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September 19, 2014 / 24 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Rabi Shimon’

The Story of Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Lag B’Omer is the yahrzeit (anniversary of the death) of Rabi Shimon bar Yochai. Thousands visit his grave in Meron to pay homage to this tzaddik and leader in Israel.

Rabi Shimon was well-known as a man who performed miracles. As a disciple of the great Rabi Akiva, he carried on the tradition of Torah. In his earlier years, Rabi Shimon and his father advocated cooperating with the Roman government. They did not participate in the revolt of Bar Kochba and they adhered to the policy of Rabi Yehoshua, who was opposed to the use of force.

However, following the revolt, the Roman government began a vicious campaign against the Jews, making every effort to annihilate them and to prohibit them from practicing their religion. When they murdered Rabi Akiva, Rabi Shimon turned bitterly against them.

Two years following Rabi Akiva’s death (126 C.E.), the Sages of Israel gathered in the garden of Yavneh to discuss the decrees of the Romans. Among the sages were Rabi Yehuda ben Ilai, Rabi Yosi and Rabi Shimon bar Yochai. Seated within the group was Yehuda ben Geirim.

Rabi Yehuda opened the conference by lauding the greatness of the Roman empire. “Look how beautiful are the deeds of the Romans,” he said. “They build market places, bridges and bath houses.”

Rabi Yosi remained silent. But Rabi Shimon bar Yochai vehemently denounced this. “What they have built was for their own selfish purposes,” he exclaimed. “They created market places and bath houses for immodest socialization and the bridges so as to charge tolls.”

Rabi Shimon Condemned To death

Yehuda ben Geirim repeated this conversation to some important officials and it soon reached the ears of the Roman government. A decree was immediately issued honoring Rabi Yehuda for his kind words on behalf of the government. Rabi Yosi, who remained silent, was sent into exile and Rabi Shimon, who dared to talk against the government, was condemned to death.

Rabi Shimon and his son hid in the beis medrash. Every day his wife brought food to his hiding place. When the government began to seek him out, Rabi Shimon decided not to jeopardize his wife, who would be tortured into revealing his hiding place. So, he and his son escaped out of town and hid in a cave.

A miracle occurred in the cave. A stream of water bubbled forth and a carob tree began to grow. The fruit of the tree sustained them while they learned Torah together. During the day, they removed their clothes and sat in the sand up to their necks. When it came time to daven, they put on their clothes and afterwards removed them. In this way they managed to preserve their clothes.

For 12 years they remained in the cave until one day, Eliyahu HaNavi came to the entrance of the cave and exclaimed, “Know you that the Roman king has died and all of his decrees have become void.”

They went out of the cave and saw people ploughing and tilling their lands. “Look,” they exclaimed, “these fools leave aside the true world and occupy themselves with the foolishness of this world.” They cast an evil spell upon them and the men died.

They Return To The Cave

A voice rang out from heaven. “Return to your cave. I did not allow you to leave to destroy My world.”

They returned to the cave and remained there for another 12 months. At the end of that time they prayed to G-d. “The punishment for evil-doers in Gehinom is 12 months; why must we suffer more?” Then G-d commanded them to leave the cave.

It was erev Shabbos, and as they were coming home, they saw a man running with two myrtle branches.

“Why do you carry two branches?” they asked.

“In honor of Shabbos,” was the answer.

“Wouldn’t one branch have been sufficient?”

One branch represents the commandment of Zachor, Remember Shabbos, and the other branch represents the commandment, Shamor, Observe the commandment,” he answered.

“See how our people love the mitzvos of the Torah!” said Rabi Shimon to his son. The two were then filled with contentment.

Rabi Pinchus ben Ya’ir, son-in-law of Rabi Shimon, heard of their arrival and rushed to greet them. He bathed them and administered to them. Seeing the sores on Rabi Shimon’s skin, tears streamed from his eyes.

“Woe is to me that I see you in such a state,” he cried out.

“On the contrary,” answered Rabi Shimon, “happy are you that you see me thus, for if I were not in such a state you would not have found me so learned.”

Originally, when Rabi Shimon raised a question, Rabi Pinchus would give him 13 answers, whereas now when Rabi Pinchus raised a question, Rabi Shimon bar Yochai would give him 24 answers.

