Judaism's highest value, besides life itself, is Shalom. Without peace, inside and about us, we cannot enjoy God's gifts.
As flawed humans, we will continue to find ourselves in situations that detract from our serenity. At those times, it is imperative to draw upon the strength and wisdom that God provides us to not to make matters worse. We remember our sage's teachings, and learn from their errors. Two close Rabbinic friends, lost a friendship, and their lives, over an argument.
Rabbi Yochanan, while swimming in the Jordan River, meets Shimon ben Lakish, a Jewish gladiator and bandit. Yochanan convinces Shimon to repent. Shimon repents, becomes a rabbi, and marries Yochanan's sister. [Talmud Bava Metzia 84 A]
For 70 years these brother-in-laws, become Talmud study partners, arguing the law, but always kindly. On a fateful day their disagreement turned ugly, as Yochanan recalled Shimon's years of banditry, implying that with 70 years of being a good rabbi, Shimon was still a bandit at heart.
Shimon became deathly ill. His wife ran to her brother, begging Yochanan to pray for, and apologize to Shimon. Yochanan refused. Shimon died.
Yochanan became remorseful and eventually insane, continually asking "Where is Shimon?,'' and died also.
What is the Talmud trying to teach us? The story of a fight, literally to the death, is absurd. But when we look at our own lives, haven't we have arguments with people, even family members, over similar stupid things?
Seventy years of study, and being an author of the Yerushalmi Talmud, but an angry moment is for what Rabbi Yochanan is remembered. The Talmud [ Nedarim 22 A,B] offers varied teachings of his: ''The Shechinah is of no importance to angry people''; ''All types of Hell rule over an angry person''. In the Talmud [ Pesachim 66B], Rabbi Shimon taught that if a wise person gets angry, his wisdom will leave him. Little did he know that he was forecasting his own death from the harsh words of his friend and brother-in-law, Rabbi Yochanan.
We can quote all of the Bible we want. We can teach it to our children, or visit folks in hospitals, or write checks to charity, or show up at Sabbath services. But if we truly do not live a life ''with Torah", and are just living a life ''using Torah'', we are only fooling ourselves.
Let us not make the errors of Rabbis Yochanan and Shimon. Let us heal wounds with friends and family. Let us be like the disciples of Aaron, loving peace, [ahavath shalom] , pursuing peace [rodef shalom], and bring people closer to Torah ,God, and to one another. Happy 2017!
Rabbi Arthur Segal is an international lecturer, author, and teacher. Visit him at www.JewishSpiritualRenewal.org . Email at RabbiASegal@aol.com
Jewish Spiritual Renewal
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