1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 And after agreeing with the workers for the standard wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 When it was about nine o’clock in the morning, he went out again and saw others standing around in the marketplace without work. 4 He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and I will give you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went. When he went out again about noon and three o’clock that afternoon, he did the same thing. 6 And about five o’clock that afternoon he went out and found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why are you standing here all day without work?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go and work in the vineyard too.’ 8 When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages starting with the last hired until the first.’ 9 When those hired about five o’clock came, each received a full day’s pay. 10 And when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But each one also received the standard wage. 11 When they received it, they began to complain against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last fellows worked one hour, and you have made them equal to us who bore the hardship and burning heat of the day.’ 13 And the landowner replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am not treating you unfairly. Didn’t you agree with me to work for the standard wage? 14 Take what is yours and go. I want to give to this last man the same as I gave to you. 15 Am I not permitted to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”
And Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: These are people who are considered important [yekarim] in this world and unimportant [kefuyim] in the World-to-Come. This is like the incident involving Rav Yosef, son of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, who became ill and was about to expire. When he returned to good health, his father said to him: What did you see when you were about to die? He said to him: I saw an inverted world. Those above, i.e., those who are considered important in this world, were below, insignificant, while those below, i.e., those who are insignificant in this world, were above. He said to him: My son, you have seen a clear world. The world you have seen is the true world, as in that world people’s standings befit them. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi asked: And where are we, the Torah scholars, there? Rav Yosef responded: Just as we are regarded here, so are we regarded there.