“Such is My Will”: Musings on the Torah and its ‘Reward’

2 12 2006

In musing over the origins of the ‘crowns’ appended to certain letters within the Masoretic tradition of writing Hebrew Torah scrolls, the Talmud takes an opportunity to digress in relation to Rabbi Akiva’s greatness, and the fate that he suffered at the hands of the Romans. Like several passages within the Talmud, the prose is tight and the emotions of the author are well conveyed despite their brevity of expression.

אמר רב יהודה אמר רב בשעה שעלה משה למרום מצאו להקב”ה שיושב וקושר כתרים לאותיות אמר לפניו רבש”ע מי מעכב על ידך אמר לו אדם אחד יש שעתיד להיות בסוף כמה דורות ועקיבא בן יוסף שמו שעתיד לדרוש על כל קוץ וקוץ תילין תילין של הלכות אמר לפניו רבש”ע הראהו לי אמר לו חזור לאחורך הלך וישב בסוף שמונה שורות ולא היה יודע מה הן אומרים תשש כחו כיון שהגיע לדבר אחד אמרו לו תלמידיו רבי מנין לך אמר להן הלכה למשה מסיני נתיישבה דעתו חזר ובא לפני הקב”ה אמר לפניו רבונו של עולם יש לך אדם כזה ואתה נותן תורה ע”י אמר לו שתוק כל עלה במחשהב לפני אמר לפניו רבונו של עולם הראיתני תורתו הראני שכרו אמר לו חזור חזר לאחוריו ראה ששוקלין בשרו במקולין אמר לפניו רבש”ע זו תורה וזו שכרה א”ל שתוק כך עלה במחשבה לפני

Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav:

At the time that Moses ascended on high, he found the Holy One (Blessed is He) sitting and fastening crowns on the letters.
He said to Him, “Master of the World! For whose sake do you labour? [lit. Who stays your hand?]”
He said to him, “There is one who is yet to come, at the end of many generations, and his name is Akiva ben Yosef; he will expound upon every tip, hook by hook, of the laws”.
He said to him, “Master of the World! Show me!”
He said to him, “Turn around…”
He [Moses] went and sat at the back of eight rows¹, but he could not understand what they were saying. His strength was failing by the time he [Akiva] had arrived at a particular exposition. His students asked him, “Master! Where are you getting this?” He said to them, “It is a Law given to Moses at Sinai!”. His [Moses’] mind was calmed.

He returned and he came to the Holy One (Blessed is He). He said to Him, “Master of the World! You have a man like this and you give the Torah to me?”
He said to him, “Silence! Such is my will…”

He said to him, “Master of the World! You showed me his teaching: show me his reward!”
He said to him, “Turn…”
He turned around and saw that they were stripping his flesh in the slaughter-house.

He said to him, “Master of the World! This is Torah and this is its reward!?”
He said to him, “Silence! Such is my will…”

¹It is worth noting that the study halls of Sura and Pumbeditha featured only seven rows, with the least advanced students taking their place in the seventh. By positioning Moses in an imaginary eighth, the author has heightened the degree to which he was surpassed by even the lesser among Rabbi Akiva’s disciples.

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One response

2 12 2006
Conrad H. Roth

Damn, I love the Jewish style. I really must get around to this stuff some day…

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