Every Step of the Way – Bava Metzia 85

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The Gemora records a story which demonstrates the greatness of Rabbi Chiya. The Gemora relates: When Rabbi Chanina and Rabbi Chiya were once in an argument, Rabbi Chanina said to Rabbi Chiya, “How can you dispute me? If, Heaven forbid, the Torah were forgotten in Israel, I would restore it by my deliberations.” Rabbi Chiya rejoined, “How can you dispute me, who I caused that the Torah should not be forgotten in Israel? What did I do? I planted flax from which I made nets to capture deer. The meat from those deer I would give to poor orphans and I would convert their skins into parchments upon which I would write the five books of the Chumash. I brought these to a community where there was no Torah study and I would teach each one of five children one of the five scrolls. I would also teach orally each one of six youngsters one of the six orders of the Mishna. I would tell each of these young pupils, ‘Teach the others what you have learned before I return to see if you succeeded.’ It was because of this that I said that I caused that the Torah should not be forgotten in Israel.”

The Maharsha explains why it was necessary for him to go to such great lengths: Rabbi Chiya was determined that every step of the way be done purely for Heaven’s sake, and no person should be deriving any profit. It was for this reason that he could not simply go to a store and buy parchment. Even the meat of the animal, whose skins he used for parchment, was donated to needy orphans. It was only on account of such meticulous attention to every detail of the process that he could be certain that Heaven would bless his efforts with success.


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