web analytics
April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
Kidz
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakai


Tales-of-The-Midrash-logo

Share Button

Why The Ear?

The great Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakai was once asked by a student, “Rebbe, I have a question which has puzzled me for some time. We find in the Torah a law concerning an eved Ivri, a Hebrew slave. He serves for six years and at the end of that time he may go free. Should he refuse, however, saying that he likes his master and prefers to remain with him, the tribunal takes him and makes a hole in his ear as a punishment.”

“This is true,” said Rabban Yochanan, “but what is there about it that you do not understand?”

“What troubles me is this,” answered the student. “Why is it the ear that is pierced? Was it not the tongue that declared that the slave did not wish to go free? Should not it – rather than the ear – be the organ that is pierced?”

“What you ask is very good and I shall tell you the answer. How does one become a slave? There are two ways: The first is being sold by the court because he stole and did not have money to pay back what he took. In this case it is the theft that caused him to be a slave.

“We tell this slave, this ear which heard the words at Har Sinai, Thou shalt not steal, and which disobeyed G-d’s commandment causing the man to become a slave, shall be pierced!

“On the other hand, there are people who sell themselves as slaves. Once again we tell such a person, this ear which heard the commandment of the Almighty, Unto Me are the Children of Israel slaves, and not slaves to other slaves, and which disobeyed G-d’s commandment shall be pierced.”

A Joint Holiday

Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakkai, as the leading rabbi of his time, would get into a great many discussions with pagans who attempted to contradict or attack the Torah. He would always answer them directly and to the point.

Once he was asked, “Both of us, Jews and Pagans alike, have holidays that are happy and call for thanksgiving. Nevertheless, our holidays never come out at the same time so that we might be happy and give thanks together on the same day for the same thing.”

Rabban Yochanan then said, “This is not really true. There is one day on which we both celebrate and rejoice together.”

“Tell me what that day is,” said the man, for I do not know to what you refer.”

“I refer to the times when rains have not fallen and the whole land was parched. All the people – Jew and pagan alike – looked to the sky for rain and on that great day when rain descended from heaven to water the parched earth, every man shouted for joy and proclaimed a holiday of thanksgiving to the Almighty. And this is what our Holy Scriptures say, the wheat fields are clothed with sheep, the valleys are wrapped with produce, they shall cheer and even sing forth, shout unto the L-rd All The Earth.”

Magic

Yet another time, Rabban Yochanan was approached by a pagan nobleman and asked, “Why do you claim that we have magic and sorcery when you yourself have this?”

When Rabban Yochanan heard this he asked, “Where in our holy Torah do you claim that we have laws that are magic and sorcery?”

“I will tell you,” answered the pagan. “In the Torah you have a certain commandment concerning a red cow. You burn its carcass and mix the ashes with water and then bring it before a man who has become defiled through contact with a corpse and you say to him, when the water is sprinkled on you it will make you pure.

“Now I ask you, is this not the magic and sorcery that you object to?”

“Let me explain this to you,” said Rabban Yochanan. “Have you ever seen a man who is mentally disturbed and it is said he has been invaded by an evil spirit?”

“Yes,” answered the man.

“Tell me, what do you do with this person in order to heal him from the evil spirit?”

“We burn incense and throw holy water upon him until the evil spirit leaves him,” replied the pagan.

“It is the same with this spirit – the impure spirit – which has made this person impure and whom we sprinkle with the water of the red cow until the spirit of defilement leaves him.”

When the man left, the students of Rabban Yochanan turned to him and asked, “This may be the answer which you have given the man but what is the true explanation which you can give us? How does the water of the red cow make a man pure from his impurity?”

And Rabban Yochanan answered, “Know you that is not the corpse that defiles and makes the man impure and neither is it the water of the red cow that makes him pure again. Rather it is the Holy One, Blessed Be He, who commanded us to do all this. He tells us, I have decreed this and you are not permitted to violate My decree.

Share Button

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

No Responses to “Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakai”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
BDS targets Zabar's; Carole Zabar promotes BDS proponents.
All in the Family: BDS Protests Zabars; Carole Zabar Promotes BDS
Latest Kidz Stories
Tales of the Gaonim-logo

“The mitzvah of drawing water for the baking of the matzah for the Seder comes only once a year. I do not care to share it with a horse.’’

Tales-of-The-Midrash-logo

“You speak foolishly, daughter, how is it possible for a man who has not eaten for 10 years to live?”

Tales of the Gaonim-logo

With enthusiasm, zemiros that had been purposefully collected for the evening were chanted.

