On the deposition of Rabbon Gamliel, Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah was chosen as his successor to the presidential chair of the academy. On being told of his elevation, he consulted with his wife as to whether or not he should accept the appointment. "What if they should depose thee also?" asked his wife. He replied, "Use the precious bowl while thou hast it, even if it be broken the next." But
she rejoined, "Thou art only eighteen years old, and how canst thou at such an age expect folks to venerate thee?" By a miracle eighteen of his locks turned suddenly gray, so that he could say, "I am as one of seventy."
Berachoth, fol. 27, col. 2.
The Rabbis have taught that Shimon Happikoli had arranged the eighteen benedictions before Rabbon Gamliel at Javneh. Rabbon Gamliel appealed to the sages, "Is there not a man who knows how to compose an imprecation against the Sadducees?" Then Samuel the Little stood up and extemporized it.
Ibid., fol. 28, col. 2.
The "imprecation against the Sadducees" stands twelfth among the collects of the Shemoneh Esreh. It is popularly known as "Velamaleshinim" from its opening words, and is given thus in modern Ashkenazi liturgies:--"Oh, let the slanderers have no hope, all the wicked be annihilated speedily, and all the tyrants be cut off, hurled down and reduced speedily; humble Thou them quickly in our days. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who destroyest enemies and humblest tyrants." There has been much misconception with regard to this collect against heretics. There is every reason to believe it was composed without any reference whatever to the Christians. One point of interest, however, in connection with it is worth relating here. Some have sought to identify the author of it, Samuel the Little, with the Apostle Paul, grounded the conclusion on his original Hebrew name, Saul. They take Paulus as equal to pusillus, which means "very little" or "the less," and answers to the word Hakaton, a term of similar import. Samuel, however, died a good Jew (see Semachoth, chap. 8), and Rabbon Gamliel Hazaken and Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah pronounced a funeral oration at his burial. "His key and his diary were placed on his coffin, because he had no son to succeed him." (See also Sanhedrin, fol. 11, col. 1.)
Eighteen denunciations did Isaiah make against the people of Israel, and he recovered not his equanimity until he was able to add, "The child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honorable" (Isa. iii. 5).
Chaggigah, fol. 14, col. 1.
The Rabbis have related that there was once a family in Jerusalem the members of which died off regularly at eighteen years of age. Rabbi Yochanan ben Zacchai shrewdly guessed that they were descendants of Eli, regarding whom it is said (1 Sam. ii. 25), "And all the increase of thine house shall die in the flower of their age;"
and he accordingly advised them to devote themselves to the study of the law, as the certain and only means of neutralizing the curse. They acted upon the advice of the Rabbi; their lives were in consequence prolonged; and they thenceforth went by the name of their spiritual father.
Rosh Hashanah, fol. 18, col. 1.
Eighteen handbreadths was the height of the golden candlestick.
Menachoth, fol. 28, col. 2.