Acquiring Torah 27: Rashbi: Precious Accomplishments
R. Jonathan b.’Asmai and R. Judah son of proselyte parents were studying the section of ‘Vows’ at the school of R. Simeon b. Yohai. They had taken leave from him in the evening, but in the morning they came and again took leave from him. Said he to them: But did you not take leave of me yesternight? Said they to him: Our Master, You taught us, a disciple who had taken leave from his Master and remained overnight in the city must needs take leave from him once again, for it is said: ‘On the eighth day he [King Solomon] sent the people away and they blessed the King, and [then] it is written: ‘And on the three and twentieth day of the seventh month he sent the people away’. Hence we learn from here that a disciple who had taken leave from his Master and remained overnight in the city must take leave from him once again.
Said he to his son, ‘These are men of countenance, go along with them, that they may bless you’.
He went and found them comparing text with text: It is written: Balance the path of thy feet and let all thy ways be established; and it is written: Lest you should balance the path of life?
It is not difficult [to explain]: the former text applies where an obligation can be discharged through another person: the latter where the obligation cannot be discharged through another person.
Again they were sitting and enquiring [into the following]: It is written: She [Wisdom] is more precious than rubies; and all the things you can desire are not to be compared unto her’, [which implies] that heaven’s demands [of you] are comparable to Her,
Again it is written: And all things desirable are not to be compared unto Her, [which means] that even things that are of Heaven’s desire are not comparable to Her?
The former text applies where the duty can be discharged through others, the latter — where the Duty cannot be discharged through others.
Then [turning to him] they said: ‘What is your business here?
He replied: ‘Father told me, “Go along with them that they may bless you”.
Said they to him: ‘May it be [Heaven’s] pleasure that you sow and mow not; that what you bring in go not out; that what goes out you bring not in; that your house be desolate and your inn be inhabited; that your board be disturbed and you behold not a new year’.
‘When he came home to his father, he said to him: ‘So far were they from blessing me that they [even] distressed me sorely.
His father asked him: ‘What did they say to you?’
They said thus and thus. Said the father to him: ‘Those are all blessings:
That “you sow and mow not [means], that you beget children and they do not die.
That “what you bring in go not out” [means], that you bring home daughters-in-law and your sons do not die, so that their wives need not leave again.
“What goes out you bring not in” [means], that you give your daughters [in marriage] and their husbands do not die so that your daughters need not come back.
“That your house be desolate and your inn be inhabited” [means], that this world is your inn and the other world is a home, as it is written, Their grave is their house forever; reading not “their inward thought” [Kirbam] but “their grave (Kibram] is their house forever, and their dwelling places be for generations.”
“That your board be disturbed” [that is]; by sons and daughters and “that you behold not a new year [means] that your wife do not die and you have not to take you a new wife’. (Moed Katan 9a-b)
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai taught his students that one cannot simply take his leave from his teacher, but must see even a farewell as an opportunity to learn more. Once he realized that his students saw every moment with him as an opportunity that led to more blessing-expansion, he wanted his son to travel with them and learn to perceive each moment as an opportunity to create more moments; not to just take advantage of the moment. The blessing is in the possibility of expansion leading to more.
This was the theme of R. Jonathan b.’Asmai and R. Judah discussions and blessing to Rabbi Elazar ben Shimon.
Each Torah thought creates opportunities for more Torah. We must find joy not only in what we learn, but also in how the one lesson naturally affords us more opportunities to grow.