Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Bava Metzia 85: Self-Sacrifice, Many Rabbis, The Benefits of Teaching Torah

Another fascinating daf today filled with fantastical aggadaic tales of our rabbis.  Unfortunately, due to my own time restrictions, I will not be able to detail the colourful events that were just described.  Some highlights:

  • The rabbis argue about who is most modest of three men, Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel, the sons of Beitera, and Jonathan son of Saul
  • Rabbi Elazar ben Shimon suffered for many years with illnesses that came because of love and left due to love
  • Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi saw Rabbi Elazar's illnesses and suffered for thirteen years with scurvy and with kidney stones causing pain so great that it could be heard over other noise by the sailors far away
  • Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi's illnesses were said to come from his lack of compassion for a calf crying on his robe before slaughter; HaNasi told the calf he was born for this purpose rather than providing comfort
  • Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi's health was said to be restored after he stopped his maidservant from sweeping young weasels (field mice) out of his home*
  • Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi saved Rabbi Elazar's son, the beautiful Rabbi Yosei, from prostitution and encouraged him to learn Torah, stick with the difficult studies, and become a great scholar
  • A heavenly voice explained that Rabbi Yosei was not allowed by a protective snake to be buried in the cave with his father and grandfather because he did not suffer together with his father in a cave during his lifetime
  • Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi saved Rabbi Tarfon's grandson from a life of prostitution by offering him a marriage which was not realized, though he did learn and become a scholar
  • It is desirable to teach Torah to one's own son or to another's son
  • Three generations of Torah scholars ensure Torah scholarship throughout all future generations to come 
  • Rabbi Yosef fasted forty fasts to ensure that Torah study would last through generations
  • Rabbi Zebra fasted many fasts for different purposes including 100 fasts to ensure that the fires of Gehenna would not harm him; he sat in ovens every month to test his capacity and was singed when the Sages gave him the evil eye; they called him the short one with singed legs
  • Forgetting to say a blessing before learning Torah will result in a punishment
  • It is good to humble oneself in honour of Torah study
  • Rabban Chanina argued with Rabbi Chiyya about Torah analysis verses teaching Torah to children, which is thought of as most important
  • Rabbis argued about who was most pious
  • Tales of Elijah's powers are shared regarding a man who looked at Elijah's chariot resulting in burned eyes, bringing on the Messiah early if he were to visit with our patriarchs, and interfering in Rabbi Chiyya's recital of the Amida prayer where the prayers for wind, rain, and raising the dead were almost all enacted
  • Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi's doctor was Shmuel Yarchina, who refused HaNasi's request to make him a rabbi
  • Shmuel Yarchina'a relayed that he saw Adam's book which said that he would be a doctor who would heal Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi
  • Shmuel Yarchina'a put herbs beneath Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi's pillow to relieve his eye problems

A note that I should return to today's daf at a later date to further explore these stories.

* Compassion for the physical and emotional wellbeing of young animals is the cause of suffering or relief of suffering in these stories

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