Sefirat HaOmer: Acquiring Torah 1
The rabbis taught; this law, regarding the slaughter of the Pesach on the Shabbat became hidden from the three sons of Beteira, for on one occasion, the 14th of Nissan, the day we slaughter the Pesach, fell on the Shabbat. They forgot the law, and did not know whether or not the slaughter of the Pesach offering overrides the Shabbat. They said, “Is there no man present who knows whether or not the Pesach offering overrides the Shabbat?”
The people said to them, “There is a man who came up from Babylon, and his name is, Hillel the Babylonian, and he served the two great teachers of the generation, Shemaya and Avtalyon. He knows whether or not the Pesach overrides the Shabbat.”
The sons of Beteira sent for him. They said, “Do you know whether or not the Pesach overrides the Shabbat?” He said to them, “Is there only a single “Pesach offering” during the year that overrides the Shabbat that makes you ask such a question? Are there not many more than 200 “Pesach Offerings” during the year that override Shabbat? Indeed there are! The Pesach offering is only one of many sacrifices whose slaughter overrides the Shabbat prohibitions!”
They said to him, “From where do you know this?” He said to them, “With regard to the Pesach offering, it is stated, “its appointed time,” and with regard to the Daily offering, it is stated, “it’s appointed time.” Just as the phrase “its appointed time,” that is stated in regard to the Daily offering refers to a sacrifice who service overrides Shabbat, so too, does the phrase, “it’s appointed time” that is stated with regard to the Pesach offering refer to a sacrifice whose service overrides the Shabbat. And furthermore, it is a Kal Vachomer: for if the Daily offering, whose non-performance is not punishable with Kareit, overrides Shabbat, then the Pesach offering, whose non-performance is punishable with Kareit, is it not logical that it overrides Shabbat?”
Immediately upon hearing his wisdom, they seated him at the head and appointed him Nassi over them, and he expounded all that day on the laws of Pesach.
In the midst of his discourse, he began to provoke the sons of Beteira with his words. He said to them: “What caused this to look happened to you, that I should come up from Babylon, and so quickly be appointed the Nassi over you? It was your laziness! For you did not bother to serve the two great teachers of the generation, Shemaya and Avtalyon. (Pesachim 66a)
Although Hillel was eventually punished for speaking so harshly, his lesson is important. We usually associate the term “laziness” employed in Scripture and Torah teachings to describe neglect of Torah study, Hillel uses this term to describe someone who does not go out of his way to find an opportunity to serve someone who lives the Torah’s teachings.
It is not enough to study, one must actually serve someone who lives the Torah.