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Acquiring Torah 20: Articulation: Part 2: Commitment to the Agenda

The Jews found themselves in a dangerous situation in which the usual approaches such as that used by Rabbi Reuben son of Istroboli did not work, because it had nothing to do with logic, but a visceral hatred of Jews and Judaism. It was clear that they would have to rely on a miracle. They also understood that they could not sit and wait for a miracle to happen, but they would have to participate in the process. These were people  who had witnessed Bar Kochva’s failed rebellion, and knew that this was not a time for a Chanukah approach to confront the decree. This was a new stage during which they would have to learn a new way to approach such situations.


The Sages therefore chose Rabbi Shimon, accustomed to miracles, to lead a delegation to Rome. The Sages approached the situation with confidence that a miracle would be triggered by their efforts. They associated Rabbi Shimon with the certain miracle, and Rabbi Yosi was concerned that with Rabbi Shimon assuming the role of the Miracle Trigger, it would be dangerous for anyone to travel with him in his heightened spiritual state, because to upset him would have natural repercussions. Rabbi Shimon consistently expected heightened awareness from all around him, and would certainly expect more in such dire circumstances, and even more so, when they were intent on triggering a miracle. Rabbi Shimon accepted to not punish Rabbi Elazar, and therefore Rabbi Yosi and Rabbi Elazar felt safe.

Why did Rabbi Elazar respond to the question? If this was to be a lesson for future generations, and not just when heroes such as Rabbi Shimon, accustomed to miracles, were present, Rabbi Elazar had to show that a scholar, even one not accustomed to miracles, could assume responsibility.

Why did he speak in an undertone? Because he could not overcome his awe of Rabbi Shimon and speak in his mater’s presence.

“From the undertone of your words, one can see that you are a scholar,’ not your answer, but by the fact that you naturally hesitate to speak before a rebbi. “Yes, you are a scholar,” Rabbi Shimon was saying, “and that is the point you were attempting to make. However, you were not committed to your decision; otherwise you would have clearly articulated your response. A person who is not committed to such a mission, is dangerous, and therefore, ‘the son shall not return to his father’.”

Rabbi Shimon recalled his promise to Rabbi Elazar’s father, Rabbi Yosi, prayed for Rabbi Elazar. A miracle happened and Rabbi Elazar was healed. The miracles had begun.

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