Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Why weren't the Tannaim frum?

A story from the Talmud: (BT Avoda Zara 18a)
When R. Jose b. Kisma was ill, R. Hanina b. Teradion went to visit him. He said to him: 'Brother Hanina, don't you know that God has given the Romans power over us? [I mean look at the facts! Those Romans] have destroyed His house and burnt His Temple, and murdered His pious ones and caused His best ones to die -- and nothing bad has happened to them! [So clearly they are on the way up, and we are on the way down] Yet, I hear that you still sit around all day [violating their decrees by] learning Torah, and teaching the masses, and that you even keep a Torah scroll on your lap! 
R. Hanina b. Teradion replied, 'Heaven will show me mercy.' —
How did R. Jose b. Kisma reply?

(a) You are so right! Forgive my lack of emunah!
(b) Boruch hashem!
(c) Chas V'sholom you should think I was suggesting otherwise!
(d) Where can I get a Torah scroll to keep on my lap?
(e) Okay look: I'm telling you the plain facts, and your answer is "Heaven will show mercy"? Buddy, I will be very surprised if the Romans don't burn you and your Torah scroll together!

Answer after the jump
The answer is (e)

Ani omer licha devarim she ta'am v'atah omer lee "min hashamayim y'rachamehu?" Tamah ani im lo yisrafu otcha v'et sefer torah b'esh.

Or as Soncino has it:

'I,' he remonstrated, 'am telling thee plain facts, and thou sayest "Heaven will show mercy"! It will surprise me if they do not burn both thee and the scroll of the Law with fire.'

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