in the mishna, or gemara there's a story about either Rebbe Yehuda or Rebbe Yosi(Or another head of the Beis Din).

The story goes that the Romans I believe, sent word to the Rebbe's court that the Rebbe was to be killed. They gave him a few days to ponder on it. His students urged him to go into hiding but he wanted to figure out if the decree was from Shamayim.

The Rebbe was trying to figure out the reason for the decree. One student said maybe you forgot to say shema one day, and the rebbe said no I never forgot shema. One student said maybe you forgot to put tefillin once, and the Rebbe said no I never forgot that. One student said maybe you issued a bad ruling, and the Rebbe said no I never issued a bad ruling. And then one student said maybe you didn't observe the laws of a widow once. And the Rebbe thought about it and said you know what? Once there was a widow that came to my court and I paused to take a sip of water before I heard her case.

The Rebbe realized at that moment that the decree was from shamayim and he was satisfied.

The exact rabbi, students responses, etc., and the details may be a little off.

I can't figure out where this story is. Do you have any idea where it's written or where it comes from? Which rabbi is it talking about?

If it's not in the Gemara or Mishna, if you can tell me which sefer that would be great. I'd like the volume, daf, page number, or whatever info you can give me. Thanks.

1 Answer 1


You're probably thinking of the story in tractate Semachos, one of the minor tractates

וכשבאו רשב״ג ורבי ישמעאל גזרו עליהם שיהרגו והיה רבי ישמעאל בוכה ור״ש אמר אברך בשתי פסיעות אתה נתן בחיקם של צדיקים ואתה בוכה [א״ל (וכי) אני בוכה על שאנו נהרגין](אלא על שאנו נהרגים) כשופכי דמים וכמחללי שבתות אמר לו שטא בסעודה היה יושב וישן ובאה אשה לשאול על נדתה על טהרות שלה ואמר לה השמש ישן הוא והתורה אמרה(שמות כב) אם ענה תענה אותו ומה כתיב והרגתי אתכם בחרב וי״א רשב"ג היה בוכה ורבי ישמעאל השיבו כדברים אלו

Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel and Rabbi Yishmael were subject to the death penalty [by the Romans].

Rabbi Yishmael cried and Rabbi Shimon answered him "In two steps you will be placed in the laps of the righteous, and you're crying?"

[Rabbi Yishmael answered] "I'm crying that we're being executed like murderers and Shabbos violators"

[Rabbi Shimon answered back] "Perhaps you were sitting in a meal, and were sleeping, and a woman came [to your house to] ask you about her Niddah, or any other purity Shaalos, and your assistant told her "He [(my master)]'s sleeping", and as the Torah said "If you shall torture her"..."I will kill you with the sword".

Some say that the conversation was inverted, and Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel was crying

  • +1 because I like the story. Thanks for sharing it with me. But this was specifically about the head of a beis din, or could have even been the head of the sanhedrin, that specifically made a widow wait while he paused for a glass of water. I'm pretty sure anyway. It had to do with making a widow wait. Where is that quote from the torah that says "if you torture her..."
    – JMFB
    Jan 7, 2016 at 8:22
  • זֹבֵחַ לָאֱלֹהִים, יָחֳרָם--בִּלְתִּי לַיהוָה, לְבַדּוֹ. כ וְגֵר לֹא-תוֹנֶה, וְלֹא תִלְחָצֶנּוּ: כִּי-גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם, בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם. כא כָּל-אַלְמָנָה וְיָתוֹם, לֹא תְעַנּוּן. כב אִם-עַנֵּה תְעַנֶּה, אֹתוֹ--כִּי אִם-צָעֹק יִצְעַק אֵלַי, שָׁמֹעַ אֶשְׁמַע צַעֲקָתוֹ. כג וְחָרָה אַפִּי, וְהָרַגְתִּי אֶתְכֶם בֶּחָרֶב; וְהָיוּ נְשֵׁיכֶם אַלְמָנוֹת, וּבְנֵיכֶם יְתֹמִים mechon-mamre.org/i/t/t0222.htm Jan 7, 2016 at 8:27
  • @JMFB could be that the woman who tried asking a Shaalah was a widow (and not an orphan, the story is not clear) Jan 7, 2016 at 8:28
  • @JMFB Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel was the head (Nasi) of the Sanhedrin, a higher position than the Av Beis Din Jan 7, 2016 at 8:32
  • I see what you're saying. I should have looked up in the hebrew and I would have seen the שמות כב. So you're thinking it was this story, hmmm... I'm gonna wait awhile and see if someone else has heard the story I was thinking of. It might be this one, but I was hoping it was more on point. I know Rabbi Yishmael was a Cohen Gadol, was he also the head of a court?
    – JMFB
    Jan 7, 2016 at 8:40

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