Guest post by Sarah Yehudit Schneider
A Teaching based on R. Tsadok HaKohen
Tsidkat HaTsadik #231
R. Yanai was journeying on the road when a man approached him and, with great enthusiasm, invited R. Yannai to his home for a meal. R. Yannai accepted the invitation. In the course of the meal R. Yannai probed the man’s literacy. Was there knowledge of Talmud? No. Medresh? No. Mishna? No. Scripture? No. As the meal concluded R. Yannai asked his host to recite the Grace after Meals for them. The man declined and deferred to R. Yannai. R. Yannai then asked the man if he could repeat the words that R. Yannai would speak. The man said he could and would. R. Yannai then (rudely) spoke the following sentence for him to repeat: “A dog has eaten of Yannai’s bread.”
The man grabbed R. Yannai by his collar and accused R. Yannai of theft: “You have stolen my inheritance, and are withholding it from me.” R. Yannai was shocked: “What inheritance is that,” he responded. The man answered that he had once passed by a school where children were memorizing scripture and the verse they were reciting was: “Moshe conveyed the Torah to us—an inheritance to the congregation of Yaakov.” The man challenged R. Yannai: “It does not say ‘congregation of Yannai’ but ‘congregation of Yaakov.’”
R. Yannai asked the man: “What earned you the merit of sharing a meal with me?” The man answered: “Never in my life have I repeated lashon hara, and never have I ever seen people quarrelling without making peace between them.”[Vayikra Rabba 9:3]
And so it is time to reclaim our inheritance from the extremists who are stealing it from us, distorting it beyond recognition, and using it as a club. Who are unilaterally decreeing that whole branches of our rich, complex, and paradoxical tradition are no longer daas Torah. We need to speak up and repossess our inheritance from the zealots like the man in this story. “You are stealing our inheritance. It is ours as much as yours…and WE are the (no longer silent) majority. It is ‘the inheritance of the entire congregation of Yaakov…NOT the congregation of zealots.’”
R. Tsadok uses this teaching to show how every Jew is a gadol in some area of Torah and an ignoramous in others. R. Yannai was a gadol in Talmud and an ignoramous is derekh eretz. His host, the opposite.
We cannot wait for leaders to speak up. We don’t have those kinds of leaders today. The people themselves have to take the lead, claim their truth, and speak it to the world. We cannot allow our precious inheritance to be hijacked and publicly degraded.
Thank you R. Eidensohn and R. Adlerstein for starting the process and providing the forum.
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