Some recent talk about whether certain remarks were “uncalled for” or too aggressive – I am reminded of one of my favorite teshuvos from Rav Yosef Trani (16 Century Greece). The question, as I understand it, is about a certain fellow who is upset at several Sephardic communal leaders who had some of the members of their community counted amongst the Romanian community in the king’s ledger (the details are unclear, seems as though this would have put them in the Jurisdiction of that community). Those Sephardim were unhappy about this since they were not part of that community and therefore thought they would get worse treatment.
This fellow, who was advocating for these displaced Sephardim, while accusing these community leaders, invoked the verse from Joel 4:
ובני יהודה ובני ירושלם מכרתם לבני היונים למען הרחיקם מעל גבולם
And the sons of Judah and Jerusalem I have sold to the sons of Greece to distance them from their
Some of the people claim that this was going too far as it was implying that the Romanian Jewish community was like the Greeks.
Rabbi Yosef Trani basically answered that since the verse was quoted as a clever line – you can’t really blame him – or make implied innuendo about. In other words, chill out and learn how to take a joke! He then goes on to tell an interesting little story, which I doubt is recorded anywhere else.
Rabbi Yitzchok Abuhav (author of Menorat HaMaor) was blind in one eye. Once when he was in Portugal and was walking with two of his students. They got tired and sat for a bit on a rock near a bridge. One of his younger students passed by and asked to sit down. When he was granted permission he sat down and joked that the verse “on the one stone seven eyes” (Zacharia 3:9) had come to pass.
Apparently, Rabbi Abuhav’s response was that it’s a good thing the line was clever, otherwise he would’ve been in
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