ו׳ בשבט ה׳תשע״ז (February 2, 2017)

Bava Batra 11a-b: The Treasure of His Ancestors

Closing the section on the subject of charity, our Gemara relates the story of King Munbaz, who gave away all of the money in his treasury as well as his ancestors’ treasures to the poor during a year of famine. When his actions were criticized by his brothers and his family, he responded that his forefathers had collected fortunes, but that his use of the money was better:

  • My fathers collected treasure below, I am collecting treasures above (based on Tehillim 85:12).
  • My fathers collected treasure where it can be stolen, I am collecting in a safe place (based on Tehillim 89:15)
  • My fathers stored treasure that did not earn interest, I am storing treasure that earns interest (based on Yeshayahu 3:10).
  • My fathers collected treasures of money, I am collecting treasures of souls (based on Mishlei 11:30).
  • My fathers stored treasure for others (for their heirs), I am storing treasure for myself (based on Devarim 24:13).
  • My fathers stored treasure for this world, I am storing treasures for the World-to-Come (based on Yeshayahu 58:8).

Munbaz was the king of Adiabene at the end of the Second Temple period. Adiabene was a small kingdom in the north of Syria on the banks of the Euphrates. In the generation prior to the destruction of the second Temple, Queen Helene, together with her sons Munbaz and Izats, began to study Torah with Jews who traveled through their kingdom, and eventually converted to Judaism. It appears that other members of the ruling elite did so, as well. Helene visited Jerusalem a number of times and made donations both to the Temple and to the destitute people living there. Her children followed in her footsteps, and even sent troops to support the Jewish uprising during the Great Revolt. Upon his mother’s death, Munbaz declined the position of monarch, allowing his brother to become king, but he took the throne upon his brother’s death. Stories about this family, including detailed accounts of their conversion, appear in Josephus. It appears that after his death, Munbaz was buried in the Graves of the Kings in Jerusalem together with other members of his family.

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