רבי אבהו וריש לקיש הוו עללין לחדא מדינתא דקיסרין. אמר ליה רבי אבהו לר' שמעון בן לקיש מהו כן עלינן למדינתא דחירופיא וגידופיא. נחת ליה ריש לקיש מן חמריה וספא חלא ויהב בפומיה . אמר ליה מהו כן? אמר לו אין הקב"ה רוצה במי שאומר דילטורייא על ישראלMy unofficial translation:
Rabbi Abbahu and Reish (R' Shimon Ben) Laqish were on the way to one of the cities of Caesaria. Rabbi Abbahu said to R' Shimon Ben Laqish, "Why should we enter this city of revilers and blasphemers?" Reish Laqish dismounted his donkey, gathered some sand and stuffed it in Rabbi Abbahu's mouth. Rabbi Abbahu said, "Why did you that?" Reish Laqish said to him, "The Holy One Blessed Be He does not desire one who speaks ill of the people of Israel."Many in the Jewish community in Caesaria at that time were apparently thoroughly Hellenized. This truly pained the great Talmudic sage Rabbi Abbahu, and he said what he said. Reish Laqish taught Rabbi Abbahu a not so pleasant lesson in what constitutes proper speech and what does not. Rabbi Abbahu went on to be a Rosh Yeshiva, strangely enough, in Caesaria.
As we approach the Fast of Esther, let's keep the lesson of this Midrash in mind. For those who fast, may it be a meaningful one.