Rabbi Judah the
Prince lived in the Land of Israel in the Second Century C.E., and was famous
for his great wisdom. At that time the Land was ruled by the Roman Empire and
one day the Emperor Antoninus, hearing about the wisdom of Rabbi Judah, decided
to visit the Jewish leader in his home. The honorable guest arrived at noon on
the Sabbath, accompanied by his ministers, his counselors and his slaves, and
Rabbi Judah the Prince invited them all to have lunch with him. The table was
festively laid and the food was delicious, but cold, because the dishes had
been cooked before the Sabbath. To Rabbi Judah’s great surprise, the
emperor and his entourage enjoyed the meal so much that they asked for second
helpings, and left nothing over. So Rabbi Judah invited Antoninus for another
meal, and promised to prepare double the quantities of the food that the emperor
had found so palatable. The feast took place on Tuesday, and when Antoninus and
his entourage arrived, a table laden with fine dishes, fresh and hot, awaited
them. But nevertheless, the guests ate only a little, and didn’t ask for more.
When Rabbi Judah asked why, the emperor explained that although the food was
tasty this time too, it was not as delicious as the first time. “Of course the
food is less tasty today,” said Rabbi Judah. “At this meal, one spice is
missing.” What spice was that? The taste of the Sabbath of course, which there
was at the first meal, the Sabbath meal.
The Missing Spice is a well-known
Talmudic fable about the importance of the Sabbath, retold especially for
children by Devorah Omer.