Dealing with the Minim


Rabbi  Abbahu praised Rav Safra to the minim, saying that he was a great man.  They exempted him from taxes for 13 years.  One day the minim found him [Rav Safra] and said: "It is written, 'Only you have I known from all the families on earth, therefore I will repay you for all your sins' (Amos 3.2).  If someone is irritated, does he take it out on a friend?"  He was silent and did not say anything to them.  They threw a scarf around his neck and taunted him.  Rabbi Abbahu passed by and discovered them.  He said: "Why are you taunting him?"  They answered: "Did you not tell us he is a great man [yet he does not know how to explain this verse]?" He [Rabbi Abbahu] said to them: "When I told you that, [I meant] in rabbinic law.  Who said anything to you about the Bible?" They replied: "What is the difference? You know [the Bible]." He said to them: "We, who are always in your proximity, have taken it upon ourselves to study [the Bible], but they [i.e. people like Rav Safra from Babylonia] do not study it." They said, “So, you answer us!” He replied, “It is like a creditor who had two lenders; one of whom he loved and the other he hated. From the one he loved, he took back payment little by little. From the one he hated, he took back payment all at once.”


 TB Avodah Zara 4a

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