Never Speak A Falsehood

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Once while Rabi Shimon ben Shetach was studying the Torah, a man entered his beis midrash and said, “I have something very important to discuss with you and I would like no one to be present.”

Rabi Shimon ordered everyone out and when the last person left, the man fell at Rabi Shimon’s feet, “Rebbe, Rebbe, please help me! I am in terrible trouble.”

“Stand up and tell me your story,” said Rabi Shimon ben Shetach. “Only then can I help you.”

The man began his tale, “My parents were rich and respectable people. They taught me to walk in the way of G-d, but I disobeyed them and I committed many wrongs and terrible sins. When I refused to listen to the advice of my parents I was finally ordered to leave their home. I joined a band of robbers and because I excelled them all in cruelty and cunning, I was chosen to be their chief.”

The Words Of A Child

“One night we planned a robbery in one of the finest mansions in a distant village. We broke a window and entered the house. The people therein were sound asleep and we bound them all with ropes so that no one might escape to tell the tale.

“When I neared the bed of one of the children I heard him mutter in his sleep, ‘The anger of G-d is against those who do evil. He will cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.’

“I became frightened at these words, the first time I ever knew any fear. I quietly awoke the child from his sleep and in a calm and soothing voice asked him, ‘My dear child, who said these words that you have now uttered?’

“The frightened child answered in a quivering tone. ‘Those are the words of David HaMelech, which I learned in school today.’

“Then I asked him, ‘And what else have your learned in school?’

“The child replied, ‘I have also learned the sentence, They cry and the L-rd hearkens.’

“I became very frightened and in a feverish haste I ordered my comrades to loosen the bonds of the people in the house and to make a hasty retreat. We left the village and returned to our secret hiding place, in a cave, deep in the thick of the forest.

“I looked around me and there I saw all the stolen silver and gold that we were hoarding and I began to fear the L-rd. The child’s words made an impact upon me and I began to feel a keen remorse in my heart. Then and there I decided to abandon my comrades and to try to make an honest living by the sweat of my brow and the toil of my hands.”

Leaves His Comrades

“The following morning I left my comrades in crime and went to the city. I soon found a job and began to work for a living. A few weeks passed and I began to get the urge to steal. I decided to rejoin my comrades. On my way back to the forest, I chanced to pass your school and I heard one of your disciples utter the verse, ‘Evil shall slay the wicked.’ I began to tremble at these words and I resolved to enter your house, O Rebbe, and to confess to you my sins and beg of you to advise me how to overcome my evil inclination.”

Rabi Shimon ben Shetach listened to this tale and replied, “Strengthen your will and G-d will be with you. If you really desire to repent I will give you a simple piece of advice that will help you overcome all of your evil habits.”

“I will do whatever you will tell me,” the man eagerly replied.

Rabi Shimon said, “This small bit of advice is, ‘Beware of telling a falsehood.’”

The bandit was very disappointed and said, “Rebbe, I thought you would pray to G-d in my behalf and advise me to fast and pray so that I might be forgiven. But instead you tell me to beware of telling lies. How can that cure me of all my sins?”

“Trust in me,” replied Rabi Shimon, “and G-d will help you. Now swear before me that you will never again tell a lie.” The man swore and then Rabi Shimon asked him, “Will you ever return to your comrades in the forest to resume your evil deeds?”

“No, I will not,” replied the young man with determination and took his leave of Rabi Shimon and departed for his home. When he reached his home, he was met by one of his comrades who happily greeted him and said, “Chief, we were looking for you all over. We need you to lead us again in attacking a royal caravan that is due to pass through the forest tonight. We have been informed that it is richly laden with silver and gold, enough to make us rich for life.”

Yannai and Rabi Shimon

Friday, February 10th, 2012

The Return Of The Sage

When Rabi Simeon ben Shetach saw that he had found favor in the eyes of King Yannai (after he appointed him Nasi of the Sanhedrin), he approached the king and said:

“If I have found favor in your eyes will you grant me a wish? Something sorely vexes me that only you can rectify.”

“Tell me your problem,” replied the king, “and I will hasten to help you.”

Rabi Simeon replied, “Do you remember when you became infuriated with the sages and ordered them to be killed? One of the great sages, Rabi Joshua ben Pirachya, escaped in time and is now in exile, in Alexandria. His heart yearns for the holy city of Yerushalayim and we sorely miss him.”

“But he preached hatred against me,” replied the king, “and he made a fool of me and mocked my behavior.”

“It is not true,” replied Rabi Simeon. “His enemies spread false reports about him. One of the cardinal principles of this great sage is the following, ‘Give your fellowman the benefit of the doubt and judge him for the good.’ A man with such lofty aims and principles could never speak badly against you.”

The king was impressed and he gave Rabi Simeon ben Shetach permission to call back Rabi Joshua ben Pirachya.

Rabi Simeon thereupon sent the following letter to Rabi Joshua: “From the City of Yerushalayim to the City of Alexandria, My teacher and master dwells in your midst and I live desolate. Come home.”

Stops Over At An Inn

When Rabi Joshua received this letter he knew that the king had forgiven him and he began to travel back to Eretz Yisrael accompanied by the many disciples he had gathered while in exile.

Traveling many hours, they reached a certain inn and stopped for the night. The innkeeper’s wife did everything within her power to please the Rabi and his disciples. She prepared a sumptuous meal them and provided them with the best accommodations.

In the morning when they prepared to leave the hotel, Rabi Joshua ben Pirachya paid the innkeeper’s wife a compliment by saying, “How beautiful is this innkeeper’s wife.”

One of his disciples, hearing this, remarked with a gleam in his eyes, “It is true what you say, my master, her eyes are beautiful and round.”

Mistaken Interpretation

Rabi Joshua turned to the disciple and in an angry tone said, “You wicked person, how dare you attribute such evil thoughts to me. Is it with such thoughts that you occupy yourself? She is a married woman and I was only referring to her good deeds and kindness.”

Rabi Joshua thereupon ordered that this disciple be placed in excommunication. To emphasize the extreme severity of this offense, he had the shofar blown 400 times.

The disciple regretted his words and came before Rabi Joshua many times begging forgiveness, but the Rav refused. One day while Rabi Joshua was reciting the Shema, the disciple appeared before him again and asked to be forgiven.

Rabi Joshua had already made up his mind to forgive him, but could not interrupt his prayer so he motioned with his hand for him to wait until he completed his prayer. But the pupil thought that he was again being repelled so he decided to leave Judaism and began to worship an idol.

Rabi Joshua went to the disciple and urged him to repent but the disciple answered, “Thus have I learned from you, that whoever sinned and caused others to sin is deprived of the power of doing penitence.”

Our sages then tell us that this disciple began to practice magic and he led many Jews astray. Therefore did Chazal teach: Always let the left hand thrust away and the right hand draw near, and not be like Rabi ben Pirachya who thrust one of his disciples away with both hands (one must not be too severe in chiding or reproving a disciple, a child or a wife lest they be driven to extremes).

The Ingenious Family

As King Yannai grew older he increasingly came under the influence of the Saducees, who refused to follow in the path of Chazal in their interpretation of the Torah. They would speak evil against the rabanim and the king would listen to them.

One day they advised the king to prohibit the custom of bringing wood to Yerushalayim for use on the mizbayach.

“Nowhere can we find in the Torah of Moshe that Bnei Yisrael are required to bring wood for the mizbayach,” they told the king. “The Chmuash only mentions korbanos, not wood.”

Prohibits Carrying Wood

The king listened to them and issued a decree prohibiting the carrying of wood to Yerushalayim. To see that this decree was enforced he posted guards at all roads leading to Yerushalayim. There was a pious G-d-fearing family in Israel named Salami Netofah (the ladder of Netofah) who hit upon a scheme to avoid this decree and still fulfill the mitzvah. They took logs of wood and made them into ladders that they carried on their shoulders and they proceeded to the holy city.

The Return Of Shimon ben Shetach

Monday, January 30th, 2012

            When Alexander Yannai, king of Judea, was prevented by the sages from becoming the high priest, he issued an order that all the sages of Israel be killed. Many were and the remainder fled. Rabi Shimon ben Shetach, considered the greatest of them all, was saved by his sister, Queen Shlomit Alexandra.

            As time passed, the king began to see the harshness of his decree. When he and the queen dined there was no sage present to entertain them with words of wisdom from the Torah.

            “There is not even a person here to lead us in saying the bracha over bread,” mused the king as he regretted his hasty action. At that moment a group of Parthian envoys arrived bearing gifts from their king. When King Yannai heard of them he was delighted.

            “Bring them in and let them dine with me,” said the king.

            The envoys bowed to the king and joined him at the table. During the meal, the Parthian envoys remarked, “O sire, on our previous visit one of your sages was present at court and we enjoyed his great wisdom. We profited a great deal from his profound knowledge. Where is he now? We would be greatly pleased to hear him again.”

Promises No Harm

            Yannai told the Parthian envoys what had happened to the sages and the envoys expressed great regret at the unfortunate occurrence. Queen Shlomit Alexandra noticed the expression of grief on the countenance of the king and taking advantage of this opportunity, she said, “O king, if you will give me your assurance that no harm will befall him, I shall produce Shimon ben Shetach before you.”

            The king thereupon answered with great delight, “Yes, I give my solemn promise that no harm will befall the fugitive, only let him appear to please my guests.”

Shimon Returns

            The queen at once sent word that her brother be brought to the palace and when he appeared before the king and his guests, he was given a very warm reception. The king invited him to take his seat between himself and the queen and remarked, “See what great honor I bestow upon you.”

            “O sire,” replied Rabi Shimon, “it is not you who bestows honor upon me, but the Torah. For the wisdom that I offer grants me equal rank with kings. For it was Ben Sira who said, ‘It raises you and places you amongst the leaders and kings.’”

            Turning to the queen, the king remarked, “He still has not learned to appreciate me. He talks in a haughty manner.” Then turning to Shimon he said, “Take a cup of wine and lead us in the benediction of saying grace after the meal.”

            When the cup of wine was given to Shimon ben Shetach, he rose and said, “Blessed is He of whose sustenance Yannai and his companions have eaten.”

            The king looked surprised and asked, “Is this the proper way to make a blessing? I have never heard it said this way before.”

            “Do you expect me to say it otherwise if I have not eaten a morsel of food here?” replied Rabi Shimon.

            Taking the hint, the king ordered his servants to bring out food and drink for Rabi Shimon. When he finished the meal, Rabi Shimon arose and said, “Let us now bless the Almighty on the wonderful food which He has provided us all!”

The Deep Impression

            The Parthian envoys then expressed their wish that Rabi Shimon discuss with them some topics from the Torah. Rabi Shimon agreed and so deep was the impression he made upon them that when they were about to leave, they said, “Of all the great things we saw and heard in this wonderful city of Jerusalem, nothing made such a deep impression on our minds as the wise words of the great teacher, Shimon ben Shetach.”

            After that the king appointed Shimon ben Shetach the president of the Sanhedrin.

Changing The Sanhedrin

            When Shimon ben Shetach assumed the office of the president of the Sanhedrin, he was grieved to see that the king had replaced all the sages of old with Sadducees, who did not follow in the ways of Chazal. Inasmuch as he couldn’t tell the king to discharge them he decided to replace them through a devious method.

            The first day that Rabi Shimon sat in court a man was brought in for judgment. The Sadducees found him guilty. Rabi Shimon then arose and demanded they bring proof of their verdict from the Torah, “For what will the people say if they are told that you do not seek reference from our holy Torah?” he said.

            The leader of the Sadducees replied, “Give me one day’s time and I will find the reference of our judgment from the Torah.”

            The Sadducee went home and poured through all the books of the Torah but, alas, he couldn’t find anywhere any references to the court case. The following morning he felt ashamed to return to the courthouse, so he left the city.

            In the morning, when the Sanhedrin opened court, the elderly Sadducee was missing.

            Rabi Shimon ben Shetach arose and said, “I am sorry but we cannot open the Sanhedrin’s session today unless we have the full complement of the Sanhedrin present, which is 71 members. I will therefore have to appoint another member to fill the place of the departed member.”

The New Holiday In Israel

            The following day a similar incident occurred. Again Rabi Shimon demanded that proof should be presented from the Torah. When the Sadducee requested time to look it up, it was granted to him and when he couldn’t find it, he too, felt ashamed and didn’t return. Soon Rabi Shimon was able to replace the entire Sanhedrin with the sages of old.

            It was on the 28th day of Teves that the last Sadducee resigned from the Sanhedrin and all the leaders and sages of Israel made it into a holiday that they celebrated every year.

