Once as they were journeying to Chesib (in Palestine), some of Rabbi
Akiva's disciples were overtaken by a band of robbers, who demanded to
know where they were going to. "We are going to Acco," was the reply;
but on arriving at Chesib, they went no farther. The robbers then asked
them who they were? "Disciples of Rabbi Akiva," they replied. Upon
hearing this the robbers exclaimed, "Blessed surely is Rabbi Akiva and
his disciples too, for no man can ever do them any harm." Once as Rabbi
Menasi was traveling to Thurtha (in Babylonia), some thieves surprised
him on the road and asked him where he was bound for. "For Pumbeditha,"
was the reply; but upon reaching Thurtha, he stayed and went no farther.
The highwaymen, thus balked, retorted, "Thou art the disciple of Yehuda
the deceiver!" "Oh, you know my master, do you?" said the Rabbi. "Then
in the name of God be every one of you anathematized." For twenty-two
years thereafter they carried on their nefarious trade, but all their
attempts at violence ended only in disappointment. Then all save one of
them came to the Rabbi and craved his pardon, which was immediately
granted. The one who did not come to confess his guilt and obtain
absolution was a weaver, and he was eventually devoured by a lion. Hence
the proverbs, "If a weaver does not humble himself, he shortens his
life;" and, "Come and see the difference there is between the thieves of
Babylon and the banditti of the land of Israel."
THE TALMUD, _Avodah Zarah_, fol. 26, col. 1.