Monday, 28 March 2016
The Parables: Jewish Tradition and Christian Interpretation,
Brad H Young, Hendricksen, 1998
Chapter 11, "The Find" (pp. 199-221), page 208-209
Brad Young now relates a story from the Midrash to demonstrate the cost of learning in the Jewish mindset:
Rabbi Johanan was once going on foot from Tiberias to Sepphoris, accompanied by Rabbi Hiyya ben Abba. As they passed a certain field, Rabbi Johanan said: "This field used to belong to me, and I sold it so that I could devote mytself to the study of Torah." They came to a vineyard and Rabbi Johanan said: "This vineyard used to belong to me, and I sold it so that I could devote myself to the study of Torah." They passed an olive press and he said the same thing. Rabbi Hiyya began to weep. "Why are you weeping?" he asked. He replied: "I am weeping because you have not left yourself anything for your old age." He said to him: "Hiyya my son, think you so little of what I have done in selling a thing which was presented after six days, as it says, 'For in six days the L-rd made heaven and earth' (Ex 20:2)? But the Torah was given after forty days, as it says, 'And he was there with the L-rd forty days' (Ex 34:28), and it is also written, 'Then I abode in the mount forty days' (De 9:9)." When Rabbi Johanan was laid to rest, his generation applied to him the verse, 'If a man would give all the substance of his house for love - for the love which Rabbi Johanan bore to the Torah - he would utterly be contemned.' (Song Rabbah 8.7.1)
Young points out that the land is among the most fertile and productive in Israel - the exchange of land for learning Torah is well worth the sacrifice.
Rabbi Johanan had counted the cost and dedicated himself to Torah learning. The entire story is an example for others who would seek to study and learn as disciples of the wise. Was it common for the disciple to make sacrifices for learning? In rabbinic teaching, the disciple of Torah is required to minimise his or her efforts in business, go on little sleep and develop the kind of strong character qualities that will lead to a better understanding of the Scriptures.