Shemayah and Avtalyon

Monday, December 5th, 2011

An Unlikely Rise To Greatness

From the descendants of Sancherev, a heathen King of Ashur who attempted to destroy Yerushalayim, arose great teachers in Israel — Shemayah and Avtalyon. At an early age, they became proselytes and devoted their lives to the study of Torah. Eventually they became great scholars. Wher­ever they went, people followed them to hear them expound the living words of Hashem

One day, the Kohen Gadol came out of the Beis HaMikdash and began walking home. When people saw the Kohen Gadol they began following him. Soon a large multitude of people gathered behind him and one of the leaders called out: “Make way and give honor to the crown of priesthood!”

At that moment the Sages, Shemayah and Avtalyon, hap­pened to pass by. Immediately, the entire crowd left the Kohen Gadol and began to follow them. Again the leader’s cry rang out: “Make way and give honor to the crown of Torah!” The people thought more of the Sages than they did of the Kohen Gadol as they pressed close behind them to catch some pearls of wisdom.

 

Kohen Gadol Jealous When the Kohen Gadol saw the way the people honored the Sages, he became envious and angry. He kept his tem­per and ignored the Sages. The Sages, however, greeted the Kohen Gadol

“Greetings to you, Kohen Gadol,” they called out. “Will you be kind enough to give us a blessing?”

Angrily, the Kohen Gadol retorted:  “Let the descendants of our people go in peace and be blessed.”

The people heard this remark and they kept quiet. They realized that the Kohen Gadol was insulting the Sages by re­minding them of their heathen birth.

Shemayah and Avtalyon didn’t feel offended, and in a humble tone replied: “True, let the descendants of our people go and come in peace and be blessed, provided they follow in the footsteps of Aharon Kohen Gadol (who loved peace and pursued peace). But let not the son of Aharon go in peace, if he does not follow in his footsteps and emulate his good traits.”

The Kohen Gadol realized that he had committed a sin by insulting the Sages and he remained silent. The crowd, how­ever, began heaping insults upon the Kohen Gadol, who was forced to retire ignominiously; then they followed the Sages and ac­corded them the greatest honor.

Therefore, our Sages state: “A scholar, although he may be of illegitimate birth, takes precedence over a Kohen Gadol who is an ignoramus.”

 

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Rabi Shimon Ben Gamliel

Pride And Honor Chazal teach that a man should always be gentle and avoid honor and haughtiness. It was because this advice was not followed that a grave dispute arose amongst some of our Sages.

One day, the following mishna was taught in the Acad­emy: When the Prince (nasi) enters, all the people rise and do not resume their seats until he requests them to sit. When the Rosh Sanhedrin enters, the people occupying the two rows of seats facing the entrance rise and remain standing until he takes his seat. When the Chacham enters and remains stand­ing, everyone whom he passes rises until the Sage has taken his seat.

This mishna was taught during the time Rabi Shim­on ben Gamaliel was the nasi, Rabi Natan was the Rosh and Rabi Meir was the Chacham. When Rabi Shimon ben Gamaliel would enter, all the people would arise and remain standing un­til he took his seat. Likewise, the same honor was accorded to Rabi Natan and Rabi Meir.

Rabi Shimon, wanting to increase the prestige and influence of the prince’s office, said: “If all the people arise for all three of us, there is no difference between me and the others, and I would prefer that a distinction should be made to elevate the prince’s office.”

He thereupon issued a decree and enacted the rules laid down in the above mishna. However, he did so in the absence of Rabi Meir and Rabi Natan. They following day, when they entered the academy and saw that the people did not rise for them, they asked for a reason. They were told that Rabi Shimon had issued a decree order­ing these variations.

Rabi Meir became angry and he said to Rabi Natan, “I am the Chacham and you are the Rosh; let us also en­act some rules in our behalf.”

 

Attempt To Trap “What can we do?” asked Rabi Natan.

“Let us ask Rabi Shimon to teach us the Talmudic tract Uktzin. We are well aware that Rabi Shimon is not versed in this tractate and when he will not be able to answer our questions, we will say to him: ‘Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord?’ (Tehillim 106:2). He who can teach all of His praises. We will then depose him and you will take his place and become Prince and I will take your place.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/kidz/midrash-stories/shemayah-and-avtalyon/2011/12/05/

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