Rabbi Meir spoke to his students, saying, "Do not the sages say, Women are light headed? Turn your minds to masculine things; do not be caught in the frivolities of women."
Beruriah his wife heard him and mocked him, saying, "Light headed? Who is it who reminds you when you have misremembered scripture, Meir, and tells you when you have spelled words incorrectly and still has time to cook your dinner?" And she began to recite the law and the commentaries thereon without missing a word until the face of Rabbi Meir was as purple as a grape and his students were laughing behind their hands.
"Be quiet, woman," Rabbi Meir said. "Did not a sage say, I do not permit a woman to teach?"
"I believe that is attributed to Saul of Tarsus, who became a heretic," Beruriah said. "Do you have so much time with all the Jewish books in the world, Meir, that you have leisure to read the books of the Christians also? You will confuse your students!"
Perceiving her mockery, Rabbi Meir said, "You will yourself show the frivolity of women."
Thereafter he urged the most handsome of his students to seduce Beruiah, so that he could mock her feminine frailty. Again and again the student spoke with her, saying not that she was beautiful, for Beruriah would not be taken in by such compliments, but instead discussing the scriptures and the commentaries, saying she had a mind unlike those of other women.
"My mind is like that of other women," she said, "I merely speak up."
At last the student was overcome by shame and he told her that Rabbi Meir had set him on to seduce her, and Beruriah nodded, and covered her face with her veil, and told him to go. Then she called the serving boy whom she had lifted from his life of poverty and crime, and told him to wait some hours then to carry out her instructions.
That evening the boy rushed in tears to Rabbi Meir and cried out that Beruriah had hanged herself from shame and had been carried away by the town authorities, and he flung her veil, rent and filthy, at Rabbi Meir's feet. The students cried out, and watched as the most handsome of their number poured dust on his head and bewailed his part in the matter. Rabbi Meir tore his tunic in grief and before morning was gone, trying to outrun the scandal of what he had done. In his haste to leave he did not wait to ask for his wife's body to be released to him for burial, nor did he notice that her cloak and the books he had bought with her dowry were gone. For the rest of his days, he dwelt in Babylonia.
As for Beruriah, her story became a byword for the frailty of even educated women, and her death was spoken of, but a woman with a sharp tongue and a great knowledge of the scriptures and the commentaries thereon lived in another town far away, and taught all her learning to girls both rich and poor and to the young orphaned boy who had walked all though the land of Israel to serve the woman who had once seen him steal her roasted lamb.