Random Quote #86 topic: hebraic, Translations from the Talmud, Midrashim and Kabbala

After a lapse of twelve years, he returned accompanied by twelve
thousand disciples, etc.

Ravah bar Nachmaini was impeached for depriving the revenue of the
poll-tax on twelve thousand Jews, by detaining them annually at his
academy for one month in the spring, and for another month in the
autumn; for great multitudes from various parts of the country were
wont, at the two seasons of the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles,
to come to hear him preach, so that when the king's officers came to
collect the taxes they found none of them at home. A royal messenger was
accordingly despatched to apprehend him, but he failed to find him, for
the Rabbi fled to Pumbeditha, and from thence to Akra, to Agmi, Sichin,
Zeripha, Ein d'Maya, and back again to Pumbeditha. Arrived at this
place, both the royal messenger and the fugitive Rabbi happened to put
up at the same inn. Two cups were placed before the former on a table,
when, strange to say, after he had drunk and the table was removed, his
face was forcibly turned round to his back. (This was done by evil
spirits because he drank even numbers--against which we are earnestly
warned in _P'sachim_, fol. 110, col. 1.) The inn-keeper, fearing the
consequences of such a misfortune happening to so high an official at
his inn, sought advice of the lurking Rabbi, when the latter suggested
that the table be placed again before him with one cup only on it, and
thus the even number would become odd, and his face would return to its
natural position. They did so, and it was as the Rabbi had said. The
official then remarked to his host, "I know the man I want is here," and
he hastened and found him. "If I knew for certain," he said to the
Rabbi, "that thy escape would cost my life only, I would let thee go,
but I fear bodily torture, and therefore I must secure thee." And
thereupon he locked him up. Upon this the Rabbi prayed, till the prison
walls miraculously giving way he made his escape to Agma, where he
seated himself at the root of a tree and gave himself up to meditation.
While thus engaged he all at once heard a discussion in the academy of
heaven on the subject of the hair mentioned in Lev. xiii. 25. The Holy
One--blessed be He!--declared the case to be "clean," but the whole
academy were of a different opinion, and declared the case to be
"unclean." The question then arose, "Who shall decide?" "Ravah bar
Nachmaini shall decide," was the unanimous reply, "for he said, 'I am
one in matters of leprosy; I am one in questions about tents; and there
is none to equal me.'" Then the angel of death was sent for to bring him
up, but he was unable to approach him, because the Rabbi's lips never
ceased repeating the law of the Lord. The angel of death thereupon
assumed the appearance of a troop of cavalry, and the Rabbi,
apprehensive of being seized and carried off, exclaimed, "I would rather
die through that one (meaning the angel of death) than be delivered into
the hands of the Government!" At that very instant he was asked to
decide the question in dispute, and just as the verdict "clean" issued
from his lips his soul departed from his body, and a voice was heard
from heaven proclaiming, "Blessed art thou, Ravah bar Nachmaini, for thy
body is clean. 'Clean' was the word on thy lips when thy spirit
departed." Then a scroll fell down from heaven into Pumbeditha
announcing that Ravah bar Nachmaini was admitted into the academy of
heaven. Apprised of this, Abaii, in company with many other Rabbis, went
in search of the body to inter it, but not knowing the spot where he
lay, they went to Agma, where they noticed a great number of birds
hovering in the air, and concluded that the shadow of their wings
shielded the body of the departed. There, accordingly, they found and
buried him; and after mourning three days and three nights over his
grave, they arose to depart, when another scroll descended threatening
them with excommunication if they did so. They therefore continued
mourning for seven days and seven nights, when, at the end of these, a
third scroll descended and bade them go home in peace. On the day of the
death of this Rabbi there arose, it is said, such a mighty tempest in
the air that an Arab merchant and the camel on which he was riding were
blown bodily over from one side of the river Pappa to the other. "What
meaneth such a storm as this?" cried the merchant, as he lay on the
ground. A voice from heaven answered, "Ravah bar Nachmaini is dead."
Then he prayed and fled, "Lord of the universe, the whole world is
Thine, and Ravah bar Nachmaini is Thine! Thou art Ravah's and Ravah is
Thine; but wherefore wilt Thou destroy the world?" On this the storm
immediately abated, and there was a perfect calm.

THE TALMUD, _Bava Metzia_, fol. 86, col. 1.


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