The Jewish Fairy Book (Gerald Friedlander)/Heavenly Treasures

The Jewish Fairy Book by Gerald Friedlander
III. Heavenly Treasures (from the Talmud)



IN the first century of the common era there was a King named Monobazus. He ruled over the land of Adiabene near Assyria. By birth a heathen, he ultimately embraced the Jewish religion. His example was followed by his wife Queen Helena, and their son Izates, who in time succeeded his father on the throne.

Now it happened, shortly after Monobazus became a Jew, that his subjects were sorely oppressed by a very severe famine. Many of the people died of starvation and want. When King Monobazus saw the plight of his people he opened the royal treasuries and distributed all his wealth among the unfortunate poor. His noble conduct displeased his rich relatives, who came to him in order to reproach him. They asked him: "Is it true that thou art thinking of opening the royal treasury of thy late father, our wise and beloved King?"

Monobazus: "It is quite true; in fact I have already opened all the royal treasuries."

Then they asked him: "May we inquire what purpose hast thou in view?"

Monobazus: "My purpose is to feed the starving poor in my kingdom."

This answer led them to say: "Thy fathers gathered treasures, but thou hast squandered them."

Monobazus: "My fathers laid up treasures upon earth, but I lay up treasures in Heaven. My fathers gathered them into treasuries over which the hand of man hath power; I have stored mine in a treasury over which the hand of man hath no power. My fathers gathered that which bears no fruit, whilst I have gathered that which yields fruit. My fathers gathered wealth: whilst I have gathered souls. My fathers gathered for this world; I have gathered for the world to come, even as it is said in Holy Writ.—'Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but charity delivereth from death'" (Prov. x. 2).

Palestinian Talmud, Peah i, 1, 15b.