The Great Shout
When the foundation was laid for the Second Beis Hamikdash after the return from Babylonian exile to Eretz Yisrael there were mixed reactions.
On the one hand "all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised Hashem because the foundation of the House of Hashem was laid" (Ezra 3:11). "But many of the Kohanim and Levites and the chiefs of the families, old men who had seen the First House; when the foundation of this House was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; but many shouted for joy" (Ezra 3:12). This cacophony is summed up in the closing passage (Ezra 3:13): "The people could not distinguish the sound of the shout of joy from the sound of the weeping of the people; for the people shouted with a loud shout and the sound was heard far away."
Those Jews who had seen the glory of the First Beis Hamikdash wept because the second one seemed to be so much smaller. Although more than half a century had passed since the destruction of this Temple, the weepers, who were all already at an advanced age, represented the majority of the people present at this scene for it was the sound of their weeping which overpowered the sound of joy and was heard far away.
(When Ezra led another group back to Eretz Yisrael almost a quarter of a century later they offered sacrifices as an atonement for the sins of idol worship committed before the exile some 75 years earlier because most of them had been part of that generation!)
Once, on a business voyage, the great sage Rabbi Yehoshua found himself in the company of the head of the Sanhedrin, Rabbi Gamliel. The voyage took much longer than scheduled and Rabbi Gamliel's provisions of bread became inedibly stale and he was forced to subsist on the more durable flour which Rabbi Yehoshua had brought along for just such an emergency. When asked how he had anticipated such a delay caused by an error in navigation, Rabbi Yehoshua explained that a certain star appears once every seventy years (Halley's Comet?) and causes the seamen to miscalculate the course they chart by the regularly appearing stars and his provisions had been prepared for just such an emergency.
Rabbi Gamliel was so impressed by Rabbi Yehoshua's extraordinary wisdom that he wondered why such a scholar should be forced to go to sea to support himself. Rabbi Yehoshua's response was that there were two other scholars on shore who were so wise that they could calculate how many drops of water there were in the sea but could afford neither food nor clothing. Rabbi Gamliel then decided to appoint these sages to public office and when he landed he sent for them to inform them of the appointments. They initially hesitated to come and did so only after a second summons.
Realizing that their initial hesitation stemmed from a desire to avoid the honor of public office, Rabbi Gamliel told them: "You think I am conferring power upon you but in truth I am conferring servitude upon you (for public office makes a man a servant to the public - Rashi)."