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Sunday, June 29, 2003


" . . . the Talmud quotes a very instructive legal action – which has a direct bearing on this matter. Two people walking along the road find a piece of cloth. One of them says: "I found it. It is mine." But the other says: " No, that is not true. I found the cloth, and it is mine." The judge to whom they appeal cuts the cloth in two, and each of these obstinate folk gets half.

But there is another version of this action. It is only one of the two claimants who is obstinate; the other, on the contrary, has determined to make the world wonder at this magnanimity. So he says: " We both found the cloth, and therefore I ask only a half of it, because the second belongs to B. But B. insists that he found it, and that he alone is entitled to it. In this case, the Talmud recommends a wise Judgment, that is, how very disappointing to our magnanimous gentleman.

The judge says: "There is agreement about one half of the cloth. A. admits that it belongs to B., so it is only the second half that is in dispute. We shall, therefore divide this into two halves. And the obstinate claimant gets three-quarters of the cloth, while the ”gentleman" has only one quarter, and serve him right.

It is a very fine thing to be a gentleman, but it is no reason for being an idiot. Our ancestors knew that. But we have forgotten it."

from "The Ethics of the Iron Wall" --1923