Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai

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by Rabbi Berach Steinfeld

The Gemara in Brachos 35b quotes the posuk in Krias Shema discussing gathering your crops. The Gemara asks, what is the chiddush that you will gather your crops? The Gemara brings down a posuk in Yehoshua 1 that says that the Torah should not move from us, we should be constantly learning. From this posuk one might think they should not have parnassah. The Torah therefore tells us that one must do the Derech Eretz and make parnassah. This is based on the words of Reb Yishmael. However, Reb Shimon bar Yochai says that Reb Yishmael’s way would not work because then you would be busy every season making sure the fruits and crops grow well, and you won’t have time to learn. Rather, he says, one should learn and have his work done by others. Reb Shimon’s way is dependent upon whether or not the Bnei Yisrael are doing the ratzon of Hashem. If they are, then their work will be done by others, but if Bnei Yisroel are not doing the will of Hashem, they will need to work themselves. Abaye says that many conducted themselves like Reb Yishmael, which is work and learn and it worked. Many tried like Reb Shimon Bar Yochai and it did not work for them. The question is, why is it that many tried like Reb Shimon and learned the entire day and night and it did not work? We have a rule from the Gemara in Makkos 10b that the path a person picks to go on Hashem helps him, so how come it did not work?

The Maharsha says that there are some tzaddikim gemurim who can choose the path of Reb Shimon, but as Reb Shimon himself says in Sukka 45, “I have seen Bnei Aliyah, but they are very few.” He said, if there are only two in this world, it would include him and his son. Since only Bnei Aliyah can rely on this way of life of learning, and having all their needs done by others, most of the other people are not bedarga of Bnei Aliyah so they cannot choose this mehalech! That fits in with the Mishna in Pirkei Avos that says that learning of Torah is only good when in tandem with Derech Eretz, which means a person works.

The Divrei Yatziv explains that only a tzaddik gamur could learn all the time and rely on a miracle that others will be able to do his work, but someone who is not a tzaddik gamur can’t rely on a miracle. That is why Abaye says that many tried doing what Reb Shimon did but were unsuccessful, because they were not tzaddikim gemurim.

The Haflah, which is brought down by the Chasam Sofer, says the reason it did not work for many people was because they only did like Reb Shimon, but not exactly like him. Reb Shimon did it L’shem Hashem, so it worked. Many others did it to be like Reb Shimon to copy him, but not with the kavana L’shem Hashem, so it therefore did not work for them. This compares to the Gemara Sukka 36 that discusses a black esrog is kosher, but an esrog that looks like a black Esrog is passul. The esrog hakushi (black) is similar to a tzaddik whose ma’asim are different, just like a black esrog is different although is kosher, but an esrog that is similar to the esrog hakushi, meaning he is trying to copy the tzaddik, but is not doing it L’shem Hashem, is passul.

The Gemara in Yevamos 97a brings down a memra from Reb Yochanan in the name of Reb Shimon bar Yochai that says that when a Talmid Chacham is quoted in this world, his lips are moving in the kever. The Panim Me’iros says that in Parshas Chukas we see the posuk discuss zos HaTorah, if a person dies in the Ohel. This means that even if a person is yamus, he is not alive, he is still found in the Ohel, the Bais Hamedrash, by being quoted and his lips thereby move in the grave. The Chida adds that this is true even if you are quoting someone who quoted someone else who said the chiddush. All their lips are moving in the kever. That is why the posuk says, “All that come into the Ohel. The chiddush does not need to come from him. Even if he is quoting someone else’s chiddush, he is zocheh that his lips are moving in  the kever!

May we be zocheh to be like Reb Shimon and learn all the time, and have our work done by others, thereby keeping our legacy forever and ever through our limud HaTorah!

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P.S There is available a great resource for reviewing or learning the daf and yerushalmi amud yomi you can ask to join by either texting 7185772401 or clicking this link https://chat.whatsapp.com/ICOJi1X9liuDZ9FR8wuxNo or by emailing [email protected] for archives of the shiur or to download it visit this link https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1-1WKLHscMKmlXIumNqU8Aa0FePKfQlqY?usp=sharing_eip&ts=5e135c10 or by going to https://jewishpodcasts.fm/rabbisteinfeld or by going to Alldaf.org and clicking https://alldaf.org/search?q=steinfeld or searching in the Alldaf App for Steinfeld. 

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