Tales of the Gaonim-logo

Bnei Yisrael marched out of Mitzrayim with a mighty hand under their great leader Moshe. This was not, however, their first attempt to escape from Mitzrayim and return to the land that G-d had promised their fathers.

Rabi Pinchas’ piety and honesty were known far and wide. He would often say, “Even though our Sages (Yevamot 65b) declared that to preserve the peace, a person may change his words to fit the situation, I will never utter a false word regardless of the consequences.” If he heard that one of his followers had uttered a false word, he would expel him from his presence.

When Bnei Yisrael returned to their homeland they were a poor and weak group of people. Because of the great number of enemies and wild animals that had inhabited the land during their exile, they huddled together in a few areas, like Yerushalayim, in order to find protection.

But not everyone is destined to taste of the fruit of this world and to enjoy its vintage. Among the inhabitants of this town lived a poor man, Nachumka.

In the midst of his merrymaking, the king ordered his servants to bring out the golden vessels that were taken from the Beit HaMikdash by his father Nevuchadnezzar. The king and his men drank from them and praised the gods of gold and silver.

The Jewish people are hardly strangers to persecution and tyranny. When we hear of the complaints of other peoples, we smile bitterly and wonder: What do they know of persecution? What do they know of tragedy and bitterness? We are a people who have experienced oppression for centuries and have drunk deeply of the bitter cup of woe.

Although Daniel was the chief minister in Bavel, he could not eradicate the custom practiced in many provinces of worshipping idols. In the capital city there was a statue of Baal and more and more people began to worship it. Even the king was beginning to believe in its power.

There was once a tzaddik from Poland, Reb Velveli, who decided to settle in Eretz Yisrael. The land was poor and inhabited by very few people, but he and his wife had such love for the land that they were willing to suffer privation and hunger just to be one of its citizens.

Through the influence of Daniel, one of Nevuchadnezar’s ministers, his three companions, Chananiah, Mishael and Azariah were appointed as governors over various provinces in Bavel.

The stories concerning Rav Naftali of Ropshitz are quite numerous and reveal his sharp biting wit. Rav Naftali was often persecuted and sneered at by misnagdim but the sharp mind with which he was blessed always served him in good stead in finding proper answers.

In the third year of the reign of Yehoyakim, melech Yehuda, Nevuchadnezzar, melech Bavel, lay siege to Yerushalayim and conquered it. He took many treasures from the Beis HaMikdash back with him to the land of Shinar.

Reb Moshe Chaim Ephraim, the grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, was a deeply learned man who took his sources and admonitions from the Torah.

In the city of Antioch there lived a man of remarkable generosity by the name of Aba Yehudah. He was a man who gave to all, whenever there was a need. Rabi Yehoshua and several other rabbanim arrived in the city one day on an urgent mission to collect money for the unfortunate needy. They knew that Aba Yehudah always gave a generous contribution so they looked forward to seeing him.

More Articles from Rabbi Sholom Klass
Tales of the Gaonim-logo

“The mitzvah of drawing water for the baking of the matzah for the Seder comes only once a year. I do not care to share it with a horse.’’

Tales-of-The-Midrash-logo

“You speak foolishly, daughter, how is it possible for a man who has not eaten for 10 years to live?”

With enthusiasm, zemiros that had been purposefully collected for the evening were chanted.

Bnei Yisrael marched out of Mitzrayim with a mighty hand under their great leader Moshe. This was not, however, their first attempt to escape from Mitzrayim and return to the land that G-d had promised their fathers.

Rabi Pinchas’ piety and honesty were known far and wide. He would often say, “Even though our Sages (Yevamot 65b) declared that to preserve the peace, a person may change his words to fit the situation, I will never utter a false word regardless of the consequences.” If he heard that one of his followers had uttered a false word, he would expel him from his presence.

When Bnei Yisrael returned to their homeland they were a poor and weak group of people. Because of the great number of enemies and wild animals that had inhabited the land during their exile, they huddled together in a few areas, like Yerushalayim, in order to find protection.

But not everyone is destined to taste of the fruit of this world and to enjoy its vintage. Among the inhabitants of this town lived a poor man, Nachumka.

In the midst of his merrymaking, the king ordered his servants to bring out the golden vessels that were taken from the Beit HaMikdash by his father Nevuchadnezzar. The king and his men drank from them and praised the gods of gold and silver.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/kidz/midrash-stories/rabban-yochanan-ben-zakai/2012/10/25/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: