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Acquiring Torah 29: Inside Outside

On one occasion, Rabbi issued an order that they should not teach disciples in the open public market place. What was his exposition? “How beautiful are your steps in sandals, O prince’s daughter! The roundings of your thighs are like the links of a chain, the work of the hands of a skilled workman (Shir Hashirim 7:2).” As the thigh is covered so the discussions on the words of the Torah are also to be under cover.


Rabbi Chiyah went out and taught the sons of his two brothers in the open marketplace, Rab and Rabbah son of Kar Hana.

Rabbi heard of this and was upset.

When Rabbi Chiyah next presented himself before him, Rabbi said to him, ‘Iyya! Who is calling you outside?’

Rabbi Chiyah realized that Rabbi had taken the matter to heart, and submitted himself to the disability of a ‘reproof’ for thirty days.

On the thirtieth day Rabbi sent him a message saying ‘Come!’ Later he sent him a message not to come!

(What was his idea in sending the first message and what in sending the second? At first he thought ‘part of the day may be deemed equivalent to the whole day’ and in the end he thought, we do not say part of the day may be deemed equivalent to the whole day’.)

In the end Rabbi Chiyah came. Said Rabbi to him, Why have you come? R. Hiyya replied: ‘Because you, Sir, sent for me to come’.

“But then I sent to you not to come!”

He replied: ‘The one [messenger] I saw and the other I have not seen’. Thereupon he

[Rabbi] cited [as appropriate] the text (referring to Rabbi Chiyah): “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”

“Why, Sir,” asked Rabbi, “did you act thus [contrary to order]?”

“Because,” replied Rabbi Chiyah, it is written: “Wisdom cries it aloud, the street: She utters her voice in the broad places; she calls at the head of the street; at the entrance of the gates, in the city she utters her words.” (Torah should be taught on the streets.)

Said Rabbi to him: ‘If you read Holy Writ [once], you have not read it a second time; if you have read it a second time, you have not read it a third time; and if you have read it a third time, they [who taught you] have not explained it to you’. [The text] ‘Wisdom cries aloud in the streets’ is [to be taken] in the sense in which Raba [explained it]; for Raba said: ‘If one studies the Torah indoors, the Torah proclaims his merit abroad’.

But then is it not written [otherwise]: ‘From the beginning I have not spoken in secret’? That has [special] reference to the ‘Kallah’ days (When all gather to study Torah).

And what [use] does Rabbi Chiyah make of the text — ‘The roundings of your thighs’? He explained it in reference to the dispensing of charity and acts of lovingkindness.(Moed Katan 16a-b)

Rabbi Yehudah the Prince obviously did not prohibit teaching Torah in public, but in the marketplace where the distractions make it impossible to study with proper concentration.

Rabbi Chiyah held that Torah must be taught in public, and especially in the place of business so that people would be constantly directed by Torah even while doing business.

Rabbi Yehudah wanted his student to understand that the decision to teach Torah in the marketplace despite its distractions led to Rabbi Chiyah’s decision to publicly disobey his Rebbi: “Rabbi said to him, ‘Iyya! Who is calling you outside?’; ‘You have pulled yourself outside the walls of my study hall!’

Rebbi taught that Torah taught in public must be connected to the Torah studied inside the walls of the Beit Midrash. People working in the marketplace must understand that the Torah guiding them comes from inside the walls of the Beit Midrash. The study in the Yeshiva is not theoretical, disconnected from the business world; it is the source of Torah that guides us in all aspects of our lives in the world outside the Yeshiva.

Rebbi wanted people to come to the Beit Midrash to study Torah and connect to the source. Rabbi Chiyah’s “rebellion,” separating himself from his Rebbi and the Beit Midrash was proof of the danger of separating the Torah outside from the Torah inside.

Even as we study Torah outside of the walls of the Beit Midrash, we must remain connected to the Torah inside the Yeshiva walls. There is the source of the Torah that speaks to us outside.

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