Mini Lag BaOmer shiur

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006 08:22 pm
lethargic_man: "Happy the person that finds wisdom, and the person that gets understanding."—Prov. 3:13. Icon by Tamara Rigg (limmud)
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Today is Lag Baomer, the thirty-third day of the Omer. This year the most exciting thing I did on this day is go bowling as part of a work away day. Last year, however, Marom organised a hike in the Oxfordshire countryside, in the middle of which we sat down, surrounded by woodland, and had a little shiur on the Tosefta to Mishna, Tractate Chagigah, Ch. 2 Mishna 1, which I have attempted to translate below (though the Hebrew text I have put in here does not seem to match the one I was trying to translate when I typed this up and did my translation).

The rabbis taught: The story is told of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai that he was riding on a donkey, and he was going along his way when R. Eleazar ben Arach was riding with him. He said to him, Rabbi, repeat to me one chapter from the Matter of the Chariot1. He told him, I will not repeat it thus to you. And not the Chariot alone, except if there was a wise man who understands from his knowledge. [?]

[Eleazar] told him, rabbi, my teacher2 said before you one thing which he taught me. He said, say it.

Immediately, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai got down from his donkey, covered his face with his mantle, and sat on a stone beneath an olive tree.

He said to him, rabbi, why have you got off your donkey?

He said, You may preach about the Matter of the Chariot, and the Shechina is among us, and the Angels of the Ministering One are מלוין [coiling themselves about?] us, and I should ride on a donkey?

Immediately R. Eleazar ben Arach entered onto the Matter of the Chariot and preached, and fire came down from Heaven and surrounded all the trees in the field, which all opened [their mouths] and sang.

What song did they sing? "Praise G-d from the earth, o sea-monsters and all the deeps... a tree of fruit and all cedars." [Psalm 148:7-9]

An angel answered from the fire, and said, "These, these, are the Matter of the Chariot."

R. Yochanan ben Zakkai stood and kissed him on the head, and said, "Blessed be the LORD, the G-d of Israel, Who has given to Abraham our Father, who knows to understand and to חקר and to preach on the Matter of the Chariot."

מעשה ברבן יוחנן בן זכאי שהיה רוכב על החמור והיה רבי אלעזר בן ערך מחמר אחריו אמר לו רבי שנה פרק אחד במעשה מרכבה אמר לו לא [כן אמרתי לך מתחלה שאין שונין] במרכבה ביחיד אלא אם כן היה חכם מבין מדעתו

אמר לו מעתה ארצה לפניך אמר לו אמור פתח רבי אלעזר בן ערך ודרש במעשה מרכבה

ירד רבי יוחנן בן זכאי מן החמור ונתעטף בטליתו וישבו שניהם על גבי אבן תחת הזית והרצה לפניו עמד ונשקו ואמר ברוך ה׳ אלהי ישראל אשר נתן בן לאברהם אבינו שיודע להבין ולדרוש בכבוד אביו שבשמים יש נאה דורש ואין נאה מקיים נאה מקיים ואין נאה דורש [אלעזר בן ערך] נאה דורש ונאה מקיים אשריך [אברהם] אבינו שאלעזר בן ערך יצא מחלציך [שיודע להבין ולדרוש בכבוד אביו שבשמים] רבי יוסי ברבי יהודה אומר רבי יהושע הרצה לפני רבן יוחנן בן זכאי [רבי עקיבא] הרצה לפני רבי יהושע חנניא בן חכינאי הרצה לפני רבי עקיבא.

  1. The opening of the Book of Ezekiel, regarded as a core mystical text.
  2. One of R. Yochanan's pupils. (This is taking place at the end of the first century.) He is compared in Ethics of the Fathers to an overflowing fountain.
  3. I.e. R. Yochanan ben Zakkai himself.

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