Thursday, August 24, 2023

Talmid chochom is not necessarily kind and merciful

 Taanis  (24a) Thereupon R. Ashi enquired: Did you not frequent the discourses of R. Jose of Yokereth? He replied: Yes. R. Ashi then asked him: Why did you leave him, Sir, and come here? He replied: How could the man who showed no mercy to his son and daughter show mercy to me?
       What happened to his son? Once R. Jose had day-labourers [working] in the field; night set in and no food was brought to them and they said to his son, ‘We are hungry’. Now they were resting under a fig tree and he exclaimed: Fig tree, fig tree, bring forth thy fruit that my father's labourers may eat. It brought forth fruit and they ate. Meanwhile the father came and said to them, Do not bear a grievance against me; the reason for my delay is because I have been occupied up till now on an errand of charity. The labourers replied, May God satisfy you even as your son has satisfied us. Whereupon he asked: Whence? And they told him what had happened. Thereupon he said to his son: My son, you have troubled your Creator to cause the fig tree to bring forth its fruits before its time, may you too be taken hence before your time!
       What happened to his daughter? He had a beautiful daughter. One day he saw a man boring a hole in the fence so that he might catch a glimpse of her. He said to the man, What is [the meaning of] this? And the man answered: Master, if I am not worthy enough to marry her, may I not at least be worthy to catch a glimpse of her? Thereupon he exclaimed: My daughter, you are a source of trouble to mankind; return to the dust so that men may not sin because of you. He also had an ass. When it was hired out for the day [the people who hired it] would place, in the evening, the hire on its back and the ass would make its way home to its master. If, however, the money was too much or too little, it would not go. One day a pair of sandals were left on its back and the ass would not move until they were removed and only then did it proceed.

Shabbos (33b) For R. Judah, R. Jose, and R. Simeon were sitting, and Judah, a son of proselytes, was sitting near them. R. Judah commenced [the discussion] by observing, ‘How fine are the works of this people! They have made streets, they have built bridges, they have erected baths.’ R. Jose was silent. R. Simeon b. Yohai answered and said, ‘All that they made they made for themselves; they built market-places, to set harlots in them; baths, to rejuvenate themselves; bridges, to levy tolls for them.’ Now, Judah the son of proselytes went and related their talk, which reached the government. They decreed: Judah, who exalted [us], shall be exalted, Jose, who was silent, shall be exiled to Sepphoris; Simeon, who censured, let him be executed.

       So they went and hid in a cave. A miracle occurred and a carob-tree and a water well were created for them. They would strip their garments and sit up to their necks in sand. The whole day they studied; when it was time for prayers they robed, covered themselves, prayed, and then put off their garments again, so that they should not wear out. Thus they dwelt twelve years in the cave. Then Elijah came and stood at the entrance to the cave and exclaimed, Who will inform the son of Yohai that the emperor is dead and his decree annulled? So they emerged. Seeing a man ploughing and sowing, they exclaimed, ‘They forsake life eternal and engage in life temporal!’ Whatever they cast their eyes upon was immediately burnt up. Thereupon a Heavenly Echo came forth and cried out, ‘Have ye emerged to destroy My world: Return to your cave!’ So they returned and dwelt there twelve months, saying, ‘The punishment of the wicked in Gehenna is [limited to] twelve months.’ A Heavenly Echo then came forth and said, ‘Go forth from your cave!’ Thus.’; they issued: wherever R. Eleazar wounded, R. Simeon healed. Said he to him, ‘My son! You and I are sufficient for the world.’

Eiruvin(21b)  His locks are curled. This, said R. Hisda in the name of Mar ‘Ukba, teaches that it is possible to pile up mounds of expositions on every single stroke [of the letters of the Torah]; and black as a raven: With whom do you find these? With him who for their sake rises early [to go] to, and remains late in the evening [before returning home from] the schoolhouse.1 Rabbah explained: [You find these only] with him who for their sake blackens his face like a raven. Raba explained: With him who can bring himself to be cruel to his children and household like a raven, as was the case with R. Adda b. Mattenah. He was about to go away to a schoolhouse when his wife said to him, ‘What shall I do with your children?’ — ‘Are there’, he retorted: ‘no more herbs in the marsh?’


  1. The best part is when Rashbi is critical of the Romans - i.e. he saw their purpose was not purely to improve civil structures. (in Latin the word fornix is both an arch and brothel).
    However, the title suggests that... perhaps this is a non Jewish trait?

  2. How far can we go in responding to this, without a) being banned, b) being heretics?

  3. "Why did you leave him, Sir, and come here? He replied: How could the man who showed no mercy to his son and daughter show mercy to me? "

    Whoever made this statment was using logic and a gut feeling. That is why one has to consider the actions and background , even of a Gadol, before accepting what they say.

  4. I wrote an essay about this years ago - the idea of conflating Torah knowledge with being a good person. We seems to have this standard: Ploni is holy because he sits an learns all day. Beats his wife and kids, lies to the government to get free money, but boy can he shteig and he fasts every Sunday too!


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