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Shemayah and Avtalyon


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One of the disciples overheard this conversation and said, “G-d forbid that Rabi Shimon should be embarrassed; it would lead to the Prince’s disgrace.”

Feeling that it would be wrong to disclose the plot openly, he went and sat down outside of Rabi Shimon’s study and began expounding on Uktzin aloud, repeating it again and again.

Hearing this, Rabbi Shimon was perplexed. “What is going on?” he wondered. “Perhaps something is brewing at the college and this was done to call it to my attention.” He concentrated his attention on this tract and he soon knew it perfectly.

 

The Punishment The following day when the Rabi Shimon arrived, Rabi Meir arose and said, “Will the master teach us the tract Uktzin?” Rabi Shimon obliged and lectured on that subject. After he had finished, he said to them, “Had I not familiarized myself with this subject, you would have put me to public shame.” He thereupon gave the order to expel them. They did not take this lying down. They would write out questions on slips of paper and throw them into the beis medrash. When they could not be solved, they would write out the answers and send them back.

Rabi Jose arose and in an exasperated tone said, “The Torah is without (the knowledge is outside) and we remain within!”

Rabi Shimon, realizing that this might lead to open revolt, thereupon retracted his expulsion order and said, “Let them come back. However, they must be pun­ished that no halacha shall be reported in their name. They must not receive any credit for a law.”

Henceforth, Rabi Meir was named “Anonymous” and Rabi Natan, “Some say.” Sometime later, they both had dreams urging them to seek reconciliation with Rabi Shimon. Rabi Natan did so, but Rabi Meir did not, say­ing that dreams are not to be followed and are of no conse­quence.

When Rabi Natan finally came for reconciliation, Rabi Shimon said to him, “Granted that your father’s influence helped you to become the chief justice, but could it have helped you to become a prince?”

It was many years later that Rabi Shimon’s grandson returned the honor to Rabi Meir and quoted his name, say­ing, “It was said in the name of Rabi Meir.”

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