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This is part of a series of questions on the Gemara in Bechoros 8b-9a. Below is a summary of the relevant parts of the Gemara. After being challenged by Caesar, R' Yehoshua went to Athens to defeat the Athenian Elders in a battle of wits.


After admitting defeat, the Elders were ushered onto a boat headed to Rome. Before leaving, he took a clump of Athenian dirt, and as they passed Bei Bli'i, a place whose waters "swallow" other waters to ensure the ocean doesn't overflow, he took a flask of its water.

Arriving in Caesar's palace, the Elders talked humbly, feeling nervous outside of their native land. After having some Greek dirt placed before them, though, they felt at ease and talked brazenly, as they would normally.

Caesar told R' Yehoshua to do with them as he wished for their crime of speaking such to the Emperor. R' Yehoshua gave them the flask and told them to fill it; they could leave once the job was done. Of course, since the waters therein swallow all other waters, it was impossible to fill it, and they continued pouring until their shoulders fell off.

Why did R' Yehoshua assign them the job of pouring water until it was full as their punishment? Was it just one last rub in the face about how much smarter he was than them, and to prove to Caesar in front of him how smart the Chachmei Yisrael are (which was how the whole story started, anyway)?

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