New Essay: The Wisdom of the Jewish Sage

- - Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity - -
- - הִנֵּ֣ה מַה־טּ֭וֹב וּמַה־נָּעִ֑ים שֶׁ֖בֶת אַחִ֣ים גַּם־יָֽחַד - -



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Upon whom shall we depend?

"When murderers multiplied, the [ceremony of] breaking a heifer’s neck ceased. That was from the time of Eliezer ben Dinai, and he was also called Tehinah ben Perisha and he was afterwards renamed “son of the murderer”. When adulterers multiplied, the ceremony of the bitter waters ceased and it was Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai who discontinued it, as it is said, “I will not punish their daughters for fornicating, nor their daughters-in-law for committing adultery, for they themselves [turn aside with whores and sacrifice with prostitutes]” (Hosea 4:14). When Yose ben Yoezer of Zeredah and Yose ben Yohanan of Jerusalem died, the grape-clusters ceased, as it is said, “There is not a cluster [of grapes] to eat; not a ripe fig I could desire [The pious are vanished from the land, none upright are left among men" (Micah 7:1-2).

"Yohanan the high priest brought to an end the confession made at the presentation of the tithe. He also discontinued the wakers and the knockers Up to his days the hammer used to strike in Jerusalem, And in his days there was no need to inquire about doubtfully tithed produce."

"When the Sanhedrin ceased [to function], song ceased from the places of feasting, as it is said, “They drink their wine without song” (Isaiah 24:9).

"When the former prophets died, the Urim and Thummim ceased. When Temple was destroyed, the shamir and nopheth zufim ceased. And people of faith ceased, as it says, “Help, O Lord, for the faithful are no more” (Psalms 12:2). Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel in the name of Rabbi Joshua: from the day the Temple was destroyed, there is no day without a curse, the dew has not descended for a blessing, and the flavor has departed from produce. Rabbi Yose says: the fatness was also removed from produce."

"Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar says: [the cessation of observation of the] purity laws has removed taste and fragrance, [the cessation of observation of] the tithes has removed the fatness of grain. But the Sages say: licentiousness and sorcery destroyed everything."

"When Rabbi Meir died, the composers of fables ceased. When Ben Azzai died, the diligent students [of Torah] ceased. When Ben Zoma died, the expounders ceased. When Rabbi Joshua died, goodness ceased from the world. When Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel died, locusts come and troubles multiplied. When Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah died, the sages ceased to be wealthy. When Rabbi Akiba died, the glory of the Torah ceased. When Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa died, men of wondrous deeds ceased. When Rabbi Yose Katnuta died, the pious men (hasidim) ceased and why was his name called Katnuta? Because he was the youngest of the pious men. When Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai died, the splendor of wisdom ceased. When Rabban Gamaliel the elder died, the glory of the Torah ceased, and purity and separateness perished. When Rabbi Ishmael ben Fabi died, the splendor of the priesthood ceased. When Rabbi died, humility and fear of sin ceased."

"Rabbi Phineas ben Yair says: when Temple was destroyed, scholars and freemen were ashamed and covered their head, men of wondrous deeds were disregarded, and violent men and big talkers grew powerful. And nobody expounds, nobody seeks, and nobody asks. Upon whom shall we depend? Upon our Father who is in Heaven."

"Rabbi Eliezer the Great says: from the day the Temple was destroyed, the sages began to be like scribes, scribes like synagogue-attendants, synagogue-attendants like common people, and the common people became more and more debased. And nobody seeks. Upon whom shall we depend? Upon our Father who is in Heaven. In the footsteps of the messiah insolence (hutzpah) will increase and the cost of living will go up greatly; the vine will yield its fruit, but wine will be expensive; the government will turn to heresy, and there will be no one to rebuke; the meeting-place [of scholars] will be used for licentiousness; the Galilee will be destroyed, the Gablan will be desolated, and the dwellers on the frontier will go about [begging] from place to place without anyone to take pity on them; the wisdom of the learned will rot, fearers of sin will be despised, and the truth will be lacking; youths will put old men to shame, the old will stand up in the presence of the young, 'For son spurns father, daughter rises up against mother, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law a man’s own household are his enemies (Micah 7:6)."

"The face of the generation will be like the face of a dog, a son will not feel ashamed before his father. Upon whom shall we depend? Upon our Father who is in Heaven."

"Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair says, Heedfulness (being aware or alertness) leads to cleanliness, cleanliness leads to purity, purity leads to separation, separation leads to holiness, holiness leads to modesty, modesty leads to fear of sin, fear of sin leads to piety, piety leads to the Holy Spirit, The Holy Spirit leads to the resurrection of the dead, and the resurrection of the dead comes from Elijah, blessed be his memory, Amen." -- Mishnah  Sotah Chapter 9.

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