What are some examples in the Talmud where it tells a story of one of the sages from the time of the Mishna or Gemara showing exceptional kindness that could be a good example to other people?

For this question, "exceptional" refers to behavior beyond that which the average person would do. For example, while an average person might give a homeless person some money, exceptional behavior would be to go out of one's way to provide extra goods for them or invite them into their house. And "good example" just means "good role model" here. For example, "This sage only slept 4 hours so he could make sure that he could cut enough firewood for the orphanage, let's learn from him to try harder to help orphans."

  • Pirkei Avot, for one lists several examples of being a Hassid, which in that context means someone who does more than the required halacha (not a person with a shtreiml and beard.) Midat Chassidut is generally encouraged. I think if you look there and extract a specific example of midat chassidut and apply this to your question, you may get better answers. Your definition of "above and beyond" seems vague.
    – DanF
    Aug 17, 2018 at 14:45

2 Answers 2


Mar Ukva and the pauper

The Talmud (Ketuboth 67b) tells an amazing story that teaches us to what extent a person must go to avoid putting another human being to shame. The Talmud relates that an extremely poor person lived in the neighbourhood of Mar Ukva, one of the Rabbis of the Talmud. The Rabbi would daily leave four coins behind the pauper's door so that the pauper did not know who his benefactor was. In this way, he would not be embarrassed if he met him. However, the pauper was curious to know who was being so kind to him. One day he decided to wait for his benefactor to arrive, so that he could catch him in the act and see who he was. That particular day, says the Talmud, Mar Ukva was late for the study hall and when he delivered the coins he was walking together with his wife. When the pauper saw the coins being delivered, he came out to see who was there. Mar Ukva and his wife sensed that they were being followed so they ran away and jumped into a hot stone oven to hide there. Mar Ukva's feet started to burn on the stones, whereas his wife's feet were unharmed. His wife said to him, "Put your feet on mine" and in this way he was saved from further burns. But Mar Ukva felt bad that this miracle had only happened to his wife and not to him. She explained to him that she merited this miracle because the level of loving kindness of her charity was greater than his. "I am at home and I provide food for the needy to eat immediately. But you give them money and they have to go themselves and buy food." Asks the Talmud, "Why did Mar Ukva and his wife have to run and hide in a hot stone oven?" The Talmud answers, "Because a person should rather let oneself get thrown into a burning furnace than put another person to shame".

source shemayisrael.com

  • 1
    I don't think this is really the best example. Plus the person who went "beyond" in this story was Mar Ukva's wife, who doesn't exactly fit the picture of "sages from the Talmud".
    – ezra
    Aug 17, 2018 at 4:12
  • @ezra Well then, what is the best example? You're free to add an answer!
    – Aaliyah
    Aug 17, 2018 at 18:51
  • @Aaliyah Unfortunately I'm not as well-versed with the many aggados and therefore I don't know of a better example, myself.
    – ezra
    Aug 17, 2018 at 19:05

Koheles Rabba 11,1 describes the piety of Rabbi Elazar ben Shamua the Tanna accorded to a poor gentile who had lost everything:

רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן שָׁמוּעַ הֲוָה מְטַיֵּיל עַל כֵּיף יַמָּא רַבָּה, חֲמָא אִילְפָא דְּמִיטָרְפָא בְּיַמָּא, כַּהֲרִיפַת עַיִן טְבַעַת וּטְבַע כָּל מַה דַּהֲוָה בָּהּ, חֲמָא חַד גְּבַר דִּיתֵיב עַל קוּרְשָׁא דִּסְפִינְתָּא, מִגַּלָּא לְגַלָּא סְלֵיק לְיַבֶּשְׁתָּא כַּד הוּא הֲוָה עַרְטִילָאי, וַהֲוָה מִיטַּמַּר בְּכֵיף יַמָּא הֲוָה עַל רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן שָׁמוּעַ שֶׁבַע אִיצְטַלְוָון, שְׁלַח חַד וְיַהֲבֵיהּ לֵיהּ, אוֹבְלֵיהּ לְבֵיתֵיהּ וְאוֹכְלֵיהּ וְאַשְׁקֵיהּ וִיהַב לֵיהּ תְּרֵין מָאוָון דִּינָרִין, וְאַרְכְּבֵיהּ אַרְבְּעָה עֲשַׂר פַּרְסִין, וַעֲבַד לֵיהּ יְקָרָא סַגִּי עַד דְּאַעְלֵיהּ לְבֵיתֵיהּ. לְבָתַר יוֹמִין מֵת קֵיסָר הָרָשָׁע וְאֵימַנּוֹ לֵיהּ מַלְכָּא תְּחוֹתֵיהּ אָמַר לֵיהּ אִית עִמִּי אַרְבַּעַת אַלְפִין דִּינָרִין, סַב יַתְהוֹן וְאִיתְרַחַם עֲלֵיהוֹן. אֲמַר לֵיהּ אַרְבְּעָה אַלְפִין הַלָּלוּ יְהוֹן לָךְ יְהִיבִין חֲלַף תְּרֵין מָאוָון דִּיהַבְתְּ לִי, וּמְדִינְתָּא כּוּלָּהּ תְּהֵא מִשְׁתַּזְּבָא בְּגִינָךְ, חֲלַף מֵיכְלָא וּמִישְׁתְּיָא דְּאוֹכֵלְתְּ וְאַשְׁקֵת יָתִי. וְעוּל לְבֵי גְּעָא וְגִנְזֵי דִּידִי וְסַב לָךְ שַׁבְעִין אִיצְטַלְוָון דִּלְבוּשָׁן, חֲלַף אִיצְטְלָא דִּיהַבְתְּ לִי, וְזִיל בִּשְׁלָם עַל אוּמָּתָךְ וְאַשְׁבִּיקִין בְּגִינָךְ, וּקְרוֹן עֲלוֹי: שַׁלַּח לַחְמְךָ עַל פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם

Rabbi Elazar Ben Shamua was strolling on the sea side, he saw a boat sinking in the sea and one man survived by grabbing hold of a wooden plank and slowly floated on the waves till he reached the shore. He was completely naked bereft of all his belongings, Rabbi Elazar who had 7 cloaks and gave this man one of them to cover himself, he took him to his house fed him and gave him to drink and gave him 200 dinars and rode him on his horse for 14 pharsangs (56km) till the man's house and accorded the man heaps of honour. After many years Ceasar died and this man became the the ruler of Rome and saved the city from being destroyed thanks to Rabbi Elazar, and he got payed back many times over for his kindness
Of this event They quoted about Rabbi Elazar (Koheles 11,1):"Send your bread on the face of the water for after many days you will retrieve it" i.e kindness is repaid

  • The OP asked for examples in the Talmud, not just about Talmudic figures.
    – DonielF
    Jun 6, 2019 at 21:37
  • 1
    @donielf the Talmud includes Braisa and Tosefta, the Midrash is composed out of either braisos or Meimros from Tannaim and Amoraim. If the questioner does indeed want only stories from the Talmud Bavli or Talmud Yerushalmi he can ping me and tell me what he mean :O)
    – user15464
    Jun 6, 2019 at 23:04
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    I find the example useful even though it's not a quote in the Talmud directly, thanks.
    – Aaliyah
    Jun 12, 2019 at 4:12

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