Three angry men presented themselves in King Solomon’s court.
“Your Majesty,” said the first, “the three of us are business partners. We went together on a business trip with a large sum of money.”
The second picked up the story. “Shortly before Shabbat, we hid the money in a pit we’d dug, planning to dig it up right after Shabbat.”
King Solomon listened attentively.It was gone!
“But when we went for it, it was gone!” said the third. “No one knew about it but us. One of us is a thief! My lord, I’d like for you to have each of us swear that he didn’t steal the money. That way we’ll find out which of us is the thief!”
But King Solomon was in no hurry to do that. He knew that the man who stole the money would also lie and swear falsely. How could he find out which of them was guilty?
“Return to me tomorrow,” he told the three.
When the partners presented themselves the next day, King Solomon said, “I can see that you three are wise men. Before we discuss your case, I would like your opinion about a different matter.”
King Solomon’s flattery worked like magic, and they waited eagerly to hear his problem.
“A boy and a girl grew up together, and swore to each other that when they were old enough, they would become husband and wife. At very least, they decided, they’d ask the other’s permission before marrying anyone else.
“Years passed. The girl, forgetting her oath, married someone else. Immediately after the wedding, she remembered her earlier commitment and told her husband about it. He said, ‘We can’t live as husband and wife until we find that boy and ask him to annul the oath that you swore to each other!’
“They took a large sum of money and set out to find her childhood friend. They found him and offered to pay him to annul the oath, but he was a good man, so he wished them a hearty mazal tov and refused the money.
“On their way home, the happy new couple was robbed. ‘Please give us back the money,’ the woman pleaded. She told the robber about how good her husband was, being so patient as to let her take care of her oath before they moved in together, and how good the boy she’d grown up with was for refusing to take the money. The robber was touched, and returned the purse.”
King Solomon looked at the three men, who couldn’t understand where all this was leading.
“My question is, which of the people in this story was the most praiseworthy?” asked the king.