Fretful Porpentine, in the “Eppur, si mouve!?” thread, asks:
Let it not be said that I am not obliging. (Oh, go ahead, say it. See if I care. :().
Shmuel HaKatan was a Talmudic sage of the Second Temple period, said to have been a disciple of Hillel the Elder. Few of Shmuel’s Aggadot, and none of his Halakhot, are explicitly preserved in the Babylonian or Jerusalem Talmuds, but his spirit prevades both. Perhaps the most noted incident involving him is recorded in tractate Sanhedrin, where he is said to have confessed crashing a meeting of the court of seven (that intercalated the year, the highest court in Jewish ritual law) in order to avoid the public shaming of the real culprit.
“HaKatan” means “the little” in Mishnaic Hebrew; Shmuel is said to earned this epithet either because he was “little less in stature than Shmuel of Ramah” (the prophet Samuel), or because he “made himself small out of humility”. An Israeli correspondent of mine noted that in modern Hebrew, “hakatan” is a vulgarism for…ahem…a certain part of the male anatomy. I replied that this showed a serious self-image problem among Israelis.
Shmuel had no sons; thus, the quote making up my sig was spoken at his eulogy by Rabban Gam(a)liel ben Shimon I, Hillel’s grandson, who briefly appears in the Christian Acts of the Apostles.
“Kings die, and leave their crowns to their sons. Shmuel HaKatan took all the treasures in the world, and went away.”