He was a talented poet and storyteller, and it is said that at the wedding feast of Simeon, the son of Rabbi, he kept the guests captivated with fables until their food got cold. The Jerusalem Talmud contains a prayer he wrote and included in the repetition of the 18th section of Thanksgiving in the Amidah. However, his satirical wit (he once ridiculed the son-in-law of Rebbi by telling him to ask Rebbi a riddle that really was an insulting criticism of Rebbi’s household), lost him the chance to be ordained.
He was unusual in his time for recommending the study of Greek, which was commonly rejected as the language of the heathens. He is reported as saying to his disciples (Gen. R. 36:8): “Let the words of Torah be said in the language of Japheth [Greece].” He also encouraged the study of the natural sciences, saying “Whosoever can calculate the movements of the solstices and planets, but fails to do so, to him is applied the verse ‘But they regard not the works of the Lord’." (Shabbat 75a) (Isaiah 5:12)