Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Jaspar Stone and Dama Ben Netina


In Judaism, sleep is considered as something very important. Not only because sleep is good for your health but also in regard to "not waking up a person in vain". One should respect a person sleeping and not constantly waking him up for no reason. 

The Talmud Yerushalmi (Peah 1:1) teaches us how to honour one's father by telling us about the Gentile DAMA BEN NETINA. The story which is also mentioned in Talmud Bavli - Kiddushin 31a, further teaches us how important sleep can be. 

The person who honoured his father most was actually vicious Esav. Despite all his evil deeds, Esav never forgot to honour his father Yaakov. For instance, he always put on clean clothes before standing in front of his father. 

In the days of the First Temple, a man called Dama Ben Netina used to live in Ashkelon. He was not Jewish and his family was supporting itself with two different businesses: 1. Dealing with diamonds 2. raising cattle and flocks of sheep. 

In the times of the First Temple, the High Priest (Cohen HaGadol) still wore the breastplate Urim ve’Turim. It disappeared after the Temple destruction by the Babylonians. I will digg deeper into the entire topic of the Urim veTurim in a different article. Here I am only mentioning briefly that the Cohen HaGadol used also used the breastplate for getting answers regarding complicated questions and issues. 

The breastplate consisted of twelve precious stones representing the twelve Jewish tribes. The Talmud tells us that once, the Jaspar stone representing the tribe of Benjamin got lost. Thus, a new Jaspar had to be found but this turned out to be very hard. No one seemed to own such a stone. After a while the Jews found out that the Gentile Dama Ben Netina owned a Jaspar.

Money was collected and a Jewish delegation travelled to Ashkelon in order to purchase the Jaspar from Dama. The latter received the Jews in his house but told them to be quiet, as his father was asleep. The Jews told him what had happened and Dama was willing to sell his Jaspar. However, the stone was laying in a safe and the key for the safe was under his father's pillow. Dama Ben Netina refused to wake up his father in order to get the key. 

The Jews kept on offering more and more money but Dama still refused. He said that it is not the money but a matter of honouring his father. The Jews were impressed and returned to Jerusalem. Some time later, a businessman was found who sold them his Jaspar. 

One or two years later, the Jews needed another "Parah Adumah - Red Hefer" for burning it in a special procedure on the Mount of Olives (see Talmud Tractate Parah). Such a cow must only have red hair and not hair of a different colour. It turned out that Dama Ben Netina had such a cow whose ashes are able to bring about spiritual cleansing. 

Again, the Jews went to see Dama and purchased the red cow. This time, the deal took place and Dama Ben Netina only asked for the amount the Jews had offered him before for the Jaspar.

What this story also teaches us is that sometimes we feel like loosing a business. At first we are not willing to agree due to moral reasons but, in the end, another deal may come up rewarding us for the loss. 


  1. torah un mitzvos torah un mitzvos

  2. good well known story