Tonight, I would like to return to the primary sources that back up the previous segment, which included the struggle Hillel experiences regarding accepting help from his brother. The story about Shebna and Hillel and their sharing of wealth and learning is surrounded by many legends and there are numerous interpretations of the meaning of the behavior of the two brothers. However, in the Talmud itself it is mentioned only in passing, at the last paragraph of Folio 21a, Tractate Sotah. To me it seems that it is not pretending to be historically accurate, but that rather it is meant to show that the merit of learning cannot be bought.
Tractate Sotah, Folio 21a
if there may be a lengthening of thy tranquility,1 and it is written: All this came upon king Nebuchadnezzar,2 and it is written: At the end of twelve months!'3 — [The teaching is] certainly R. Ishmael's and he found a verse which mentions [the period] and repeats it; for it is written: Thus saith the Lord: For three transgressions of Edom.4 But why [was it said] that although there is no proof of this, yet there is some indication?5 — It may be different with heathens upon whom [God] does not execute judgment immediately.
What would you do if a person you trusted entirely, with all your heart, a person whom you thought you understood completely, a person you respected and even admired, turned out, all of a sudden, to be very different? What if he/she proved to be not only a liar, but a fool? What if your discovery was of something terrible that he/she allowed the whole world to see, thinking that it’s okay since he/she was above criticism or reproach? How would you react, what do you think you would you do?
You could lie awake at night, crying, or worse, not being able to cry, just hurting and hurting until the first rays of the sun would come through the window and you would get up and drag yourself to attend to the dark day ahead. You could do it night after night, but that will not help you at all. Would Hillel recommend it? No, he would not. He would tell you that you should not allow your self esteem to die because of the actions of another person. At least that is what I think. What do you think?
What about revenge? Yes, you could do an enormous damage to this person, and for a few moments you will experience relief from the pain he/she caused you. But it won’t last. The joy of revenge is temporary and in the end it brings more pain. Would Hillel advise it? No. His major principle was “Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you.” That means, in plain language, “Don’t hurt anyone.” So he would fiercely object to revenge. I am sure of that, but I may be wrong. What do you think?
I think he would advise you to get away from the person who hurt you. Take the person out of your life fully, without hesitation, without doubt, without regret. Even if you feel that you can’t, that you are addicted to this person’s company, tear him/her out of your system, cold turkey. Yes, it would be very hard, but I cannot see Hillel recommending any other road. What do you think?
What do you think?
“It’s a stone house,” said Penina, “sturdy and nice. I like it very much.” She was carrying a plate of flat bread, and Simeon, walking behind her very carefully, held a jar of olives tightly in his two little hands. They placed the food on the center of the mat spread on the floor. A plate of lentils mashed in olive oil and mixed with spices and vinegar was already set there, surrounded by some greens. They sat down to their breakfast on the second story, the area where the family usually lived in this type of home. The lower level was devoted to storage, and also for the care and feeding of domestic animals, if the family owned them.
“We have figs for dessert!” Simeon said proudly.
On his way to the Academy in the early hours of the morning, Hillel noticed that the light has changed. The weather was still hot, but there was no doubt that autumn was on its way and the angle of the sun was clearly lower. Normally he would be interested in weather patterns, would speculate on the possibility of the first rain, the Yoré, and would look forward with anticipation to botanical discoveries which had interested him since childhood. But for days, all he could think about was the imminent arrival of his family. The only time he was free of thoughts about them was during study at the Academy, when his attention was so focused he felt relief from the tension and worry about their safety on the road. He knew that he really did not have to worry about a highway robbery, the way it happened to him, because Shebna would never take any chances. He would arrange for the family to join a caravan that attached itself to a group of Roman soldiers on their way to Judea – and no robber in his right mind would attack the Romans. In addition, Shebna, Penina, and Simeon were, to the best of his knowledge, in excellent health. And yet he could not stop worrying, a mental state he had never experienced before.
Due to unforeseeable circumstances (a euphemism for horrible deadlines on several projects) I am sorry to say that Hillel and I will not make our Sunday visit this week. Hopefully the dust will settle soon and we’ll be back, but if you feel like leaving insulting comments and calling me a lazy writer, I’ll understand completely…